Tag Archives: Jesus

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

Grounded 4

‘Many are awed by His miracles; few accept the shame of His Cross.’ Thomas a Kempis

From the beginning of His adult ministry, Jesus set His face like flint toward Jerusalem. He lived, breathed, and progressed Cross-ward. His destiny was death. For the life of the world.

This Good Friday, we may be less inclined to leap over the Crucified for miracles of new life. His broken Body stops us in our tracks as we wonder if we’ve a fever, or worse yet, if the mourner next to us is burning.

No stranger to miracles, Jesus performed plenty in order to prophecy the glory that would result from His shame. People loved signs and wonders. This frustrated Jesus. He knew that the majority would just end up demanding more signs, not their Savior.

Scripture describes Jesus as unwilling to entrust Himself to the miracle mob (Jn. 2: 18-25). When asked to show them His best ‘trick’, Jesus responded ‘crossly’: ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three days’ (v. 19).

Conversion to the Savior means seeing only Him who goes before us to Calvary. The greatest miracle? That we now see how our sins pierced Him (Zech. 12:10) and we grieve, not as those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4: 13b, 14) but with eyes who can see our hope. Our only One.

Our gift is attentiveness, small tokens of gratitude mouthed without sound but from our depths. We know His shameful scourge will become a fountain that cancels our shame and makes all things new (Zech. 13:1, 2). Let our worship rise fragrantly, like the oil Mary used to anoint Jesus for His death (Jn. 12:7).

We can add nothing to His gift of Blood and Water: fitting in plague time when, apart from noble medics and politicians, our hands are tied. Maybe, just maybe ‘we will never again say “Our gods” to the work of our hands’ (Hosea 14:3b). Under house arrest, we give up our schemes; we ‘die’ to any illusion of control. Today, Someone else is doing the hard work that gives life to the world.

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

Grounded 1

My dreams reveal one frustrated guy. I wake up half-smiling at the heart’s antics: I can’t get out of the room or parking lot, no exit, strange humiliations where others have the upper hand and I am out-of-control. This lockdown may just make me loony. In that way, I am a thoroughly fallen American—you know, manifest destiny, don’t fence-me-in, smaller-the-government-the-better kind of stuff.

I am glad for Jesus’ mercy on my stalled but seething heart. And for His Church. On what may be the last homily I’ll hear in person for a while, Father Justin (what a guy) preached on the Samaritan woman. He centered on the fact that Jesus ‘had to go through Samaria’ (Jn. 4:4) in route to Jerusalem. Better put, He chose to go out of His way into this compromised and slightly hostile land in order to extend mercy to a compromised, slightly hostile woman.

Justin’s point? Jesus will go to any length to find you. He will tear up the map, overlook your rebellious thoughts and actions, and pierce every veil in you that repels ‘living water.’ He’ll wear Himself out just to look into your eyes and love you. Lockdowns give you a lot of time to just be loved.

Annoying. I want to act! I don’t want to be the object of desire, I want to be the subject, doing what I want! Well, well. Times have changed.

I was musing on how my roving heart is particularly unsuited for now when I ran into a woman (bad word choice; I kept a polite distance) for whom I had prayed but never met face-to-face. Abbey and I had seen her at different coffee joints; she was evidently trying to erase her womanhood and had adopted a male name.

We both caught her name and brought it into staff intercession. For about 6 months we regularly lifted her up and then, voila, she appeared. Grateful to shake off my self-concern for a moment, I gently told her that Jesus had placed her on my and another colleague’s heart, and that we felt a bit like we knew her as we gathered to pray and caught something of the Father’s love for His very special daughter. Simple. ‘God loves you that much,’ I said and went on my way.

My lockdown may well be an occasion to pray for Samaritans and to enter more deeply into His merciful heart for them. For all of us.

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

prayer schedule

prayer schedule

Offensive

Adjective: causing someone to feel deeply hurt or angry.
Noun: an organized campaign to achieve something.

Jesus’ healing ministry satisfies both definitions of ‘offensive.’ His authority to restore lives enraged the religious while establishing the rule and reign of His Kingdom among the admittedly sick.

Jesus knew that healing would separate wheat from chaff. Why else would He say poignantly (in the Gospel reading for the third Sunday in Advent): ‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised and the poor have the good news preached to them. BLESSED IS THE ONE WHO TAKES NO OFFENSE IN ME’ (Matt. 11:5)?

Happy are the healed, joyful are the childlike who take Jesus at His Word and who step out continuously to welcome wholeness. I had the privilege of preaching at Shabach Fellowship in Los Angeles last week—a mostly African-American Pentecostal Church where Living Waters has flowed for twenty years; throughout the service, gifted healers laid hands on persons in need. Jesus honored their faith in Him as Healer and I witnessed broken hearts mending before my eyes. I left joyfully expectant—awaiting Jesus’ arrival while welcoming His healing Presence now.

For every expectant soul is a dour one, disappointed, offended at Jesus’ claim to heal. Sad are those who rail against Jesus’ wonder-working power. Times haven’t changed since Jesus blessed the unoffended. Not in my world of persons seeking wholeness in their sexual identities. The very claim that Jesus can heal the ‘homosexual’ now meets with derision—hurt—rage—embittered unbelief.

Perhaps it’s the depth of desire, an unwillingness to give up sexy idols, or maybe bitterness at the Church for mishandling our cries for mercy.

One thing is for sure: the assumption that LGBT+ identification is ‘broken’ now enrages the establishment—religious, psychological, political. Add ‘healing’ to the mix and you’ve got a Molotov cocktail aimed straight at our ministries. Offended people aren’t fun.

Meanwhile, Jesus heals the broken. He is King of wholeness who reconciles persons to the original goodness of their powers of life and love. In other words, Jesus frees captives while the ‘whole’ want to criminalize change. California tried this last year with AB 2943. And woke up Bethel Church in Redding California, from which has come a timely and exciting ‘offensive’—the CHANGED movement.

Founded by excellent friends Elizabeth Woning and Kenn Williams, CHANGED mobilizes young adults to share publicly how God’s love led them to seek change in their sexual identities. Many of us from DSM/LW were featured in CHANGED, their book highlighting persons for whom Jesus became the perfect Lover and mirror of their true selves (Find out more at contact@changedmovement.com). Transgressive is the message that God loves and redeems persons from LGBT+ backgrounds: ‘I believe CHANGED is offensive because people don’t want to address the shame that underlies the homosexual experience…we would rather self-protect than expose the brokenness,’ says Woning.

From the offense shines Jesus’ healing authority. Beautiful is the exchange of sin and shame for original dignity. Woning again: ‘Stories of lives redeemed from an LGBT+ identity expose God’s mercy, holiness, power, and grace, as well as His beautiful Kingdom order.’ This is the whole Gospel. Offensive.

‘Blessed are those who take no offense in ME,’ says Jesus. Joyful are we who once blind now see Him, once deaf now hear His healing Word; we who staggered in sexual sin now walk on level paths. We who died to our solutions have become His answers. We have become His offensive as we embody the Word of life.

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

Good News?

Jesus is good news for the sexually broken. As a mere member of His, deeply flawed, I fall short. I guess that explains the title of our upcoming 40-days of prayer: ‘Becoming Good News’. We begin by admitting limited love for difficult beloved ones then seek to become more apt representatives of Jesus for them. Our prayer? ‘Jesus, make us more like Yourself toward _____’

Annette and I got hammered yesterday by a series of tough things. We both experienced a kind of wearisome dullness that deflected the light of Jesus rather than catching and beaming it all around. As I walked past the home of my ‘gay’-identified neighbor, I felt the Spirit’s prompting to knock once more, hear his travails (many), and give some Spirit-tuned encouragement. I resisted the prompt. Self-absorbed, I gave the enemy what he wanted by agreeing with the familiar: ‘I am a mess, say nothing, do nothing, the gap is too wide, the bridge too far, etc.’
Start the revival without me.

Thank God for holy conviction. I live by these words of St. Faustina: ‘The knowledge of my misery frees me to know the immensity of Your mercy.’ No value in denying the soul cast down or in musing upon one’s well-deserved melancholy. How much better to offer up the troubled soul to Jesus who always waits for the chance just to love us? We can surrender the misery in exchange for tender affection; He transforms a spirit of heaviness into something grateful, humbled, fragrant in its brokenness rather than self-consumed and piteous. Lord, consume us with Your mercies, well-aimed at our fears and frustrations!

In the rising, my heart is sensitized to that neighbor. If we the faithful can be slowed, even stopped, by our disordered world, how much more difficult is it for estranged ones who get tossed about by every torment? We can offer our little trials to Jesus on their behalf; He will mercifully expand the constrained domain of our hearts. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent!’ commands the prophet. Jesus’ mercy makes it so; we discover there is more room at the inn.

Let’s pray together to become good news, that hardships might produce a spirit of hospitality for rebel sons and daughters. Perhaps they secretly long for a homecoming. Let’s become better news for them, beginning on October 16th. Order the 40-day prayer guide ‘Becoming Good News’ from Amazon or DSM.

You can purchase “Becoming Good News” in book form directly from Desert Stream or get it from Amazon for your Kindle.

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

India Living Waters

India: God Answers

‘The poor and needy search for water but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst, but I the Lord will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them…’ (IS 41:17)

It was a good sign. As I greeted my Thai colleague Sue and team at the Kolkata Airport, I looked behind her in line and saw a dozen Missionaries of Charity (St. Teresa’s team) gleaming in white robes, their eyes bright with Jesus as they awaited baggage check and a fresh advance in another region. We walk the path of blessed pioneers.

As Abbey and I motored our way up a dusty mountain to our destination of Shillong in the upper north of India—a finger of land surrounded by Bhutan, Myanmar, China, Nepal, and Bangladesh—I noticed roadside dust and clamor growing green as we ascended a mile high up the hills. Teeming with life, the city beckoned to us; after 40 hours of travel, we felt that strange blend of exhaustion and exhilaration and decided to walk to our first meeting.

What a reunion! Our hostess/leader Bobby is a dynamic, faith-filled wife and mother who simply believes God for the needs of persons in her city: she has started citywide outreaches to the poor, an orphanage she still runs, and now wants to ensure that the deep and often shame-shrouded needs of fellow Christians are met in a safe, merciful and effective way. Living Waters! She travelled twice to Thailand and once to The Philippines in order to raise up a team, and there they sat in front of us now, waiting to pray for our advance: beautiful, humble men and women who were growing whole together, now primed to release healing to others.

India Living Waters

Bobby and Family

Bobby recalled: ‘I was unsure if India was ready for Living Waters. We are an honor, family-based culture: we don’t talk about sexual matters or family wounds—these might dishonor loved ones. But when I returned from Thailand and told friends what I heard, they all started sharing deep, hard things. I realized that whether we like it or not, we need Living Waters!’

Before our first gathering, two fun things happened. Bobby gathered a group of pastors with whom we dined and discussed these issues. Their leader, Pastor Hamlet, reminded me of John Wimber—both wise and merciful men whom God blessed as founder/leaders of thriving denominations yet who only wanted to build up the whole body of Christ with the healing power of Jesus. Like Wimber, Hamlet prefers the Kingdom over church government. I love him.

Soon after our lunch I went for a long run up and down the narrow streets of Shillong and noticed an array of Catholic and Protestant institutions. I then discovered that Catholics had invested huge amounts of energy over the last several hundred years to bring the Gospel to these people—the Khati—and have left an array of schools and educational offerings for them. Further, Welsh missionaries landed there in the early 20th century, burning with the flames of revival ignited in Wales a decade earlier. This city is ready for Living Waters. I was so excited that I started running with a group of Indian soldiers and raced them to their barracks, tying for first with a man one-third my age.

Our conference was full of Jesus, tender and powerful in mercy to meet people in profound areas of need. We preached the truth of our own being-healed lives through the power of the Cross; signs and wonders followed. Like Ezekiel in the temple, the water levels kept rising. Because family is so crucial here, sons and daughters who were already receiving healing from Bobby and team brought parents who began to confess their wounds and failures. Families were being healed before our eyes.

I called up all persons who wanted to help release Living Waters in India; nearly everyone arose. Immediately I thought of Isaiah 41 where the prophet voices God’s commitment to answer the stifled cries of His people: ‘I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs’ (IS. 41: 18). As I shouted out these verses, I wept for I realized in a small way we were fulfilling God’s promise to the poor and needy. I saw waters cascading down the green heights of Shillong, throughout the thirsty byways of India.

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

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