Tag Archives: San Diego

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Shepherdless?

‘When Jesus saw the crowd, He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’ (MK 6:34).

If the wise-men are any example, then Epiphany is about the worship of Jesus manifesting itself in loving people most in need of it. Our new neighborhood is full of possibilities, including a rainbow house full of gender-benders, sweet and clueless as to the purpose of their sexuality. I ask Jesus to help me show them His love. He is faithful. The other day I helped one housemate change a tire. I pray for them always, awaiting the chance to know and love them more; I believe that the King of heaven wants to dwell there and embrace any willing heart among them.

They have no guides, just a string of well-intentioned, misdirected relationships (if the revolving door of tenants is any indication). And I wonder; how are our churches inclined to welcome and shepherd them into true happiness?

I keep going back to a disturbing article I read in the New York Times last month about the mess our Church is in concerning ‘good news’ for the LGBT+ set. It seems Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego wants to reach gender-benders but has lost his way; this Catholic shepherd of the tenth biggest city in the USA allowed a ‘gay-married’ man (we’ll call him Steve) to pastor a parish in the thick of the ‘gay’ community there. The priest overseeing Steve got promoted, leaving Steve to do the job. The effect was disastrous: a man redefining/defying Catholic marriage and sexual ethics taught ‘gay’-seekers accordingly, thereby presenting a Gospel falsified by cheap grace.

Worst still, reactionary persons hurled all kinds of at poor Steve, who although deceived (and deceiving) did not deserve the slurs and even life threats he received for his service. First and foremost, Steve is a man under authority, and his authority is Bishop McElroy. I ascribe primary blame to the good bishop for putting a man on the firing line who shouldn’t have been there.

The greater problem? A brand of traditionalism that has no vision or authority to welcome persons into Jesus’ Church in a way that is merciful, mighty, and transformational. If the article is correct (and few are, entirely), many of the ‘faithful’ opposed to Steve acted as if LGBT+ reality had more power than Jesus Christ to define His Church. They responded with a fearful, vengeful spirit rather than with a robust Gospel that declares to all who seek: ‘The time has come—the Kingdom of God is near; repent and believe in the Gospel!’ (MK 1:15) In this, every Christian is a shepherd in the Spirit of Jesus Christ, called by Him to bear witness of the One who takes us as we are then shakes us down to our very foundations in order to establish a new creation.

Sexual ethics in light of King Jesus? Forego your lovers, and faddish self-assessments! He gives all and demands nothing less of us. Only the Gospel, empowered by the Spirit and declared through broken, blessed people like us, can make Him known in a way that commands repentance.

Shepherds confuse today: guides driven by a worldly, feel-good Gospel (McElroy) or by traditional exclusionary attitudes that frighten off rebels. Conservatives cannot afford the latter! Either we cultivate merciful vision and passion for persons caught in a web of lies or we will be spit out of Jesus’ mouth for upholding a form of godliness but denying its power to transform lives (2 Tim. 3:5; Col. 2: 20-23).

That must be our call—every one of us standing in the gap as a pretty good under-‘shepherd’, praying for and inviting the hurting into holy family.

“‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice,’ declares the Sovereign Lord.” (Ezekiel 34:16)

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

Download PDF
redeeming_the_past

Redeeming the Past

By Brian Barlow

On a recent trip to San Diego, I was given an unexpected gift for my birthday. My bride Nichole had been planning this trip for several weeks. We dropped the boys off at grandparents and arrived at our new waterfront hotel in downtown San Diego.

San Diego held for me many memories from my sexually disoriented past. We walked the streets together and I saw familiar sites which evoked that past. I found my heart growing heavier as the night progressed. Once seated for dinner at a Mexican restaurant, I began to share with Nichole my regrets over unhappy relationships with guys I had met in San Diego years earlier.

I hadn’t expected our trip to produce raw and melancholy emotions about my past. Thank God our marriage is secure enough for us to bear each other burdens related to past sins and hurts. Still, it was awkward, especially when the host greeted us and engaged in conversation. His ‘gay’ persona left me sober. It wasn’t offensive or flagrant, just familiar. I pondered and quietly asked the Lord: ‘What is this? Am I feeling regret? Am I digressing? If so, how can I stay present? You have transformed my life by giving me a wife and family, a gift I once thought impossible when I wandered these familiar streets alone many years ago…’

Then the Holy Spirit whispered: ‘I have come to redeem that past.’ I sighed then realized that was a moment when the “there and then” could be healed in the “here and now.” But how? I felt grief and shame over the life I once lived. I regretted how I hurt good people. Then I felt the Lord redirect my thoughts back to our host: ‘He is a man in the “here and now” whom you can choose to love rightly, a man created to reflect My image. He needs to know I AM his Fighting Father still fighting for his life.’

When our meal was finished the host returned to the table. In that moment, the Lord prompted me to ask a question: ‘What’s your name? How are you?’ “Nicholas” seemed perplexed and gave a simple response to which I asked again: ‘Is there anything you would like us to pray about for you? Anything in your life that you need? Financial? Life in general?’

His face sobered and he responded, ‘I really want to keep this job! I just started two weeks ago and I really like it.’ He responded in earnest this time I asked if we could pray; Nichole and I each held a hand. In the moments that followed the man seemed renewed. Though we can never know the sum of this man’s life, three people entered into a holy moment of healing in that restaurant. We who each reflect the image of God portrayed the glory of God together.

We are created by the Father who made us to live in right relationship with others. Throughout the years that original portrait might be misused, discarded, stolen and hidden for fear of being reclaimed by the rightful owner. Sound familiar? Life can mare and disfigure our portrait to the point of becoming unrecognizable. It would take the “Artist Himself” to reclaim and restore the image to its original state.

That is what the three of us shared together in a Mexican restaurant. By reaching through the pleasantries and calling him by name, we gave Nicholas a moment to pause and be known. Even more so, he was reminded that he has a Heavenly Father who sees him and who has not forgotten him. As Nichole and I prayed over Nicholas, we experienced the Living God embrace us. ‘Thank you, what a gift!’ responded Nicholas. ‘Can I give you a hug?’ He then reached for Nichole. Joy replaced heaviness.

Brian Barlow is our amazing regional coordinator for Southern CA. Come and hear Nichole and Brian at our daylong conference in Pasadena CA on August 20th. Sign up now!

Download PDF
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: