Tag Archives: Europe

A Christian Voice In A Changing Culture

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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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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Dancing in the Dark

In the expanding world of Living Waters, God’s mercy always took the form of my travelling partners: alongside of men like Kin Lancaster, and women like Sonja Stark (our first international coordinators), we were able to overcome cultural and spiritual hurdles to releasing water from the Rock, Christ’s beautiful, broken bride.

No solo efforts here. We became a united ‘body’ to serve the Body. All over the world.

Jet-lagged, facing crowds for whom our offering was all-new, usually offensive, and always emotionally draining, we relied upon each other. We exposed our own weaknesses to each other, so that God’s power might rest on us. He wanted our ministry of deep healing to be real, not a show; we wanted it too. The church had suffered too long from her unacknowledged sins and wounds.

Sonja came from Germany to help build the international expansion of Living Waters. One of our earliest and longest trips was a three week tour of her native land—from Munich to Hanover. Every day was a different ministry stop; we flew over the autobahn in a van then stopped to release ‘living waters’ in churches throughout the nation. Toni Dolfo-Smith and Susan Highleyman made up our foursome.

Our last stop was a castle in the middle of Germany. Weary yet invigorated by doing two-weeks of intensive ministry, we spent our last week there leading a Living Waters training.

The castle had become the center of an ‘ecumenical’ Christian community; we discovered that meant they believed in everything and nothing. Not helpful. The castle had been a Nazi hospital during WWII, and was perhaps the most spiritually oppressive site I had ever ministered in. I knew that if we did not stand firm in simple, Jesus-centered faith, we would not be able to stand at all (Is. 7:9)

The spirit of death usurped our strength and threatened to flatten our efforts. So we danced. At every worship set (led by the irrepressible Susan Highleyman), we would kick up our heels and overcome the spirit of heaviness with child-like praise and movement. We danced on the ground of oppression. In so doing, we reclaimed that ground for the Kingdom of Christ.

God gave us the grace of David in 2 Samuel 6:20-22 when he danced like a wild-man before the Lord and declared to those who accused him of vulgarity: ‘I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But I will be held in honor…’

We endured the shame for the joy set before us. Our joy? To witness the resurrection of our German friends, still living in the shadow of death. I spied one particularly morose nun looking from the sidelines then joining us in the dance. God turned her mourning into dancing.

We danced, we prayed, we taught, we fought in the Spirit. My beloved friend Toni D. roomed next to me and awoke to hear me screaming in my sleep (I recalled nothing.) Like the amazingly faithful man he was and is, Toni stayed up most of the night outside my door and simply interceded for me. That’s the kind of guy Toni is: an embodiment of God’s mercy.

That’s how we dug ditches of mercy throughout Europe. We did it together.
‘With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.’ (PS 12:3)

‘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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Finding the Way Home

One of the perils of my long distance running overseas is the threat of getting lost. No idle threat: I have been thoroughly disoriented in the great capitols of Europe (and beyond)–without map, address, or language with which to find a way ‘home’. I now recall amusedly what was then ‘panic in the streets’ of Helsinki, Rotterdam, Milan, Bergen, Munich, Copenhagen, and Brussels, to name a few.

Yet nothing compared to the panic I experienced in the forests of Fountainbleu—the hunting grounds of the French kings outside of Paris.

A little background: I had been invited to speak at the Exodus Europe conference there. I was particularly excited as Desert Stream had received a strong prophesy from a reliable source that ‘Living Waters’ would find its richest expression in the French-speaking world. This was my first ministry trip to France, and so I saw this opportunity as significant.

Before my first address, I became hopelessly lost—clueless—while running in a maze of forests. Quelle Horreur! There were no markers and worst yet, no people–the further I ran, the lonelier the landscape became.

I was terrified. Then I came upon an elderly French couple who were camping in a clearing amid a thick wood. They were startled by me, and I them. But fear gave way to joy as I realized that they might help me. I spoke broken French, they no English. He was a war vet with a wooden leg, she was arthritic and moved very slowly. They were as sweet as could be and volunteered to drive me to my destination whose name I did not know. (We were in a conference site somewhere in the forest…)

Wearing almost nothing, I sat in the back of a tiny, two-seat Citroen as my benefactors patiently traversed road after road with me. No luck. We ended up at a YMCA crammed with Ethiopians. No help. Time was running out for me—I was scheduled to speak in 30 minutes. Yet my friends were patient as could be—genuinely at ease.

Just then a woman walked by the YMCA whom I recognized from our conference. I asked her where it was: she beckoned us to follow here there. I hugged my new French guides as they dropped me off.

My talk that night reflected what God had taught me: we wander far from our spiritual home, so far that we lose peace, hope and even the language that might lead us back. We need guides. These elderly ones represented to me faithful guides in France, those in the church who love Jesus and who will go the distance with prodigals. They just need keys—tools of equipping that might help them help those like me who had been rendered homeless by sin, confusion and rebellion.

France needed ‘Living Waters’. God poured Himself out beautifully upon us in the forests of Fountainbleu. He gave us keys to be better guides for the lost; He gave us wisdom, language, mercy, and patience to help them find their way back home in Christ’s body.

A couple years later, God identified two amazing leaders in Paris for Living Waters: Werner and Charlotte Loertscher, who sponsored a large conference there. Most significant about that initial gathering (at the Church of St. Joan of Arc, no less!) were the dozens of pastors who wanted to know how to best guide the sexually broken in their churches. We gave then ‘Living Waters.’

Through His shepherds, God was answering the cries of the poor and needy for mercy. He was helping them to find the way home.

‘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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Opening Doors and Floodgates

London, where the waters of mercy had sprung up for me years earlier, became deep ground for Living Waters. Jonathan Hunter and I took one of our first international ministry trips there: we teamed up with new friends Reverend Christopher and Lisa Guinness who eventually became the Living Waters leaders for the UK. We met with other pastors, and took prayer walks throughout the city. (Two years later, London hosted the first Living Waters training outside the USA.)

We had received a word that God was going to open ancient doors for us in the UK; our prayer became: ‘King of Glory, manifest Yourself in Your English Church as the Healer of the sexually broken.’ (PS 24:7) ‘Lift up your heads!’ rang in our hearts as we entered St. Paul’s Cathedral at the center London.

While exploring the church, I spoke with one of the vicars of the pastoral work Jonathan and I were doing with the sexually broken, the HIV-infected, etc. A few minutes later, he took me by the hand and led me to a narrow spiral of stairs ascending to the preacher’s podium. He instructed me quietly to please lead the church in the noon prayer time.

I did as I was told. From another corner of the church, Jonathan ‘lifted up his head’, saw me, and almost blew a gasket. I gesticulated my bewilderment to him, and found my voice long enough to stammer a very ‘California’ prayer: ‘We love You Lord; we just want to thank you God for Your mercy today God…’

God was opening doors in His church. He was commissioning ‘ditch-diggers’ like Jonathan and I to find great people like the Guinness’ who might dig with us. God was intent on making a clear way for broken ones to be set free from bondage, for the healing of others.

Our next stop was Amsterdam. Our first host in Holland was YWAM, a young adult mission group centered in the Red Light District of that city. I was amazed by this land reclaimed from the sea, and its complex network of canals, dikes, and dams.

The city was a marvel of engineering, and a magnet for those intent on diminishing God’s image in humanity through all manner of perversion. It was clear to me that we were asking God to engineer a marvel of His cleansing love–right there in the city, where it was most needed.

I recall a deep weariness during one of the 5 trips I made to Amsterdam in that early season of digging. The charm of old Europe had morphed into a grimy bulwark of unbelief. I did not feel ’marvelous’, just tired of the perversion on every side–the depth of wounding and ‘darkness’ all around me–even in the Christians we were equipping.

I would go running in the dark every morning along the canals and other waterworks. On one such morning, I felt especially hopeless, seized with the immensity of the task and my own limits as a weak man.

An old man, a sailor, came out from nowhere and began to run slightly ahead of me, laughing and urging me onward. I picked up the pace but could not match his; he laughed a bit more, reached back and gently touched my shoulder then disappeared in front of me. I kept running, thoroughly renewed by my strange running partner.

An angel? Or a mere man disappearing into the fog? No matter: God was helping us to go the distance—to open ancient doors and release floodgates of His merciful, cleansing 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 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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