Sorry for the silence these past 6 days. As you may have gathered from the short post last Friday, we have been going through a bit of a rough time.
But, now as I write this, I realize that I should clarify: Friday was a rough day, Saturday was a weird but good day, and Sunday through today have been days of blessing, but still high emotion.
Here’s the deal: we are dependant on financial contributions from folks all over the world to carry on the work here in Madrid. And, these past months, we have experienced hardship with this. The account to which people send donations (and from which we receive our paycheck) has been in the red since this past summer.
And, while that has been lingering, there have also, of course, been the usual hardships of missionary service: ministry discouragements, worries about family, cultural stresses.
On Friday, all these pressures rose to intense proportions. And we needed urgent prayer. It seems the enemy (I won’t capitalize his name because he’s not worthy of a capital letter) was working overtime.
Heather and I had planned on sending out a letter to a handful of folks, asking if they would consider helping alleviate our financial crisis. But, before we had a chance to send it out, Heather got the “crazy” idea that we should first start by just asking a boatload of people to pray for us and this situation.
We sent out that prayer request on Saturday morning, calling people to a “day of prayer” for us on Sunday.
We could not have imagined the kind of response that came back. It was touching, to say the least. And this was not due only to the sheer number of email responses we received, it also was owed in part to the depth of each response and the tangible commitments people have made to see us through this difficult time. I am astounded at the sacrificial giving to which we have been witness and recipient these past 5 days. It is nothing short of a miracle, to be honest. There is simply no other way to explain it.
To be sure, Friday was a day of weeping. A day of soulish torment and a kind of death. A deep, deep grieving.
We carried this grieving into Saturday. But as we asked for prayer, God began treating the wound. As email responses poured in late that morning and early in the afternoon, we had a sense that God had not abandoned us.
That morning, God was like a single star in the night sky. Granted, there still wasn’t much light, but at least there was something out there besides the black; something, as it turned out, to which we could anchor ourselves, even though the “something” seemed millions of miles away still.
Then, that night, as we went to church, the star that was far away turned into a spark, immanent, igniting a camp fire of sorts, by which to keep warm. The family (as in, “of God”) gathered around and told stories, through prayer, of months and years gone by (which was a kind of song to minister to our spirit). The light from that fire, to be sure, was no bigger than the star we had seen in the distance earlier in the day, but it was closer now, so, subjectively, it appeared larger and more real. And that was what really mattered to us.
Then, after the service that night, God spoke to us from the mouth of our 9-year-old daughter. Two things in particular stuck out:
“Dad, I have a lot of friends here in this church, even though they’re not kids.”
“I think it’s important for us to stay in Madrid because people here need to hear about Jesus.”
I won’t go into the details as to why I believe God lives in Meaghan’s throat, but suffice to say it is, again, nothing short of a miracle that she said those things. You may not be able to understand it, but, having been made a child again through my precious daughter, I understand it. And that is all I will say about that.
Sunday was a day of sun. The campfire became a ball in the sky to light the way and warm our hearts. And that’s how God became an immanent star.
To be sure, there are still a few clouds in the sky, still lingering, threatening to cover up the light of the sun, but we are confident the wind of the Spirit will blow those away. There may come a moment, ever so brief, when the sun is hidden these next weeks, but we are confident the experience will be isolated and passing. We feel as though we are entering into a kind of bright blue season, generally speaking.
This is because God is providing. Not just in the realm of the spirit, but in what we humans call the “real” world (even though it is no more “real” than the territory of the soul).
We are still not out of the red. But there are strong indications that it will happen. In just 5 days, we have had firm commitments from people to the extent that over half of our debt is currently wiped out. And that still doesn’t count those who have said they would like to give but have yet to specify the amount. Nor does that count those who have told us they will either join our monthly support team or increase their existing monthly support.
So God has been blessing. And, at this point, I would be painfully foolish to doubt.
That's because, over the past days, in my alone time with God, I’ve been reading confirmations of these thoughts. It has been as if God is speaking directly to me. Please read along. It’s a bit on the “long” side, but I think it’s worth it. Here’s how it started on Monday, with Psalm 34:
I will extol the LORD at all times;
his praise will always be on my lips.
My soul will boast in the LORD;
let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Glorify the LORD with me;
let us exalt his name together.
I sought the LORD, and he answered me;
he delivered me from all my fears.
Those who look to him are radiant;
their faces are never covered with shame.
This poor man called, and the LORD heard him;
he saved him out of all his troubles.
The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him,
and he delivers them.
Taste and see that the LORD is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.
Fear the LORD, you his saints,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing.
It stuck out to me how poor I literally am, and how God is answering and will, I believe, continue to answer.
Then I carried on reading. It said:
The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
he delivers them from all their troubles.
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
A righteous man may have many troubles,
but the LORD delivers him from them all;
That ministered to me also, but then, that same day, I read this from Luke 18 and it was as if God was speaking to me yet again:
Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.'
"For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!' "
And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
(By the time I read that, it was amazing: God had already been answering our prayers in a big way. The bit about how God will answer quickly really stuck out to me. It was as if God was saying, “See? I am not an unjust judge. I am a loving Father. I have come to your aid quickly.”)
And THEN...The next day, I read this from Romans 8:
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
‘For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
And I realized that, no matter what happens, there are some things that no one, not even the devil, can take away from me. And these are the things that really matter, anyway. No one can take away the fact that God loves me. No one can change the fact that I am His precious child. No one can take away the assurance of eternal life. Should even death take me, God would still impart everlasting life. And I would be with Him forever. No matter what: God is with me. And that is all that really matters.
Then, the next day (hang in there, this is neat!), this is what I read from Psalm 25:
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
And, just yesterday, this spoke to me from Matthew 6 (this “just happened” to be the text I studied with Jay for our mentoring time!)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?
"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
And then today, I read this from Psalm 27:
The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then will I be confident.
For in the day of trouble
he will keep me safe in his dwelling;
he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle
and set me high upon a rock.
…you have been my helper.
Do not reject me or forsake me,
O God my Savior.
Though my father and mother forsake me,
the LORD will receive me.
I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
be strong and take heart
and wait for the LORD.
This last verse was interesting because it is the verse that my mentor, Brian Newman, quoted when I met with him just before we moved from Amsterdam to go live in Madrid over four and a half years ago. Specifically, he told me to keep this verse in mind when things were going rough in Madrid. The funny thing is: I did not choose to read this verse today. It was “determined” for me by a devotional book I use. It was as if God was saying to me: “Remember, wait for me. Be strong. Take heart. Wait for me. I will answer.”
And then, today, I also read from Revelation 7. Again, this verse was chosen for me, by the book I use as a devotional guide. It’s amazing, really. The verse said:
Never again will they hunger;
never again will they thirst.
The sun will not beat upon them,
nor any scorching heat.
For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd;
he will lead them to springs of living water.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes."
And, all the while, these words of Jesus have been ringing in my heart:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
And, as I studied John 3 yesterday with my friend Jonathan Steele, I reflected further on the fact that God “gave his one and only Son.”
And this verse came to mind from Romans 8:
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”
Yesterday, I realized how much like the Israelites I have been. God has given me signs of His purposes and His heart and love. I have been praying over the past months for God to pour out His blessings upon the ministry of Oasis Madrid in some very specific ways and I have indeed seen God answer many of those very specific petitions. I have seen the hand of God at work. But I still doubt. And I’m thinking that, with this latest miracle, it is God’s way of showing us super super clearly (just like He did with the Israelites in the case of the Red Sea. And the manna. And the water from the rock.) that He is with us and it is His desire that we follow Him where He points us even though it may not make sense to us.
And, as I’ve thought about this more, I’ve been reflecting on the Fatherhood of God. And The Fact that I am His precious child.
So (this is how my crazy, restless mind works!) that has got me to thinking about my own children. And I’ve realized in the past days, like never before, just how trusting and hopeful our children are. I mean, they don’t worry about anything, really. They know they’re going to be fed and clothed. They don’t wonder if they’re going to have a place to live. They don’t worry about that stuff. They know that their father is going to provide those things for them. Of course, they have no idea how that is going to happen, but they don’t really need to know how, do they? All they care about is that it happens. And even were I to explain to them how I provide food and clothes and a home for them, they wouldn’t fully understand. The main thing is: their father provides for them. They know that’s going to happen. And they don’t worry. And they have hope and trust.
And so these words of Jesus have also spoken to me:
“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
I submit myself to God’s reign in my life as I trust Him. And I cannot do so otherwise. I must become like a child. I must hope and trust.
And because of God’s unshakably good character: I can.
So, this was my prayer this morning. It just came pouring out of my heart and over my lips:
You are the Alpha and Omega.
You are the Lamb of God.
You are the Good Shepherd.
You are the first and last,
The beginning and the end.
You are Jehovah Jireh.
You are our provider.
You are a strong tower.
You are my deliverer.
You are the Savior.
You are the King of Kings
And the Lord of Lords.
You are the Creator.
You are my hope,
You are the great I AM
You are God With Us.
You are the Prince of Peace.
You are my refuge.
You are a hiding place.
You are awesome and mighty.
You are the lover of my soul.
You are a friend in times of trouble.
You are my Father.
I will wait for the Lord.
I will take heart.
I will wait for the Lord.
He will answer.