Suffering for What is Right

In His mercy, Jesus redeems our suffering. Some of the sorrow we submit to Him is not of particularly noble origins—it may be, as we have seen, the bad fruit of our sin, or the normal wounds and losses we sustain this side of Heaven.

He loves us to the extent that He will take every opportunity to invite us to surrender our sins and wounds. He grants us ‘cross-time’: an opportunity to receive and extend mercy. He makes us that much more fruitful in love.

But suffering for what is right: that is the highest form of suffering, and one to which the Christian seeking mature identification with the Crucified must aspire.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes: ‘The cross is suffering that comes only from our commitment to Jesus Christ…the cross is not the normal suffering tied to natural existence but the suffering tied to being Christian.’

That is what Jesus referred to in the Sermon on the Mount when He spoke of persecution for the sake of righteousness. (Matt. 5:10)

One of the ways in which I witness this suffering is for those who aspire to and proclaim healing from their homosexuality through the cross of Jesus Christ.

Early on in my own cross-walk, I recall an incident at a school where I worked. I had been good friends with a handful of employees there—we partied together and they knew of my homosexuality. When I became a Christian and expressed my desire to leave behind my old life, they banded together and started to ridicule my efforts to know Him more.

That began a rather long period of loneliness: being rejected by pagans and not yet knowing enough Christians who might help close the gap. It was tough; my only solace lie in believing that Jesus understood my dilemma and somehow was upholding me in it.

I see now and rejoice that I was suffering a little for what was right!

Peter illuminates this further: ‘It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil…But rejoice that you participate in Christ’s suffering, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed…If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or a thief or meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear His Name.’ (1P 3:17; 4:13-16)

About one year into my conversion, I sought help from a seminar at my university entitled ‘The Christian and Homosexuality.’ Every major denomination was represented, included a Catholic priest.

Their one message? Jesus says it’s OK to be gay. I knew they must be reading another Bible. Even as a babe in Christ, I had heeded Jesus’ call to pick up my cross daily. I knew that had something to do with surrendering one’s sexuality to Him. When I suggested this, they rejected my offering as foolish and irrelevant.

For them, the cross was foolishness, the image of God in humanity irrelevant. That response continues to be how the worldly church responds to those of us who proclaim healing from homosexuality.

To hear the words healing and homosexuality in the same breath prompts an irrational response from a church so intent on courting the ‘world’ that she gives up her inheritance—the truth that we all bear God’s image as male and female. Regardless of our starting point, we each have the same chance to be reconciled to out true selves through surrender to Christ Crucified and Raised.

Our proclamation as ‘ex-gays’ that Jesus has given us a share in His suffering and in His image—that is glorious! And anathema to the worldly church that denies both the cross and the imago dei for homosexuals.

In the growing unwillingness of the church to stand her ground as the healing community for homosexuals, we behold the end-time battle between light and darkness, truth and deception, good and evil. All the more reason to proclaim through our very lives how Jesus heals the homosexual!

Of course we expect much of ‘the world’ to reject the healing of the homosexual. Throughout the globe, Living Waters gatherings have met with irrational, at times ferocious opposition for daring to invite homosexuals to the merciful cross. For this we are blessed: what a privilege to suffer for upholding what is right!

More difficult is the merciless church. Here I refer to conservative churches that reject those like us who aspire to live a cross-centered life and yet who know it is a lifetime quest marked by fits and starts, breakthroughs and setbacks. The merciless church refuses that process.

She tends to arbitrarily reject strugglers for setbacks, and frowns with embarrassment on those of us who must ‘live out loud’ in order to stay on track. The merciless church requires that we become liars, dishonest about how tough it is to remain true to Christ in an idolatrous world.

She intensifies the suffering of the weak; she withholds Jesus from those most in need of Him. For her lack of mercy, Christ will judge her, as surely as He will judge the worldly church for withholding that truth from the struggler.

We face persecution for proclaiming and blazing an authentic healing path for the homosexual; we rejoice. For those of us who have suffered long due to sins and everyday wounds, we are privileged to know Christ in His suffering–that is, suffering for righteousness’ sake.

My fine Australian friends, Ron and Ruth Brookman, proclaim together the healing God has wrought in his homosexuality and in their marriage. They take many chances to do so in both Christian and secular settings. They get flack from everyone—the worldly and merciless church, as well as the rage of gay pagans undone by the threat of healing.

Ron and Ruth children stand in the cross. They suffer for what is right, and have become mature spiritual adults. From their story the Gospel goes forth to a continent, and beyond. They know that if their message is hidden, it is hidden from those who are perishing. (2 Cor. 4:3)

‘Whoever belongs to Christ must go the whole way with Him. He must mature to adulthood: he must one day walk the way of the cross from Golgotha to Gethsemene.

Will you remain faithful to the Crucified? Consider carefully! The world is in flames, the battle between Christ and the Anti-Christ has broken into the open. If you decide for Christ, it could cost you your life. Carefully consider what you promise.’
Edith Stein

‘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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Discovering the Cross in Our Wounds

During Holy Week, we pause to consider Jesus’ cross and the smaller one He asks us to carry. The goal? To know Him more. Perhaps He will invite you in these days to ‘keep watch with Him’ in His suffering. We take another step toward Calvary by considering the ways we have been sinned against. He has not suffered only for our sins and foolishness; His cross-walk had as much to do with the gaps and gashes we bear due to others’ sins.

Isaiah 53:4, 5 says it best: ‘Surely He bore our grief, and carried our sorrows…and by His wounds, we are healed.’ He wants us to come to Him as readily with our wounds as with our sins. Why? Because He loves us; He wants what He has suffered to have its full effect—to alleviate our suffering.

He also knows that the wounded heart, unattended and seeking to heal itself, will naturally harden and defend itself against the damage done. We in our hurt become ugly; one infected wound can make us hateful and indiscriminate in transferring that hate onto innocent ones who represent our ‘wounders.’

Remember yesterday’s entry in which I recounted my slander of a colleague? The revelation of my sinful response to him began a long process of meeting with Jesus and a trusted brother. Behind the rage and self-vindication, I was hurt beyond words. Jesus was intent on laying claim to that wound as the basis for new life in me.

Let me explain what happened. We as a family and ministry were preparing to move to Kansas City; it was a dynamic, difficult time full of good prospects ahead. A former colleague of mine—a good friend whom I valued–wrote me to express his concerns about our moving there. That was his right, and I responded, agreeing to disagree on some of his concerns.

About two months later, I received a blistering email that changed my life. He had shot off a several page list of accusations against me; he blasted me in a fashion that could only be described as a rant, and sent it simultaneously to all my international Living Waters colleagues. He raged not only at the decision to go to Kansas City, but more painfully at my character, and arbitrary events that we had experienced together that I barely recalled but to him made me monstrous.

After the shock, came rage (and slander, as I already confessed). The only place to go was down, down beneath self-vindication and pity into grief and sorrow. I had to give myself a lot of space to just feel pain and to surrender as best I could to the God who knew pain, the afflicted Lamb ‘who did not open His mouth.’
(Is. 53:7)

I have never experienced that kind of solidarity with the suffering God. I remained in prayer for extended times, at times weeping and always clinging to Him. I placed a large cross on my chest and just asked Jesus to bear the bleeding, to assume the wound as I poured out my heart to Him.

I also appreciated the prayers of my friend to whom I entrusted this process; I needed to stay present to him, the body of Christ. But the richest communion came in solitude.

I arose on shaky knees from this wound, still hurting but being healed. The only guidance God gave me was to forgive my offender, and to contact all those who received his email and to ask each how I had wounded them in any way.

About a third responded with minor grievances. I was ready to hear them. I was broken. Regardless of my colleague’s terroristic methods, he was God’s instrument. Isaiah describes the God who allows His enemy to wreak havoc and so fulfill holy purposes. God used my colleague to level me. Yet according to Isaiah, these weapons of warfare would not prevail against me, e.g. they would not make me bitter and hateful. (Is. 54: 16, 17)

In God’s hand, this wound possessed power to make me more whole.

Jesus used my wound to draw me near to Himself, and to humble me so that I could hear hard things from loved ones who spoke lovingly.

The timing was right. I was starting a new life in Kansas City, and that meant my heart had to be broken and made malleable, able to be conformed to what Jesus had in store for us.

Surrendering to Jesus in my wound was my response to this invitation: ‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds…Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will be.’ (Jn 12: 24, 26)

Jesus gave this invitation to His disciples on Holy Week. May we heed it. I can now attest to the fruit that has come from following Jesus to where He is: at the cross, ready to bear our suffering.

I bless you, beloved colleague, for wounding me. You were God’s instrument in breaking my ‘husk’, which then released many seeds of truth and mercy. You made me more fruitful.

‘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.’

Discovering the Cross in our Sin

A tendency of most Christians is to want to enter into relationship with Christ through His cross but to want to avoid that same cross in our own lives.

No-where is this more apparent than in how we deal with our personal sin.
We will go to great lengths to deny our sin, and the suffering that we cause ourselves and others due to our sin. It offends us.

We are in good company. I love how Peter, whom Jesus had just named as the Rock of the Church, refused the truth of the cross. Peter’s clear vision of Jesus as the Way did not yet include the truth that Jesus had to suffer and die. Jesus’ prophesied His crucifixion in Matt. 16: 21-23 and Peter cannot stand it. He blurts out: ‘Never Lord!’ Jesus’ response? ‘Get thee behind me, Satan!’

God’s vision of what He must endure at Calvary, and what we must endure as well as we follow Him there, is different than our own. The cross offends us, particularly as it applies to owning the suffering caused by our sin.

Facing our own sin at Holy Week is the most elementary form of suffering. And a crucial step to experiencing rightfully the cross in other forms of suffering. If we deny our sin through ignorance or shifting its blame onto something else, we like Peter shall be hindered in going the distance with Jesus at Holy Week.

Not long ago, I was upset at a Christian colleague of mine. I could not believe what he had done to me. His name came up during lunch with a friend and I crucified him with my tongue. With a force that surprised me, I served my friend a huge dollop of gossip. He looked stunned, like I had just slapped him. I had. With my sin. He was left to bear this horrid account of one he barely knew.

I tried quickly to justify my sin to myself: ‘I am just processing my pain…’ The Holy Spirit gave me an immediate vision of His finger poised to flick me off my flimsy little chair and send me tumbling through the restaurant. It was as if He were saying: ‘You crucify others? Prepare to be crucified.’

‘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.’

Holy Week of the Merciful Cross: Knowing Him More

On Palm Sunday, Lent becomes Holy Week—the seven days leading to the cross. Perhaps the parallel between Jesus’ 40-days in the desert and His commitment to crucifixion is becoming clear.

Jesus sanctified the desert for us. He made a way in our wilderness. Instead of a place of temptation unto despair, He transformed ‘the desert of loneliness into a garden of solitude’ (Leanne Payne). His reliance upon the Father there grants us grace to encounter Him in the harsh realities of our lives.

Jesus’ 40 days in the desert had another purpose–it helped prepare Him for Calvary. Enduring harsh circumstance and demonic temptation was a practice run for His ultimate desert: the bitter cup of abandonment unto death. Just as He made the ‘burning sand a pool’, so shall He transform the grave into the ground for new life.

As we followed Him into the desert, so shall we follow Him to His death. Our hope lies in mercy: the first fruit of Calvary. We already believe that He died and rose again in order to unite us to the Father’s unfailing love. Yet partaking of the benefits of the cross does not exempt us from the crosses He asks us to carry.

This is where we waver. We want to celebrate His new life without suffering. We want His glory, not a glimpse of His wounds yet visible. We want to dance on blood-free ground. Jesus does not give us that option. He calls us to discover our own little crosses in light of His large one. His victory sustains us as He calls us to endure minor abandonments for the Kingdom’s sake.

I resist this. As Bonhoeffer says of Christians like me, I claim to love the cross but actually resist it in real life. I want to leap over tribulations like a Pentecostal athlete, not bear them patiently. I may even dare shake my fist at God for inviting me to share in His suffering. In that way, I claim to love the cross but in actuality I hate it. Why else would I so strenuously try to avoid it?

Yet how else can we know Him more? The Apostle Paul said it all. ‘I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead.’ (Phil. 3: 10, 11)

That verse is key to understanding our participation in Holy Week. Knowing Christ demands we follow Him to Calvary, our little crosses intact. As we bear suffering patiently, He bears with us, and waits with us for the resurrection to come.

We start walking to Calvary on Palm Sunday, Jesus’ ‘triumphal’ entry into Jerusalem on the eve of His passion.

Looking back on this celebratory event, ‘triumphal’ seems a bit ironic. The very disciples that cheered Him with palms and Hosannas crucified Him with their silence a few days later. Like me, they embraced the benefits of the cross but refused its claim on their lives.

People love miracles. According to Luke 19:37, they praised Jesus loudly on Palm Sunday ‘for all the miracles they had seen.’ Jesus brought Heaven down to earth through miracles. He had opened blind eyes, bound up broken hearts, cast out demons, and raised the dead. How apt the adoration of Christ the Healer!

But being touched by Heaven does not a faithful follower make. He who sings loudest and longest may use the same voice to cry out ‘Crucify Him!’ or at least ‘I don’t know Him’ when the Crucifiers come looking.

Scripture is clear: After the parade, when the heat was on and the political and religious leaders hunted down Jesus’ accomplices, ‘all the disciples deserted Him and fled.’ (Matt. 26:56)

Zeal for the benefits of the cross must be continually tempered by its costliness. The cross invites us to follow Him after the worship and healing conference. It is usually after the ‘group effect’ that we are confronted by forces inside and outside of us that test our allegiance to Him.

God is faithful to us through such tribulation. He wants us to know Him more through such hardship, not in spite of it. That has been key to my spiritual growth and to the growth of Desert Stream. The merciful joy won for us on the cross can thrive amid the sorrow of facing our crosses squarely.
‘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.’

Merciful Children

Through our four children, mercy breaks like waves upon Annette and me. They delight us. All in their twenties now, each possess unique gifts and strengths—Greg’s kindness, Nick’s astute analysis, Kate’s perseverance and lack of pretense, Sam’s integrity. All four remind us daily of the gift God gave us in each one, each the fruit of our marital love.

For us, the family is all ‘gift’, each child a sign and a wonder. In each, we marvel at the mercy of God towards us.

Our children are a direct result of God’s saving love to Annette and I. Were it not for His restoring love, they would not exist!

In this season, we are not without regrets. We have wondered: Have we made decisions in service to God that demanded too much? I have travelled extensively throughout most of our married life. As I globe-trotted, Annette had to compensate for my absence. Amazingly. Yet her single parenting skills, and my phone calls and homecoming gifts, did not close the gaps.

Releasing Living Waters around the world cost us as a family. As the kids have grown up and reflected on the gaps, they have their own take on it. For example, Nick recounts my diving into relationship with him only to swoop out again; he came to resent that style of ‘impartation’ and would have liked just ‘being with.’

Another impact is the shame my children have felt on various occasions concerning my sexually broken past. I recall one large prayer gathering in which I shared my story before 25,000 people, my children included. When I returned to the family after sharing, my daughter could not stop weeping.

The impact of my story—amplified to such a large degree—impacted her deeply. How she wished at that moment that I was not her father!

Regrettable; I shall continue to ask for mercy from my kids for how my adult decisions hurt them. And they grant us mercy.

Last Christmas, snowed in and unable to do anything but be together, we gathered as a family and blessed one another for the gift each had been to us. (It was my idea: the kids mocked me mercilessly for it until they got into the flow.)

I have never experienced such a rich exchange among family. Sib to sib, sib to parent and vice-versa—the lines of gratitude opened up and we filled each other up with how God had met us through the other.

The best presents we gave out that Christmas? The way we recognized, simply yet profoundly, the unique gift of each member of the family.

I have always wondered how my children might follow in our footsteps at DSM. We started out as a specifically ex-gay ministry. Even though we have since expanded to help redeem other forms of brokenness, I felt unsure about how much I wanted my kids to find a place with us!

They have. Though none have experienced profound sexual brokenness, each has had to discover a path of integrity through an idolatrous world.

A highlight for me last year was Katie joining our local Living Waters group. She then traveled with me to Venezuela to assist on the team of a Living Waters Training. After that, she joined our leadership team in Kansas City for Living Waters. What a gift—prayerfully confessing our sins and needs together as a team then helping others week after week! We take pride in one another.

Nick went through CrossCurrent a few summers back; after University, he returned to DSM to do an internship with us. He is currently assisting me and has become invaluable to the ministry overall. He will soon be off to seminary.

I recall an incident many years ago in New Zealand. Nick had traveled with me there, and had just started running track seriously in high school. He was fast, about as fast as his father, who then prided himself on being a competitive long-distance runner.

We ran together each day. At first I beat him readily, but each day he would come closer and closer to catching me. By the end of the two weeks, he had surpassed me. Easily. I remember our very last run in which he had beat me by about 10 minutes! (That’s about one-minute a mile faster than me!)

Apart from a blow to my pride, it was a gift of God’s mercy. God whispered to me that my kids would take what they had gained from Annette and me and run with it–further and faster than their parents could ever take it.

Kids empowered by mercy to go the distance. Grateful parents. Merciful God.

‘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.’

Merciful Dad

At the core of my same-sex attraction was the struggle to find a father, and so discover my own masculine power and purpose.

I had a father alright, and a pretty good one: Thomas Augustus Comiskey. But for most of my life I could not apprehend that goodness, much less take it on as my own.

In a language familiar to any desert creature in need of living water, I detached from him early on in my life. My own rebellion, coupled with his relational faults, inspired a wall. Behind that wall, I identified myself as ‘other’ than him. I thought myself to be superior to him.

In truth I became blind to my own weaknesses and the strengths he possessed.

In the last several years of his life, God in His mercy prompted me to press into relationship with him. My father and I forged a bond. Our focused times together inspired a genuine affection and appreciation toward him; my aggravation and petty judgments began to fall away. Like Jericho, the wall crumbled, and I could welcome this man into my life.

For the first time, I could see and respect his prophetic heart. His personality was wired toward the truth. His face like flint, he was unrelenting toward those who opposed his views on education or politics.

And like the prophets of old, he championed the underdog. He hated how the rich often used their privilege to devalue poor ones. He despised hierarchy and subordination, especially those ‘powers’ that he felt were cruel and arbitrary.

He was a rebel. Raised by a single mother and responsible for making his own way from the start, he worked hard for everything. He persisted stubbornly though life without blaming anyone but himself.

He struggled to apprehend mercy. Once he recounted to me his resume of hard knocks then concluded: ‘That’s why I could never depend on your God.’ What he meant to say: ‘How can I surrender after all these years of self-reliance?’

Two things that prepared his heart for mercy: first, my mother. His steely agnosticism was no match for her Christ-inspired devotion to him. When my sibs and I would grow frustrated at his refusal to pray ‘the sinner’s prayer’, he would remark, his eyes misting: ‘But your mother, she is the best Christian.’ St. Paul said it best: the believing spouse truly does sanctify the one who does not believe. (1Cor. 7:14)

The second ‘tenderizer’? Suffering unto death. My father’s last days were filled with physical pain. He wanted to jump out of his skin. In the midnight hour, my mother gently coaxed him to open himself up to the God of mercy, the God who saves.

My brother Joel cinched the deal by praying with him as he surrendered to Jesus in his last few lucid hours. Twice-born, filled with unfailing love, Thomas Augustus Comiskey exclaimed, ‘I should have done this a long time ago.’

‘The cords of death entangled me, the anguish of the grave came upon me; I was overcome with trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the Lord: ‘O Lord, save me!’ 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: 3-7)

The Lord had mercy on Thomas Augustus Comiskey. And on his son, who has never been more proud to bear him in his own manhood.

My father is gone, but I shall seek to represent him well in how I live today. I will seek to extend the mercy our Heavenly Father has shown us both.

‘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.’

The Mercy of Marriage

Since our transition to Kansas City, God has provided two men who have stood with me in prayerful friendship: Mike and Morgan. I am not sure I could have stayed true to the Lord without them. When I have been discouraged, they speak God’s truth to me; when unsure, they speak wisdom.

They have helped me close the gap between things we aspire to in faith and the uneven ground our feet trod on this earth.

Most practically, we help each other to love our wives and kids well. We have a commitment to the whole of each other’s lives. The main goal of our bearing with one another? That each of us might be a good offering to our families, without compromise.

Each of us knows the real threat of compromise. It is not a distinctly ‘homosexual’ or ‘heterosexual’ threat; it is a human threat, the temptation to idolatry, to cast off the restraints of commitment and to offer oneself to the sensual gods and goddesses.

That threat in no way casts doubt on the restoration we have experienced in Christ, or the beauty of our marriages—it is a humble acknowledgement of our still fallen humanity and the idols that surround it. Such humility is key. The greatest danger is not a specific idol but rather the pride that insists one is not even remotely interested in Satan’s offer of the world and its lures.

All three of us possess histories of idolatry; Mike and Morgan can attest to the ways that their marriages were almost ruined by compromise. All the more can we witness of the greater grace that has commanded repentance and rebuilt trust in our marriages.

Mike and Morgan are now models of integrity where they live. In their own recovery and service of others, they have dug deep wells of mercy and truth from which hundreds have received ‘living water.’ Their very lives raise the bar as to what one’s community of faith can and should be—a place of powerful mercy where those humbled by sin get raised up to testify of the greater grace.

That grace has freed us to partake fully of the good gift God has given us in our marriages. We have been freed from compulsive sin and freed for the satisfying love we experience with our wives.

Not long ago, the six of us (Mike, Morgan, me and our wives) vacationed together on the Central Coast of CA. We thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of its vineyards and rolling hills of oak. For Annette and I it was familiar—we had spent ample time there as a young family at her parents’ home.

For me, the context still had that slight edge of CA idolatry—the wine, the sun, the body beautiful–the tendency to cast off restraint in what can readily become a kind of pagan paradise.

Yet greater still was our celebration of our holy, earthy and still passionate marriages! We all readily agreed that God had in truth shown mercy to us through the resilient gift of the other.

Solomon still says it best: ‘Drink water from your own cistern, running water from your own well. Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public square? Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth…may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be captivated by her love.’ (Pro. 5:15-19)

How merciful of God to restore us unto the fountain of marital 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 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.’

Mercy for the Bride, from the Bride

While en route to a Living Waters Leadership gathering in Europe, I was moved deeply by God’s heart for His European bride. The church there has played such a foundational role in western culture; from her has come our art, our music, our philosophy, and our ethics. In spite of her many faults and divisions, she continues to bear fruit that remains. She is the apple of God’s eye.

I thought of our small band of wounded healers gathered in Holland from all over Europe—faithfully washing the feet of Jesus’ body in our groups. What a privilege to serve those who help prepare the bride for Christ’s return.

Before our gathering, I had a day in Amsterdam. As usual, the city’s native beauty was marred by all manner of false freedoms— legal drugs and prostitution, porn around every corner, gender-bending of every kind. My experience was thus mixed. On the one hand, I marveled at her charm and historic treasures; on the other, I was troubled and vaguely tempted by her idols.

God is faithful to me, an often troubled and tempted expression of His bride. While wandering the State Art Museum, I encountered ‘The Jewish Bride’, Rembrandt’s exquisite rendering of a bridegroom’s love for His bride. Its truth is immediate and profound: he looks on her with ardent respect; she responds with peaceful love to his hand on her heart.

While reflecting on the huge canvas, I felt several things at once: God’s steadfast seal of mercy upon me, my ardor for Annette, His passion and (to a lesser degree mine) for His bride in Europe. The painting conveyed an all-encompassing truth that centered me as I gazed upon it.

I walked back to the hotel and called Annette, so grateful to God and her for marital love—His, mine, ours. He loves us into expressions of human love that ennoble all involved; His faithfulness makes us faithful and true. In His steadfast love, we become good gifts to each other, in spite of our temptations.

It was a joy to serve the Europeans at our gathering. They were His beautiful
bride, easy to love. They gave me back more than what was required of me.

Filled with fresh mercies, content in love, I boarded the plane for home. I sat next to a young man, a Spaniard, who had just spend the weekend partying in Amsterdam, and was heading to the USA for another week of partying. He was seductive, probably still high, and intent on more bodies and chemicals to come.

He made it clear who he was, a gay man, and his interest in me. I was interested in him too. I wanted him to know Jesus and the authentic life Jesus affords those who bow down before Him.

First, a boundary. We had 9 more hours together, sitting one-inch away from each other. I sleep further away from my wife! So I told him about her, my kids, and how Jesus changed my life from a wandering gay dude to one very content in marriage. He could not believe it! His father had been a Catholic and an adulterer, something that turned him off to ‘religion’ and toward whatever he wanted sexually.

He wryly told me that he slept with a lot of married men. And I told him how short-sighted and destructive that was to everyone: especially wives and kids like himself who unwittingly had been subject to infidelity. That shut down the conversation for a moment.

But I spoke it in love, and assured him that God was merciful and kind to all who call on His name. He admitted he prayed the rosary every time his plane took off and landed. I encouraged him to keep praying, only to do it always, calling out for mercy in every area of life, including the relational and sexual.

Another pregnant pause. In the end, he let me pray for him. I urged him onward in truth and mercy, assuring him that a real-live relationship with Jesus is so much better than another party.

I pray still that he will be among those who are ready to see Him face-to-face, the bride who has made herself ready, without spot or wrinkle.

‘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.’

Mercy for the Whole Image

After Massachusetts adopted ‘gay marriage’, we as a ministry sought to understand and pray for what was at stake for a nation that elevated the status of homosexual unions to those of heterosexuals.

We prayed for mercy, not judgment, for this ultimate expression of idolatry—the creature shaking its fist at the Creator and declaring that (s)he would image herself anyway (s)he wanted.

Yet we had a small emerging hope: we as a nation could turn back before it was too late. God might relent and have mercy.

Of course we knew that ‘gay marriage’ was simply the logical conclusion to the desecration of marriage itself; we had already burned her boundaries and assaulted her integrity with no-fault divorce and all manner of sexual abuse, including adultery, premarital sex, and porn addiction.

For all of these sins, we sought to offer hope and healing pastorally. Still we prayed for what was at stake for our nation. We positioned ourselves, not before legislatures, but on our knees. We chose not to be a political ministry; we believed we should offer to Caesar what was rightfully his. Marriage was different—it originated in God’s heart. We chose to fight prayerfully and give God what was rightfully His.

Toward that end, we began to wonder if our home at the Vineyard in Southern California was right for us. The Vineyard’s emphasis on worship and compassion was and is our foundation at DSM. But we needed a community that incorporated more fully the prophetic and intercessory prayer.

After much travail, we decided to move to Kansas City and work in tandem with Mike Bickle and the International House of Prayer.

What a shift—it rocked all of our worlds, reduced our staff (most stayed in CA), and simply marked the biggest change DSM had ever endured.

Poised in the middle of the nation, we were in some ways starting all over again. We renewed our emphasis on equipping the saints to do the work of pastoral ministry. And we prayed, a lot.

Inspired by IHOP, I did my first 40-day water fast and majored on prayer for mercy to overcome the idolatry in the land. It was life-changing. And timely. The battle for marriage was heating up in our country. Activists targeted states with weak judicial and legislative arms that could be swayed to redefine marriage. As we became aware of these targets, we would pray for them, and alert as many as we could to do the same.

We fought on two levels for the ‘whole image’—both the pastoral and prophetic. We would minister to the broken marriages in our community then pray for the integrity of marriage overall in our land.

It was important for us to stay tuned to the source of the problem—the flames of sin and the cultural winds that fanned them. Humbled (and singed) by the nearness of the problem, we could then pray for marriage in our land with a more tempered authority.

Our strategy became all the more focused for Prop. 8 in CA. The State Supreme Court overturned the will of the people (they had already voted to define marriage as heterosexual) and redefined marriage to include gays. Prop. 8 was conceived by the people and for the people–citizens wanted the right to define marriage for themselves. It became the biggest battle any state-wide proposition has ever faced in the history of the USA.

We majored on prayer for that fight, and won. (Its fate now rests with a federal judge; ultimately, Prop. 8 will be decided by the National Supreme Court. For this we pray daily!)

We have since battled on our knees for many states that have been targeted by activists. So far, in 2010, no state in the USA has voted for ‘gay marriage.’ Given a choice, the people have always decided to uphold the true definition of marriage.

For that we are grateful, and will continue to fight. Today we center on Latin America where the ‘gay marriage’ wars are just beginning. We pray for mercy on our land, that we might have authority to extend that mercy to other 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 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.’

Roused By Mercy

At the dawn of the new millennium, I noticed a growing darkness in the area of gender and sexuality. Powerless to overcome perversion, western culture used its power to justify all manner of sexual expression.

Around that time, I had a dream about a group of young people who were confused and seeking answers to their sexual identity questions. They were on a secular college campus. Older gay mentors began to confirm them as bona-fide gays and lesbians; as they laid hands on these young ones, the latter began to morph–their beings changed into an image that distorted their real humanity.

When I woke up, I began to pray that God would rouse us and make us like a warrior’s sword (Zech. 9:13); I prayed for a merciful authority with which to cut through lies that bound young people to false images and relationships. I prayed for the power to convey what the Heavenly Father had in store for them.

We trained our people to start running CrossCurrent groups—a shorter version of Living Waters aimed at encountering those in the valley of decision. Sure enough, God sent men and women to us who loved Jesus and yet were on the brink of leaving marriages, Christian colleges, and their own value systems for sexy new partnerships.

We functioned like a net: catching some and helping them resist the draw of the world by shoring up their real selves in Christ.

Not helping were two cultural phenomena. The first was the ordination of a gay bishop in the Episcopal Church USA. Having left his wife to explore homosexuality, W. Gene Robinson became the symbol of an apostate branch of the Church of Jesus Christ. The watered-down, worldly Gospel of liberal Protestantism concluded that Jesus wanted nothing more than to bless people in their sexual brokenness.

At that time, Jonathan Hunter had a dream of a large church in which a woman went up to the altar. Around the altar were large screens on which homosexual acts were being committed; on another, ‘gay marriages’ were being performed. She gasped and thought: ‘What is happening to my church?’ What had been a refuge for her became a nightmare. Disoriented, she walked out of the church.

The church that no longer believes in the transformational power of her Savior will fail to offer the sexually broken what they need: the love of Jesus’ body, repentance and a track for healing and restoration. The worldly church will give the broken what they want—the privileges accorded to responsible heterosexuals, like ordination, marriage, and kids.

The Episcopalians did just that. They made perversion ‘Christian’, their Savior, a toothless old father who winks at the rebellion of his children. When the Body loses her Head, she makes a way for all manner of evil in the land.

Is it any wonder that soon after Robinson’s ordination, the state of Massachusetts became the first state to legalize ‘gay marriage’? In the first few days of 2003 when we were all sleeping, the Mass. Supreme Court decided to redefine marriage, the first state in our union to do so.

God roused me that morning as one called to battle. I knew that our merciful authority would need to be expended in two directions: to rouse the Church to hold fast to the truth of Jesus’ transforming love for the broken, and for the Church to arise on behalf of marriage and to refuse its redefinition in the land.

In both cases–the restoring of the broken, and the upholding of marriage–nothing less than the image of God was at stake.

‘Be merciful to those who doubt; snatch others from the fire and save them; to others, show mercy, mixed with fear, hating even the clothing stained by corrupted flesh.’ (Jude 22, 23)

‘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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