Tag Archives: Los Angeles

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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!

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.

Living Hope

‘Jesus, You are everything to a lonely soul.’ St. Faustina

Mark was among the brightest of Living Waters’ young lights; he faced his same-sex attraction squarely and well with a similarly motivated group of men and women in Los Angeles. He left for China to fulfill God’s call on his life (he had studied Chinese and Asian culture at university). As he was learning Mandarin, Kim from Northern China was majoring in English. She came to the same metropolis in China where Mark had just found a job as an English teacher. They met without sparks at the first Living Waters group run in that city.

Much to my surprise, I reconnected with Mark there; my sister and husband were on job assignment in that city, attended the church sponsoring Living Waters and alerted me to the group starting. I just happened to be elsewhere in Asia and managed to combine a family visit with the launching of the group. Marvelous.

Mark poured himself out in the healing culture of Living Waters but lived and worked far from the sponsor church. In truth, the good news of Living Waters in the city dimmed as he faced what it meant to assimilate into a culture founded on words and habits not yet his own. He had few local friends and frustration with local churches wary of his presence. Lonely and feeling powerless, he descended into Jesus and wondered if He could be everything for him.

Blessed by Living Waters, Kim deepened intimacy with Jesus but remained uncertain about her relational future. She grew up in a household that dishonored women, a theme played out daily in her job with an organization that helped prostitutes get off the streets and into other work.

Mark and Kim met again at the going-away-party of the coordinator of the Living Waters program they had both attended two years earlier. They were different people, Mark humbled by hardship and alive to her beauty, Kim seeing him as the radiant man he is for the first time. They began dating and worshipping together; after two years of falling and rising in love, they discerned their readiness to fuse lives in Chinese, for a people for whom Christ gave all.

I recently reengaged with them a couple months after their wedding. The grace of marriage has enlivened them. Kim said that that she ‘had never imagined how good life could be; Mark honors me, and that gives me hope for all, especially the women I work with.’ Mark: ‘I wake up and feel full. My same-sex attraction has diminished as we go deeper in God together. Rather than fear not being enough for Kim, I have more to give.’ Jesus gives generously through marital love. Who He has joined, let no-one divide.

At Peace In War

As ‘gay pride month’, June always provokes a kind of dread in me. This month started out with a bang—a federal appeals court struck down the existing federal law defining marriage solely between a man and woman. Gay pride will swagger throughout the month, amplified by fawning journalists.

Many see the end in sight: finally, our nation is recognizing that homosexuality is a moral good—utterly normal, utterly on par with heterosexuality as solid ground for marriage and family.

Utter nonsense. While praying the other day, God showed me a picture of an oil spill that was spreading out and encasing vulnerable, beautiful creatures. At first the oil had little effect on them. Then it constricted movement, and finally their breathing. I saw a powerful balm being applied to the dying; it alone had power to dissolve the sludge and to restore life. I knew right away it was the blood of the Lamb, the only hope for those encased by ‘gay pride.’

I dread ‘gay pride month’ because it celebrates the slow death of beautiful, vulnerable men and women who believe the lie that homosexuality is their destiny. Unless they repent and receive the blood, they will perish.

31-years-ago this month, my bride and I sped away from our honeymoon suite at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles. Our exit was blocked on every side by a massive ‘gay pride parade.’ The dreamy nuptials collided with a gender nightmare. We made it out fine, grateful for the blood that redeemed us and made us one.

Last Sunday (June 3rd), our second son Nick was ordained as an Anglican priest. The presiding bishop was an old friend—Dr. Todd Hunter, who decades ago led the Vineyard movement in the USA when Annette and I began to train Vineyard churches to heal their sexually broken.

Nick and Todd are both amazing expressions to us of God’s faithful love—the grace He still extends to us though our beloved Vineyard roots, but most importantly, the faithful love that redeems lives from the pit (Nick had his own sludge to reckon with) and sets their feet upon a rock. Our joy was full as we celebrated this public recognition of God’s favor upon Nick.

Todd commissioned Nick by reminding him how rest and peace are the earmarks of solid Christian leadership. “In repentance and rest will be your salvation; in quietness and trust will be your strength.” (Is. 30:15) In spite of the battle waging outside the church walls, God’s Spirit fell peacefully upon all of us. We sang His praise whole-heartedly.

June is ‘gay pride month’ but it is also the month of my marriage and son’s ordination. This is the day that God has made and has redeemed. I will go forth aware of the sludge but more deeply aware of the power of the blood. I will fight this month in peace.

‘I waited patiently for the Lord; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet upon a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.’ (PS 40: 1-3)

Faithful Mother for an Adulterous Generation

Day 3 of our 40 Days of Mercy Fast

‘Rejoice, for you are closer to God in His mercy than a baby to its mother’s heart.’ (423)

Our father is the perfect parent; He combines and surpasses the best virtues of both mother and father. Just as natural parents complement each other in creating children and loving them well, so does the Father’s Mercy involve two intertwining dimensions that bear fruit in us: one masculine, the other feminine.

Understanding these two expressions of Mercy can help create a more whole view of God. What results is a more whole soul in us! The fullness of Mercy facilitates our faithful response to Him, and thus our freedom to live as He intends.

John Paul ll defines ‘hesed’, or ‘steadfast love’, as the more masculine dimension of the Father’s Mercy. It is defined by dependability, stability, and a resolute commitment to keeping its promise. ‘Rachamim’, the second most common word for Mercy in the Old Testament, connotes a tender compassion that God deeply feels for His afflicted ones. It comes from the root word ‘rechem’, or ‘mother’s womb’.

God deeply feels for us in the way that a whole mother aches for the well-being of her child. The intimate communion of mother/child grants her an intuitive grasp of its needs, and suffering.

My repentance from homosexuality turned on the tears of my good mother as I boldly told her of my ‘gay self.’ Her ache expressed itself in sweet ‘rachamim’ for her afflicted son. My good wife’s aspirations and sorrows are tied to the status of our children. Their rising and falling are hers; in this, I complement her well by advocating for the Father’s ‘hesed’ as our ‘objective’ hope for their safe return.

Out of His rachamim, God moves powerfully to heal those who have suffered since infancy from a breach in mother’s love (often entirely unintentional on the mother’s part.) I will never forget the first conference we sponsored in Los Angeles with Leanne Payne. She taught movingly on how God’s ‘mother-heart’ goes forth in the power of the Holy Spirit to unite itself with the adult-‘child’ and so heals him/her.

As Leanne spoke, a woman coming out of lesbianism moved haltingly toward the podium and quietly asked Leanne to pray for her. She did. God sent forth His mighty ‘rachamim’ and performed a miracle of Divine Mercy in our midst, healing the young woman at the source of her ‘mother-hunger’.

‘The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, and rich in love. The Lord is good to all; He has compassion on all that He has made.’ (PS 145:8, 9)

‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; you are ever before Me.’ (IS 49: 15, 16)

‘Humble us, O God, by the tender and mighty nature of Your ‘rachamim’. You feel deeply for our needs, and ache over our afflicted state. Would You move us with the Mercy that moves Your heart? Grant us a share in Your Mercy. May our prayers for the release of Mercy promote healing action. Bring the unfaithful home! Transform them through Your (and our) faithful love.’’

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: