Category: Mercy and Healing

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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.

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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.

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Dying to Release Mercy

‘Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.’ (John 12:23)

Among the most bittersweet realities of ‘Living Waters’ around the world is the surrender of one’s leadership when his/her part has been played. That surrender may be for many reasons—a moral failure, a call to another type of ministry, or handing over the task to one better suited to take it the next step.

Regardless of the reason, the leader in transition usually experiences a kind of death: (s)he loses position and a certain place among the wounded healers that comprise global ‘Living Waters.’

In this grief, I also witness a sovereign aspect of God’s hand. Under His care, the ex-leader is actually allowing the ‘husk’ of one’s ministry to be broken, thus releasing more ‘seed’ for God’s mercy to be released.

It takes courage to do this. To surrender one’s leadership is actually among the most selfless acts of all—it means denying one’s need for significance and security in order that more ‘living water’ might be released in a nation under another’s lead. I have seen this happen over and over—one dies to position in order to release more souls unto life.

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Merciful Rest

Running hard in the jungles of Venezuela or on the pampas of Argentina (or crazy lost anywhere in Europe) may sound fun but actually it is exhausting. And so I was upon returning home after a particularly arduous trip.

Annette and I took a few days off—no release; I increased my sleep each night—no release. Everything seemed hard and a hassle; even normal sources of connection and renewal seemed more a drain than a gift. I was approaching burn-out (the experts call it ‘pre burn-out’), and it scared me.

I went back into counseling with a trusted Christian and began to see that my works for Jesus were overtaking my devotion to Him. Slowly, steadily, I was spending less time in His Presence and more time tending to the needs of my large family and the growing global family of ‘Living Waters’ ministers.

The Lord turned and looked at me the way He did Peter after the apostle’s third denial. Like Peter, I wept bitterly. (Lk 22:62) I had made a vow to the Lord years earlier that nothing would come between us, that I would wake up every day and seek His face, regardless of other demands. I denied Him that. My works for Him had overtaken my devotion to Him.

I had to return to Him. That began a rather long process of exploring fresh ways to pray. I discovered contemplative prayer, the quiet prayer in which one simply rests in His Presence, calling to mind and heart only His unfailing love. In that way, God works His way in us, without a lot of words, as we seek only to rest in Him.

I spent anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes each morning just gazing on His goodness. (Meditating on the cross and a few choice scriptures helped out here.)

To be honest, I was so tired that’s all I could do—no interceding for the ‘10-40 window’ or racing through the Old Testament for this haggard saint!

I re-entered the rest of what He had done for me. I fulfilled the exhortation ‘to make every effort to enter the rest’ (Heb. 4:9-11), and discovered there was a Sabbath rest for me. If I did not draw constantly from that merciful stream, then I risked ‘falling into disobedience’ (v.11).

That disobedience involved my works outpacing my devotion to Him, and could disqualify me from God’s call—to grow in strength and wisdom as I keep digging ditches around the globe.

I found rest as I sent down my roots into this mercy stream. I could draw from it at the beginning of the day, and throughout the day, as I paused to consider what He had done for me.

He restored my soul. The water levels rose as I made the little daily effort to be still and receive His grace.

‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me besides quiet waters;
He restores my soul.’ (PS 23: 2, 3)

‘In repentance and rest is your salvation; in quietness and trust is your strength.’
(Is. 30:15)

‘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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The Cleansing Flood

The heart of our efforts in South America lies in Argentina, home of our faithful colleagues, Mauricio and Daniela Montion.

The enemy of our souls aims at the heart–perhaps that is why I usually experience significant degrees of temptation in Argentina. I can feel the tension as soon as I enter Buenos Aires then trek to Cordoba where our annual training is.

One year was especially tough. And I had only myself to blame. Troubled by the advances of ‘gay marriage’ back in the USA, I tossed and turned all night then turned on the TV for a distraction. Some Latin soft-porn game show was on—it only took a couple of minutes for my mind to be inflamed with foul images.

Shamed and dulled by sin, I met with the Living Waters Leadership team the next day in preparation for the training. All I could do was confess my sin before them. That elicited a string of confessions. Then we waited before the Lord. In a manner that I had not experienced before, God rolled in like a huge raincloud over us and just began to pour forth ‘living water’ upon us—He poured out His mercy like driving sheets of rain upon us. I could see sin and shame being forced out like rodents from a storm drain.

It was as if we were enveloped in a low-hanging cloud that kept raining on us, removing one layer of silt then raining more and removing another, then another. God’s cleansing Presence hovered about us for 15 minutes.

He made us new. He prepared us through His extravagant mercy to help others enter into the waters of mercy themselves.

The night that we renounced idols was unusually powerful. As soon as the sounds of deliverance had subsided, there was a sweet calm. Then one couple started dancing in the quiet. The worship team took their cue then we all started to dance, joyful celebrating the real people God had given us to love—not unreal images but beloved brothers and sisters we can enjoy without shame.

In spite of the merriment and victory, I awoke the next morning feeling heavy in spirit; my only refuge came through prayer. I kept praying through the heaviness, seeking a breakthrough. During the break, I took a long run in the pampas. I followed the same highway that the Franciscans and Jesuits took as they moved south to establish churches and schools throughout Argentina.

I noticed two foxes in front me traversing back and forth from the brush onto the road then back again. I was reminded of ‘the little foxes’ in Song of Songs, referring to spoilers of the vineyard and its fruit.

In a whisper, the Lord reminded me of just what we were doing at the training on behalf of South America. ‘Through your team, I am cleansing my people of the biggest obstacles that threaten to divide and devour them: sins of impurity and adultery, hostility between men and women, hostility between rich and poor, hostility between the dark native people and the white Europeans, hostility between Catholic and Protestant. You are establishing my cross as the ground of mercy, the level ground where those humbled by my mercy will be saved and set free. And the merciful ground that they will take establish in their own churches!’

I understood the warfare. It was worth the fight. I vowed yet again to tell the truth of my own sin and distress so that God’s mercy might rest upon me all the more. And I renewed my commitment to run hard as long as God gave me breath. And mercy. I barely noticed the little foxes in front of me as I ran back to our gathering.

‘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 that 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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