Today I awoke to an email containing exciting, exciting, exciting news…
Namely, my Japanese address (well, for the first few months anyway).
There’s something incredibly reassuring about knowing exactly where you’re going to be unpacking when you set down on Japanese soil (or, I’m sure, any soil to be honest!), and it just made the whole thing feel a lot more… well, real.
I know, I know. We’ve kind of passed that point. Handing in my notice at work, paying language school tuition fees, getting offered a job, booking plane flights, my visa arriving… All these things had their own revelations of ‘realness’. But there’s something about having an actual address that takes it to a whole new league.
It really does
Just to recap, I’m staying with a Japanese family for my first few months in order to be *forced* into speaking-Japanese-on-a-daily-basis (because I learnt this summer that if I can be given an English-speaking-get-out, I take it!). This, combined with language school, work, research, church and life… I’m hoping, praying, and working hard on the immersion-thing!
Oh, and here’s my from-January-26th-living-room… 🙂
Yep… there’s even a piano!
Please pray that I can also be such a blessing on this family, and to their home. That I can serve them and love them and show them Jesus and my faith like a light on a hill. Because that’s my real heart for staying there. Like the quote goes,
The only words that matter are the ones that I live.
So beautifully and challengingly true.
Anyway, today’s message at church was actually really relevant for re-focusing me on the purpose of everything, and very timely considering my first email of the day. Because I know I can sometimes get caught up in the emotional excitment or the physical practicalities… And forget about the spiritual reality.
But this morning’s message was on the book of Joel, and what it reveals to us about having a heart of intercession for a nation. And it really spoke to and inspired me to keep the main thing the main thing in these last few weeks of preparation. And in these next months of living. Because carrying a burden for those we are called to, and being faithful in the secret place of prayer, is the foundation for everything else.
The first part of Joel describes a natural disaster in Israel. A plague of locusts had stripped everything. The land was desolate and ruined. The animals moaned. The people were crying out. There was nothing to give as an offering in the temple.
And Joel had an insight that this natural reality had a spiritual meaning.
And he called the people to respond.
Because they are not left without hope.
Just as we aren’t left without hope.
And this really hit my heart, as my heart is right now praying for vision and clarity and obedience…
Because God is saying to the nations, ‘Turn to me now, while there is still time.’ He is merciful and compassionate. He loves to shows love. He wants our hearts. He is calling to the people we meet and the nations we love.
And he calls us to intercede. To sound the alarm. To fast and weep on behalf of others. To have minds and spirits of understanding.
We have a responsibility. To pray and cry and fast and carry this brokenness. To repent. To be broken for the nation. To ask God, ‘What’s on Your heart?’ and to allow Him to plant His burden deep within us. We need this kind of tearing on our hearts. These are the experiences that mark us and change us… Permanently. Because we are being called to pray. We are being called to intercede. We are being called to humble ourselves.
I’ve had three or four of these experiences in my life that have really changed me in a permanent way. When the Spirit of God has just marked me. It hasn’t happened to me all that often, but when the Spirit of God has come like this I’ve never forgotten it and I’ve never been the same afterwards. The first experience was when I was 15 and I earnestly-but-without-really-getting-it prayed that God would break my heart for the lost so that I would love people more sacrificially. I remember being hit with this burden like a weight that I couldn’t lift, and literally pouring my heart out in prayer for my friends for hours and hours that night. But it didn’t stop there. For two months afterwards I cried before the Lord in prayer meetings, at my church, in my Christian Union… I met more broken people in that 8 weeks than I had ever met before, and the love I felt for them literally floored me. The fruit from that season was lasting in a way that God gets all the glory for, because many of those people still walk with the Lord in a way that humbles me. The last time I felt Holy Spirit mark me like this was in Japan this summer, praying on the streets of Tokyo’s red light district. I’ve blogged about this experience before, but still now, the depth of that emotion comes back to me and puts me on my knees in intercession.
But these burdens never come with despair, they actually come with the most beautiful and vibrant hope.
Because that’s the reality of Joel 2.
When our hearts are broken in intercession, the atmosphere will change. I really believe that. Because as we intercede, God promises restoration. And then the rejoicing comes. He is faithful. He will give us back what we have lost. He will bring resurrection.
It’s not always easy, and it’s not always quick, and it costs us. Boy, does it cost. But Jesus is the great giver of life to things that are dead. He really is.
Resurrection is the way of Jesus. It’s where our hope is found.
And this morning, I needed the challenge to keep me faithful in the place of intercession, and to keep me focused on the only-resurrection-hope that is calling me on this crazy adventure.
I love being with others who love to pray.
Oh, and for those of you who know Sapporo, I’ll be based in Kita Ward. If people would like a postal address to send me real-life letters, packets of choclate limes or UK skittles (we’ve had this discussion before), then please drop me an email! 😉