Tag Archives: Venezuela

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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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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Taking the Land for Mercy

We landed in Caracas, Venezuela—the first of many advances in South America. The soil was rich for digging, and God’s merciful ones received us with open arms. Still we faced numerous obstacles to releasing Living Waters there.

Suitcases never arrived; flights were cancelled, and the buses we took instead landed us in the wrong destinations. During our first training, in the jungle above Caracas, I stretched my bed-sheets tight across my frame to prevent the small unidentified creatures scurrying across the floor from scurrying onto me!

These challenges revealed how easily deterred we were from doing our job when facing any number of road bumps. We had to get tougher. When the majority of the team got ill from the food, we had to press through. We had a training to do!

No one was spared from the privilege at hand—equipping the saints to release their fellow strugglers with God’s mercy.

During one conference, I stayed in the home of the host. Next store to his house was a corner vacant lot that was the home of a dozen wild dogs. My host promised me that just around that corner was a road that opened up to a beautiful wilderness and view of the city below.

As a runner, I wanted badly to explore the territory. But the dogs frightened me. Just my walking in and out of the host’s home provoked their fearsome growls. I either had to run through my fear or play it safe inside.

I wanted the beauty of the land! In fear and trembling, I suited up and ran around that corner. Fast. The pack chased me; I felt their breath on my legs. I ran faster, and they eventually gave up. On the way back, I found a stick. I did not intend to hit them but only to show them that I was not scared, and had no intention of altering my plans for them. (The ‘dog whisperer’ I am not…)

I asserted myself; I claimed my right to be there, with a growl and a flick of my ‘sword.’ They barked less and less each time I ran by them. I claimed that land as my own. I endured the threat of attack for advancing into the land.

And what a land—lush foliage, fruit resting upon polished green leaves, a diversity of trees and tropical plants and flowers that invited me deeper into the fragrant wilderness.

God gave us the land that He loved: a people who loved Jesus with their whole hearts and who were ready to go the distance—bearing with one another in love for mercy’s sake.

God changed me through these minor challenges. He was helping me to trust Him, to press through my fears. Beauty awaited me.

‘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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