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About a Wedding…

Much could be said about our 3 day anniversary feast: thoughtful reflection upon each decade of DSM, longstanding co-ministers who overwhelmed Annette and I with poignant and pointed blessing, courageous attendees who refused to allow covid to come between them and their tribe—wow. Our cup runs over.

But these 3 days may best be framed as a wedding, the celebration of Annette and my union and its fruit–our four amazing children who anchored each session/decade with their take on DSM, at once humorous and insightful. I loved how they loved the gathering; as charter DSM members, they share in its essence and have embraced the ministry as part of their legacy and offering to others.

I realized that our family unit points beyond itself to a greater wedding, the wedding feast of the Lamb. Jesus is returning for a spotless bride. Though our family is in no way blemish-free, it possesses an integrity that reveals Jesus’ love for His Church: how He redeems the unchaste and makes them fruitful for Kingdom purposes. DSM/LW is about nothing less. We (all LW workers) exist to prepare for Jesus a people for Himself. As flawed vessels, we depend on Him daily to embody the integration we invite others to discover. Unseen but dynamically present Jesus is our means and our goal—He is preparing us for face-to-face consummation. Forty years and counting, we bear witness of our soon-coming-King for all who have eyes to see, ears to hear.

Abbey Foard and Marco Cassanova led the three days. Fitting. These two are among our most excellent spiritual children and are being prepared to take DSM/LW far beyond Comiskey limits. It is pure gift to love and trust two people deeply and to take time in our vigorous years to impart all we have to them. Both show evidence of Jesus’ leadership. They make our joy full.

On the last night, I shared my love for the whole Church, and more personally, how our marriage has suffered and grown through Catholicism and Annette’s ongoing Evangelicalism. Tough stuff, and prophetic for how DSM/LW functions to serve all Christians who aspire to chastity. That night’s witnesses included the Catholic Bishop of our diocese, the pastor of Redeemer (a robust reformed congregation in KC), my parish priest, Bethel minister Elizabeth Woning who cofounded the Changed Movement, and Anne Paulk of Restored Hope Network.

Jesus is returning for Christians of all stripes who have made themselves ready. Our service is one inspired expression of how He is preparing us for the Wedding above all weddings.

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True Worship 2

Why do we worship Jesus, anointing Him with our love songs? Gratitude: He did for us what only He could do—He forgave our sins.

Only God can wash us clean. Only God. Good people can forgive us our sins. But only God can make us new.

So we sing out of gratitude. We wash His feet with tears of thankfulness. Only Jesus knows the depths of what we’ve done; only Jesus can break off us the burden of sin and shame.

In that way, we need never deny the monstrous things we’ve done and even the monstrous things we are still capable of. He alone is sin’s cure. Our disease invites us to rely upon this doctor deeply and constantly for the sins He has forgiven and the sins that still seek to sicken us.

Might we even rejoice in sinful inclinations that Jesus employs to keep us near Him? He trains us to live gratefully before Him. In that way, our worship is warfare—it cancels every accusing word or glance that seeks to separate us from our merciful Cure.

The sinful woman in Lk. 7: 36-50 teaches us how to live as a grateful worshipper. In this passage, we witness two parties encountering Jesus: the first, that sinful woman, lives close to the edge morally and economically, and is cast into the outer courts of the temple, vulnerable to other gods and men under their sway who took what they wanted from her sexually. Is there any sin as profound as opening one’s body to others who leave only shame while taking something that can never be returned?

The second: a smart religious man, a Pharisee, is probably sexually pure—his tribe set the standard for holiness. With one glance, he knows this sinful woman is infectious, capable of polluting the holy ones. And with the same glance he conveys to her that she is a living shame. Her worship tempts the Pharisee to doubt Jesus. He thinks: ‘How can a holy man tolerate tactile, nearly vulgar devotion from an unclean girl?’

Two people seeking Jesus: a thoughtful religious man unsure as to who Jesus is,
and a sinner grateful for her Cure.

A paradox! The Pharisee whose home it was makes little room for Jesus in his life, while the woman who broke into the Pharisee’s home makes Jesus her home. She had already received His mercy- bursting with gratitude, she disregards her religious accuser so she can thank Jesus for cancelling her sin.

She washes His feet with tearful gratitude. She gives Him herself; she flings open the doors of her house of shame, He floods it with mercy, and transforms her into a living temple. Now she worships: ‘Worthy is the Lamb who bore my shame and makes me virgin again!’

That is the power of gratitude; it gives us courage to break shame—to go boldly past the Pharisee and worship the One. Jesus said it best in the parable of the debtors: Those who are forgiven much will love Me much!

We the forgiven become true worshippers. We have authority to break through bad religion and live thankfully before this One who cures every sin. I am one such worshipper. Jesus freed me from homosexuality years ago and I’ve not looked back; I look forward, fully engaged with merciful Jesus and His Church.

40-years-ago, I shared my story before the first Vineyard Church in Los Angeles. My wife and I have since been privileged to lead many like us to pools of mercy where sin and shame and struggle give way to wholeness. Such joy—to discover Merciful Jesus as the Source and Defender of our purity! We can’t help but worship Him—to give Him our whole lives. We live to bear witness of what He has done in us and to invite others to live holy, grateful lives.

Our transformation is no personal privilege—it has relevance for all persons. We want to give hope to everyone of Jesus’ mercy. His eyes free us continually from the glare of the Pharisee who wants to shame us into silence. He makes the way. Always. Merciful Jesus, may our worship rise for another 40 years, then onto eternity!

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Kyrie Eleison

By Annette Comiskey

Desert Stream Ministries started forty years ago when Andy shared his testimony one hot August Sunday at the Westside Vineyard in Los Angeles; a small group started shortly after and the rest, they say, is history!

Blessings and difficulties abound in this ministry.  The Lord has given me tools to rely on, including the truth of Scripture and psychological truth that helps me understand how trauma impacts self-giving.

But one thing I lean on more than ever is prayer.  I might know something of the Bible and how our minds work, but that doesn’t ease the burden of witnessing the destruction of sexual brokenness on a person’s life and family.  What does lessen the weight is prayer.  The prayer most helpful to me is the simplest of prayers, Kyrie Eleison (Lord have Mercy).

Too often the burdens feel overwhelming. Whether watching the news, hearing about another’s bad choices, or facing a range of hardships within our family and community, my prayers seem ineffective.  But I trust God knows the needs of my heart and all for whom I pray.  I have more trust in the transforming power of God’s mercy and care than anything else.  I need a simple prayer: Kyrie Eleison.

For ones trying to find meaning and peace in unhealthy relationships and addictions…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Open the eyes of their hearts and let the light of Your truth flood in.

For men and women leaving their marriages, their children, and the truth of their faith for same-sex relationships…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Return O Israel, to the Lord your God.

For young men and women who reject being created male or female and strive to live as the other sex… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. Give them Your peace Lord, not as the world gives.

For those who have been abused…Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  Lord, heal their broken hearts, bind their wounds.

For parents, whose children have walked away from the Lord… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.  May teary, watchful eyes see loved ones coming home, their sons from distant lands, their daughters being carried.

For those who struggle to have hope amid great loss… Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy. You alone are our Rock and Salvation; perplexed but not in despair, our hope is in You.

I am amazed at the power of this simple prayer to strengthen and encourage me. May it help you too.

Kyrie Eleison: You reign over all, You alone can save.  Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy.

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True Worship 1

We approach our fortieth anniversary bash this week; I am grateful, full of peace and praise for Jesus. In charting the breakthroughs and breakdowns throughout our four decades, I declare assuredly: ‘Lord, You establish peace for us; everything we have accomplished, You have done for us, O God’ (Is. 26:12).

At core He made Himself known to me, handing Himself over to this slave of sin. My eyes opened to behold Jesus-Savior. The knowledge of Him freed me to know myself as a man created for woman. He has empowered me to represent Him (unevenly, but always in earnest!) as a husband and father. For this I rejoice, body, soul and spirit—O God, You are Almighty Mercy, able to deliver Your creation from idolatry and self-delusion, and to free us for fruitfulness!

Pity those who split who God is from who He made them to be! This delusion is growing in the Church today—more than any other trend in our culture, I lament the deception of ‘LGBT+ Christians’ who claim devotion to Jesus while clinging to old identities and affections sourced in the father of lies, not Light. Whether it be the ‘gay’ Christian Revoice movement, Fr. James Martin’s burning ‘bridge’ in the Catholic Church, Wesley Hill’s version of ‘spiritual friendship’, or a host of recent books on the topic (the author of IVP’s SSA and the Church tips his hat toward transformation then stalls as a man mired in his ‘gay’ condition), the body of Christ seems hell-bent on making peace with LGBT+ ‘nature.’ Have we His members, lost sight of our Head who came to redeem our fallen natures? Such blindness is gnostic—splitting our spirits from our bodies and giving disordered desires the upper-hand to determine personhood.

We all need to reread Romans 1:18-32—the most substantial discourse in Scripture on homosexual conduct. St. Paul sources his understanding of sexual disorder on who God is and who humanity is based on ‘nature’, what Dr. Robert Gagnon defines as ‘the material order of things.’ Paul’s greatest theological letter opens by deeming humanity responsible for discerning the true God and for worshipping Him accordingly. Or we can do what Paul describes as the excesses evident in Rome: we deny the One and in darkness lose sight of our own created selves, sexually-speaking. This double-barreled descent into idolatry is at once spiritual —the worship of false gods—and sexual, the worship of the creature in the form of homosexual lust (1:24-27).

Heavy stuff. Could St. Paul be indicting us for how we have split our knowledge of the living God from His intention for our sexual selves? How else might we understand the unravelling of sexual order in our day? Has God handed 21st century citizens over to lustful rebellion, just as He did idolaters in Paul’s day?

Gratefully, St. Paul in Romans does not condemn sexually addictive persons but rather invites Jews first then the rest of us into the saving power of Jesus. The Apostle is clear: the domination of sin and rebellion can only be broken by faith in Jesus Christ. How can we be saved from our native idolatry, be it pious preening or exotic gender-bending? We cry out to Jesus-Savior and we worship Him!

We are back where we started. Jesus who with the Father made us: we worship Him. We return to Him who redeems us: Jesus breaks the hard heart and dissolves its filth. We worship Him and we are sustained. We go forward toward our future: eternal worship of the One. We bust idolatry by worshipping Jesus and allowing Him to restore our true personhood, including our sexual humanity.

For making Yourself known to us, we worship You Jesus. For freeing us to be who You made us to be, we worship You. For forty years of discipling others to worship You in spirit and truth, we give You praise, glory, and honor.

‘I urge you all, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing, and perfect will’ (Rom. 12:1, 2).

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Unforgettable: Covid Cure

‘I will not forget you! I have engraved you on the palms of My hands; your walls are ever before Me’ (Is. 49: 15b, 16).

In our covid-struck but not destroyed 40th anniversary as a ministry, I rejoice. I am grateful for periodic visits to my nearly 95-year-old Mom who still presides with dignity over the CA home in which I grew up.

Fun to serve her and fun to run thru the 3-mile radius where I can recall homes of classmates, from K-12. Last trip I determined to intercede for each house I ran by where I remembered its previous resident. I pleaded Jesus’ mercy over each.

The gift of remembrance! As I bounded by familiar dwellings, I recalled memories, foul and fair, plus phone numbers and spirit-to-spirit connection with a few who I knew in formative seasons. If I recall each one prayerfully, with hope for a brighter future, how much more does Jesus? ‘I will not forget you!’ says our God who does not forget each child’s cry for mercy, even if the adult-child appears to have forgotten Him.

Perhaps our prayerful remembrance has power to bring His Presence near. Now.

At the end of my intercessory run, I approached a street that flanked my elementary school and began to pray for an unusually good friend of the past, Elena, who had lived on that street. I recalled her with affection: funny, pretty, as insecure as the rest of us yet inclined toward God. In high school she turned her heart Jesus-ward while I turned toward ‘gay’ mischief; by the time I came to my senses through the mirror of Mercy, she had turned away from the One to other faces.

Annoyingly zealous, I invited her into my revival. She refused, but not without giving me some sage advice. ‘Do everyone a favor: when you talk about Jesus, don’t mimic someone else. Be yourself.’ Got it. Unforgettable. To paraphrase John Wimber: Be natural. Supernaturally natural.

I only saw Elena a few times after that—at class reunions, at the local gym when I visited Mom. She usually shared some sorrows. Her life had not gone as she hoped; her parents divorced, as did she, and her children suffered and wandered. We laughed of course—neither of us lost our spontaneity–but her pain lay close to the surface as did her resistance to trusting this Jesus again.

Years later, last month, I ran round the corner onto Elena’s old street. A woman walked ahead of me, and I knew it was her. We talked for an hour. Something had changed, her face was lit by unseen light. It seems the covid clampdown coincided with her mother’s death and a child’s further unraveling. Alone, she heard quietly: ‘Be still and know that I am God.’ She had nothing but time to return to her first love. He remembered her and she Him.

Of course, we spoke of our days 50 years earlier on that same street trying to figure out our lives. And we rejoiced together that the One who made us remembered us. He is becoming the very form of our lives now. More than nostalgia, we recalled His faithfulness revealed in myriad ways, including friendship. We rejoiced in new mercies that morning. Unforgettable.

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