Tag Archives: PS

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Dancing in the Dark

In the expanding world of Living Waters, God’s mercy always took the form of my travelling partners: alongside of men like Kin Lancaster, and women like Sonja Stark (our first international coordinators), we were able to overcome cultural and spiritual hurdles to releasing water from the Rock, Christ’s beautiful, broken bride.

No solo efforts here. We became a united ‘body’ to serve the Body. All over the world.

Jet-lagged, facing crowds for whom our offering was all-new, usually offensive, and always emotionally draining, we relied upon each other. We exposed our own weaknesses to each other, so that God’s power might rest on us. He wanted our ministry of deep healing to be real, not a show; we wanted it too. The church had suffered too long from her unacknowledged sins and wounds.

Sonja came from Germany to help build the international expansion of Living Waters. One of our earliest and longest trips was a three week tour of her native land—from Munich to Hanover. Every day was a different ministry stop; we flew over the autobahn in a van then stopped to release ‘living waters’ in churches throughout the nation. Toni Dolfo-Smith and Susan Highleyman made up our foursome.

Our last stop was a castle in the middle of Germany. Weary yet invigorated by doing two-weeks of intensive ministry, we spent our last week there leading a Living Waters training.

The castle had become the center of an ‘ecumenical’ Christian community; we discovered that meant they believed in everything and nothing. Not helpful. The castle had been a Nazi hospital during WWII, and was perhaps the most spiritually oppressive site I had ever ministered in. I knew that if we did not stand firm in simple, Jesus-centered faith, we would not be able to stand at all (Is. 7:9)

The spirit of death usurped our strength and threatened to flatten our efforts. So we danced. At every worship set (led by the irrepressible Susan Highleyman), we would kick up our heels and overcome the spirit of heaviness with child-like praise and movement. We danced on the ground of oppression. In so doing, we reclaimed that ground for the Kingdom of Christ.

God gave us the grace of David in 2 Samuel 6:20-22 when he danced like a wild-man before the Lord and declared to those who accused him of vulgarity: ‘I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But I will be held in honor…’

We endured the shame for the joy set before us. Our joy? To witness the resurrection of our German friends, still living in the shadow of death. I spied one particularly morose nun looking from the sidelines then joining us in the dance. God turned her mourning into dancing.

We danced, we prayed, we taught, we fought in the Spirit. My beloved friend Toni D. roomed next to me and awoke to hear me screaming in my sleep (I recalled nothing.) Like the amazingly faithful man he was and is, Toni stayed up most of the night outside my door and simply interceded for me. That’s the kind of guy Toni is: an embodiment of God’s mercy.

That’s how we dug ditches of mercy throughout Europe. We did it together.
‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (PS 12:3)

‘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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Opening Doors and Floodgates

London, where the waters of mercy had sprung up for me years earlier, became deep ground for Living Waters. Jonathan Hunter and I took one of our first international ministry trips there: we teamed up with new friends Reverend Christopher and Lisa Guinness who eventually became the Living Waters leaders for the UK. We met with other pastors, and took prayer walks throughout the city. (Two years later, London hosted the first Living Waters training outside the USA.)

We had received a word that God was going to open ancient doors for us in the UK; our prayer became: ‘King of Glory, manifest Yourself in Your English Church as the Healer of the sexually broken.’ (PS 24:7) ‘Lift up your heads!’ rang in our hearts as we entered St. Paul’s Cathedral at the center London.

While exploring the church, I spoke with one of the vicars of the pastoral work Jonathan and I were doing with the sexually broken, the HIV-infected, etc. A few minutes later, he took me by the hand and led me to a narrow spiral of stairs ascending to the preacher’s podium. He instructed me quietly to please lead the church in the noon prayer time.

I did as I was told. From another corner of the church, Jonathan ‘lifted up his head’, saw me, and almost blew a gasket. I gesticulated my bewilderment to him, and found my voice long enough to stammer a very ‘California’ prayer: ‘We love You Lord; we just want to thank you God for Your mercy today God…’

God was opening doors in His church. He was commissioning ‘ditch-diggers’ like Jonathan and I to find great people like the Guinness’ who might dig with us. God was intent on making a clear way for broken ones to be set free from bondage, for the healing of others.

Our next stop was Amsterdam. Our first host in Holland was YWAM, a young adult mission group centered in the Red Light District of that city. I was amazed by this land reclaimed from the sea, and its complex network of canals, dikes, and dams.

The city was a marvel of engineering, and a magnet for those intent on diminishing God’s image in humanity through all manner of perversion. It was clear to me that we were asking God to engineer a marvel of His cleansing love–right there in the city, where it was most needed.

I recall a deep weariness during one of the 5 trips I made to Amsterdam in that early season of digging. The charm of old Europe had morphed into a grimy bulwark of unbelief. I did not feel ’marvelous’, just tired of the perversion on every side–the depth of wounding and ‘darkness’ all around me–even in the Christians we were equipping.

I would go running in the dark every morning along the canals and other waterworks. On one such morning, I felt especially hopeless, seized with the immensity of the task and my own limits as a weak man.

An old man, a sailor, came out from nowhere and began to run slightly ahead of me, laughing and urging me onward. I picked up the pace but could not match his; he laughed a bit more, reached back and gently touched my shoulder then disappeared in front of me. I kept running, thoroughly renewed by my strange running partner.

An angel? Or a mere man disappearing into the fog? No matter: God was helping us to go the distance—to open ancient doors and release floodgates of His merciful, cleansing love.

‘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 that 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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A Deeper Well, Waters Rising

The move to Anaheim was a shakedown. Everything that could be shaken was—from our relationship with our previous church to the still reverberating effects of our sexual abuse crisis.

God was merciful. He used both earthquakes to level us. He was preparing us for a new season of growth founded on simple trust in His goodness towards us. We sent our roots down a little deeper in the Source, and ceased to be so readily dismayed by hardship.

God demonstrated that goodness through the advocacy of John Wimber. As head of the Vineyard movement, a pastor of pastors, John had navigated dozens of sexual messes created by unhealed churchmen and women. He knew the need for safe and powerful places in the church for getting real and getting healed. He loved our main offering– ‘Living Waters’–and insisted it become a primary offering in his church and beyond.

Strength in weakness: could our little band of wounded healers step up and quicken our training of lay persons to make their churches such a merciful haven for the sexually broken? John said yes; DSM prayed: ‘Lord have mercy.’

God had mercy and insisted we do it His way. John featured me in one of the annual conferences sponsored by the Vineyard Anaheim. This 5-day conference sold out and so another was slated for the next week: total conferees over two weeks? 10,000 people! (Desert Stream did daily workshops for hundreds and I was scheduled to address the large group a couple times each week.)

Like every novice given such an opportunity, one tends to over-function, jamming a brief talk with every sparkling insight ever mined. Not helpful. God knows this. After laboring over ‘the talk above all talks’, He made it clear to me that my efforts were unacceptable. (A few hours before?!)

He led me to preach on PS 103:6: a simple word on how God works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed, those like me who had been damaged by sexual sin.

I essentially shared my story. I left my impeccably prepared teaching on my seat, and mounted the podium with a few notes jotted on scrap paper. I taught for 20 minutes and prayed over the people for 40.

God poured out His mercy in a manner I had never seen before, or since. This ‘mercy surge’ lanced the shame and pain of a Christian people who had little experience in bringing their sexual brokenness into the light of Christ’s merciful body. The screams and agonizing sobs sounded like hell breaking loose but actually it was Heaven freeing captives.

Pastors took note of the healing available for their people if the church would take up her responsibility. Desert Stream began to flow with a new force and freedom throughout the USA and beyond.

Our strategy was to train a group of lay leaders to do ‘Living Waters’ in a church; then, when locals were digging a good well of healing for their people, we would come and stir up the waters a bit in order to bring people into ‘Living Waters.’

Around this time, I recall fondly a conference we did in the heart of San Francisco.

That Vineyard Church happened to be on Folsom Street in the middle of the city’s notorious sadomasochism district; and our conference happened to coincide with the weekend of their annual ‘Leather Festival’. It was hard to bear the oppression of the enslaved. How much more heartening to watch over 400 Christians of every ethnicity pouring out of the church and bearing powerful mercy for the sexually broken!

The Kingdom of mercy is more potent than the rule of any perversion.

We were in the right place at the right time. The Vineyard Anaheim had become the hub of an international network of churches and Desert Stream benefited. Following the Vineyard model, we began to plan an international strategy for identifying and raising nationals to dig deep wells of Living Waters in their lands.

We were digging a network of wells vigorously. The waters of mercy were rising and beginning to pour out to the nations.
‘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 that 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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Humbled by Victory

After a sleepless night, I can say with joy and relief: ‘gay marriage’ is no longer in CA.The people arose and went to the polls. They took back marriage from the Supreme Court and rightly defined it as one man pledged to one woman. For the sake of kids. For the good of all.

By a slim 4-point margin, the citizens of CA turned San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and an activist court on its ear. Now marriage as heterosexual is written in stone into the CA state constitution.

Thank you for your prayers. God roused His people to honor and defend what He loves.

The righteous in CA—both Christians and God-fearers—acted. And persevered. They endured vandalism—Prop. 8 signs and bumper-stickers were torn down throughout the campaign, political trickery—CA’s Attorney General deliberately worded Prop. 8 in a confusing and negative manner, and shame—opponents of Prop. 8 ridiculed those who honor marriage as racist, intolerant and hateful.

The good endured. The true image of God in humanity is honored. God is honored. “Just as there is a momentum to evil, so there is a momentum to repentance…”

And He is to be praised for hearing our prayers. I have cried out for this victory along with you since the Supreme Court decision last May. Yesterday, anxious in prayer, the Lord reminded me of this Word He gave me through my friend and associate Dean:

“Do not be anxious or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not yours, but Mine. Take up your positions, stand firm, and you will see the deliverance that I have given you. Do not fear or be discouraged, for I am with you.” (2Chron. 20: 16, 17)

He delivered CA from delusion, and the judgment it invites. He will have mercy! The people have acted justly and honored God’s image.

This is only the beginning. CA’s honoring of marriage must signal a further awakening of the church everywhere to arise in Christ, the true image, and live out what she preaches.

That means cherishing that image in one another, and making every effort to restore that image in its broken members.

That means taking the mercy of Jesus out beyond her walls to those bound by same-sex attraction. We have already given gays what they need: the clear witness of God’s intent for humanity in marriage. Now let’s love them into the Kingdom.

And we need to empower the nations who sooner than later will face the same decision that CA did concerning the true definition of marriage.

We must mobilize now to help them before sneaky courts or legislatures subject its citizens to ‘gay marriage.’

CA has spoken loudly to the world: Let the people decide how marriage will be defined. Thank God for democracy! By His grace, and though the power of truth tempered and channeled in prayer, let the people who honor God honor marriage everywhere.

Bless you dear friends for standing with us throughout these forty days. Together, we have honored marriage for the good of all.

“Delight yourself in the lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to Him; trust in Him, and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (PS 37:4-6)

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Repenting unto Mercy

In the battle for marriage, I am inclined toward the sin of the Church at Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7). Working hard, persevering, identifying falsehood (the church’s strengths; vs.2, 3) mean little if one loses his first love.

And that has been my challenge in this battle. In fighting for God’s honor in defending marriage as one man for one woman, have I lost touch with God? The other day, I felt that familiar conviction: ‘Are my works for Him overtaking my devotion to Him? Is a political battle with all of its complexities and strife superseding the one true thing: Christ alone, the true image of God in humanity from which marriage draws its meaning?’

“Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love.” (v.4) I must return to that place at His feet, even and especially as the battle for marriage intensifies. The ‘Martha’ in me, ‘worried and anxious about many things’, must become more like her sister ‘Mary’ who seated at His feet and listening to Jesus found the one true thing ‘that would not be taken from her’. (Luke 10:38-42)

“Remember the height from which you have fallen!” (v. 5a) To me, that height is mercy: how God in Christ bridged the gap between my native perversion and His design for my life. That height is pure mercy. Nothing else sets us free from the debt, the gap, those inexplicable distortions of humanity that distance us from His purposes for our humanity.

Only mercy sets us free to know Him and those purposes. I must return to that place where He first met me, and where He calls me to live—that place at His feet where I receive mercy afresh. There I marvel and devote myself afresh to Him out of gratitude.

I agree with the Psalmist when he says: “I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call upon Him as long as I live…The Lord is gracious and righteous; our God is full of compassion. The Lord protects the simple-hearted; when I was in great need, He saved me. Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” (PS 116: 1, 2, 5-7)

I was in great need; I am in great need, and through mercy, my soul can rest, even and especially in battle. I remember the height from which I have fallen. I remember mercy, and my soul is restored.

“Repent and do the things you did at first.” (Rev.3:5b) Mercy received becomes the basis for giving mercy away. I pray that I will be true to the call to make a way for all broken image-bearers who seek healing in Jesus’ name. I pray that they would find it in Christ’s body—to discover mercy in the church instead of judgment.

I pray through the ‘gay marriage’ crisis that churches throughout the land would wake up to their responsibility to offer transformation to broken ones, especially to those with same-sex attraction.

I pray for the truthful fundamentalists who tend to conceal their own need for mercy. May they confess their own sins boldly and receive a double portion of mercy in turn! May they then give it away generously to the broken in their midst. And for the tentative ‘emergent’ church, may she wake up to her need to give a clear and forthright answer to those struggling with homosexuality. May she see the mercilessness of not giving an answer and so placing souls at risk of further destruction!

Let mercy have its perfect way in our churches. Let us repent and do the first things—welcoming broken ones with the truth that makes mercy pure and powerful, able to save and restore lives.

Then let mercy restore us for such a time as this. A time to battle for marriage. We battle in mercy for the upholding of marriage as one man pledged to one woman. We do this on behalf of generations to come.

Fighting for marriage in our land is an act of mercy for them. Protecting marriage helps ensure the stability and dignity of children now and to come.

And it restrains the hand of God who must respond to our rebellion if ‘gay marriage’ is allowed to continue. God desires to have mercy and not judgment. But He must act if His image is perverted by any state or nation. ‘Gay marriage’ fundamentally assaults the highest expression of God’s creation: humanity as male and female. To battle for the end of ‘gay marriage’ in CA invites God’s mercy; to concede to it incites trouble.

Let us together do what we did at first. Let us receive mercy afresh, and let us offer it generously to all in need. Right now CA is in need of mercy: mercy to fight for what is right in order that God would have mercy on the land.

Honor Marriage for the good of all. Vote YES on Proposition 8.

“Let marriage in its true definition prevail O God; let marriage in its true form provide for generations to come. May our good battle on behalf of marriage ‘defend the cause of the weak and the fatherless, and maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.’ May it ‘rescue the weak and the needy, and deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’ (Ps 82: 3, 4)”

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