Last night I sat down at the computer in our office with the lights off and was immediately attacked by a big, ugly moth. Moths will often keep to themselves, but not this one, he wanted to get close and personal. He was in my hair, on my neck, and on my hands and face. Aaagh!! I did the “there’s a bug on me” crazy dance and finally swatted him down. Two thoughts crossed my mind after this. One, I need to get outside in the sun more if I am the brightest thing in a dark room.
Two, how did this big moth get in our house? That was an easy one, I knew the answer. You see, I have two young boys who enjoy running between the indoors and the outdoors and don’t pay the electrical bill. They seem to have something against shutting the front door of our house.
Actually come to think of it, we’ve had a few other occurrences too. We’ve had birds fly in on two different occasions … then there was the cat a few years ago… and the neighbor kid, Al (that’s a frequent one)…and one little girl who just appeared in my kitchen one day. Yes, definitely an ongoing problem of not getting our door shut. You never know what (or who) will pop in.
As mothers, we desire our homes to be places of safety and comfort. We want to ensure our kids are protected and that we monitor what they have access to, and who has access to them. If our homes are not safe, we are failing at parenting well and we are endangering our children.
Many parents will tell you they are vigilant about protecting their children, yet many homes still have huge spiritual safety hazards in them. Many dangers we welcome inside ourselves or even pay large sums of money to have them in our homes. These could be televisions, radios, computers, video games, magazines, books, DVDs, CDs, photographs, the list goes on.
None of these are bad in and of themselves, but each has the strong potential to be. A radio is not evil, but if is playing songs with vulgar lyrics it is a pathway for evil to enter into your home and into the hearts of your children. Video games are not evil, some are even educational, but if they promote violent acts and encourage anger they are affecting your child’s character in a sinful direction. Many of these items also have the potential to consume your child’s time and attention away from the priorities we are trying to instill in them of serving God and studying his Word.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:17 “give no opportunity to the devil.” Notice the small but important word “no” there. It doesn’t say that a few R-rated movies now and then won’t hurt them, 60 minutes a day playing that war game on Xbox won’t affect them, or country music isn’t as bad as pop or rap, so go ahead. It says give NO opportunity to the devil!
If there are leaks in your home that allow the devil access, deal with them! Don’t shrug your shoulders and hope for the best. Truly love your children by keeping the Enemy who hates them away. He wants nothing more than to lead your child gently by the hand (or eyes, or ears) away from the truth you are teaching from the Bible.
James 4:7 says “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” It doesn’t say keep the devil on a manageable leash or just let him take a peek inside your home once in a while for fun and because the neighbors allow it; it says “resist” him! Fight him off and make him run from your home with his tail between his legs. Be a vigilant protector of your children’s hearts by submitting to God.
I fully recognize that we need to train our children to live in this dark world and that they will be exposed to these dangers and more in their lives. However, I will not be the one that serves them this evil and acts as if is acceptable when it is not. We don’t train our children to fight evil by exposing them to evil. We fight evil with the truth which is the word of God. That is what they need more exposure to in order to be strong warriors on their own.
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” – Words of Jesus from John 17:14-17
Are there dangers in your home? Are you leaving a door wide open for the Enemy to walk right inside? I enCOURAGE you to take a hard look around your home today and take a serious look at where the weak spots are. Make your home a place of refuge where God is honored above all else.
I am continually amazed by God. I am amazed by what he has created, how gracious and merciful he is and how he has planned out each person’s life with a purpose. It is important to stay in constant amazement of our Savior and to teach our children and others to do the same. We need to look at the world around us and recognize the awesome handiwork of our Creator. These are gifts that we should enjoy and that point us toward belief in him (see Romans 1:20).
One gift I will always be amazed at is prayer. Take some time to think on this with me today. What kind of God would allow us full access to him at all times and in all circumstances? What kind of God calls us to hand over all our needs and concerns to him to take care of so we no longer have to be anxious about them? What kind of God would send his only son to die to make a way to allow this connection to happen?
What kind of God is this? Only a perfect and loving God who has complete authority and control over every instance of every life is able to offer a gift like this to us. My God is that God. I would not worship any lesser kind, would you?
Through the gift of prayer we have full access to God. We are allowed to present our requests before him as Jesus sits to his right interceding on our behalf (Romans 8:34). What a glorious and humbling picture that is. What an amazing gift that we should utilize and never take for granted. No wonder the Bible tell us to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17); don’t ever stop appreciating and utilizing this precious gift!
Can it get better? Yes, for those who have Christ in their hearts, we are guaranteed that our prayers are heard and answered if we pray in accordance with the will of God. “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” – 1 John 5:14-15. Be sure that the word of God abides in you, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” - John 15:7.
I made a promise while in Guatemala; I told those I ministered to that I would be praying for them and would continue asking for God to intervene in their situations. I am keeping that promise and would like to invite others to join me.
Below is a list of real prayer needs that people asked me to pray for. If you have no intentions of praying, don’t read them, just close this page and move on. However, for those that feel called to pray, I ask that you read this list and realize there are very real people behind each of these requests, oftentimes a child. I ask you to use the powerful gift of prayer that God has given to those who truly believe and present these requests before him. “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” - James 5:16.
God is the only one who can do the work needed to change the hearts and lives of the people these petitions represent. The good news of Jesus Christ is what is needed above all else. I thank you for joining me in this and enCOURAGE each of you to continually use the gift of prayer in your own life. Trust God with your burdens: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” - Philippians 4:6-7.
· A husband has left his wife and family and will soon be kicking them out of their home and they have no place to go. One of the children also struggles with hearing loss and illness. They also currently have no water source.
· A man has diabetes and is quickly losing his eyesight. His body has wasted and he is very ill. He is only 38 and has a family to take care of.
· A woman is struggling with a grown, handicapped son who is aggressive at times and they are unable to leave their house because of his behavior. Their family has isolated them. Her husband is unfaithful and cruel, yet he continues to live in the same house and she continues to take care of him too.
· Two sisters that have recently given their lives to Christ and will deal with persecution from family and the community.
· Translators and drivers who receive threats of bodily harm and extortion because they associate with “rich” Americans.
· A young woman whose husband is in jail. She works very hard and is raising two children on her own.
· A little girl with an unknown illness that causes a strange rash all over her body.
· Many children with alcoholic parents.
· Many children with abusive parents.
· Children with siblings in gangs.
· A little boy whose father was killed by mistake when the murderers were actually after his uncle.
· Children with a mom who is rarely home.
· Many children with no father in the home.
· Many children whose parents are addicted to drugs.
· Children who are fed drugs.
· A child whose mom does “bad things”.
· Families that live within the walls of the city garbage dump.
· An American missionary family spreading the gospel in Guatemala City.
· A local church displaying the light of Jesus Christ to a dark community.
· A school in need.
· Teachers and instructors facing difficult situations every day.
· Teachers and a principal of a school and childcare facility in the city dump. They need strength, health, and support. Pray that they are provided with plenty food to feed the hungry children each day.
I have just recently returned home from a mission trip to Guatemala. I have to admit, I feel as if part of my heart is still 2000 miles away with the kind and generous people of that culture. While there I witnessed many atrocities such as families living with no water source (let alone clean water), people dying of treatable diseases, and children who live on top of trash. These seem like desperate conditions and they are, however many of the people in the above situations professed their faith in Jesus Christ and were clinging to him to meet their daily needs and answer their prayers. Some were the same ones worshiping God with all their heart next to me at church on Sunday morning with arms raised in praise.
As I dwell on this now that I am back home in this land of (over)abundance, I wonder which of us is truly depraved? The Guatemalans who struggle so hard to survive each day and stay safe and healthy or we Americans who are drowning in wants and petty desires for more material goods and the appearance of worldly success?
The battles we fight are so very different in appearance and yet are enacted by the same Enemy. Is there one that is a greater battle over the other?
At one of the home visits I did, the woman kept apologizing for how little she had and how small her living space was. She felt bad for not having enough seats for us and not being able to offer us better. We assured her we were just thankful to be there with her and appreciated her kind hospitality. I now wonder how I would feel if that same woman came to encourage me in my home. Would she look around and think, “This is how American Christians live?”, “Why all the stuff?”, “Hasn’t she read Matthew 6:19-24 or James 2:14-17?” I’m afraid many would look at our homes filled with material goods and excess and think we are just fooling ourselves in this Christian walk. Are we?
Many of the needs of the Guatemalan people are so very obvious. In most of America, because of our affluence, the needs are hidden and yet just as deep. In Guatemala, our shared Enemy throws poverty, sickness and feelings of despair at them. In America, the same Enemy throws success, material goods, and feelings of security at us (I know there are exceptions).
Having this knowledge, we need to understand a few important facts. One, recognize that the Devil can use any type of weapon to fight against us and to pull our attentions away from God; need and excess are both weapons in his arsenal.
Two, spiritual depravity can be found in any person regardless of their appearance or life circumstances. We have to recognize that the ultimate need of every individual is the gospel of Jesus Christ regardless of apparent status. Finally, understand that God has placed you in the country and circumstances you are in on purpose and he knows that is the best place for you to be in order for your life to bring him the most glory possible. Use it for just that purpose alone.
Don’t think I am writing this to make anyone feel guilty (however you may feel convicted like I do), but do understand I am writing this to bring attention to the possibility of depravity in your life. Don’t allow your possessions or pursuits of worldly success lead you to believe you are “better off” than anyone in a “less fortunate” country. Examine your life closely to see if the Devil has found his way into your home and is smothering the potential work of the Holy Spirit there. Who or what are you dependent on really? Who or what is your life centered around? Don’t take these questions lightly, they have eternal consequences.
Recall the encounter of the Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-26. He followed the Ten Commandments and was eager to learn what more he could do to obtain eternal life (he was wise enough to know there was more to it than the law). Jesus responds to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come follow me.” Jesus knew that what this man needed was to get rid of his earthly goods in order to be fully surrendered to God. However, the young man “went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.” Jesus turns to his disciples and says, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven.” This man preferred to hold on to his possessions rather than spend time in the presence of the one and only, all powerful, Messiah and Son of God.
God may not be asking you to give all you have to the poor (though he could be), but he does demand all you have to be his. The true depravity of humanity cannot be judged by appearances, possessions or geographical locations, it is a state of the heart. We all desperately need Jesus Christ to claim our hearts as his own possession. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:10
I write this slightly in jest because I am currently sitting at my computer in my home office in Cascade, Iowa on Friday afternoon. However by the time you read this on Thursday (or after) I will be in Guatemala City, Guatemala serving alongside brothers and sisters in Christ. I have my packing nearly done and am ready to fly out tomorrow morning. The more I think about it the more excited I get.
Guatemala, which is in Central America, was at one time the heart of the ancient Mayan civilization. It is often called “the land of eternal spring”. This translates into us most likely having a very wet experience while there according to the weather report. Guatemala is known for its mountains, active volcanos, and many earthquakes (an average of 3000 per year). It is a geographically rich and captivating place.
I look forward to learning more about the country and experiencing some of its beauty while there, but none of the above is why I go to Guatemala. I also don’t go to have fun, to play with poor children, to hand out toothbrushes or to see poverty first hand. Will I experience some of this while there? Most certainly, but if these activities were my focus and my reason for going I would be sorely misled in my walk with Christ and disappointed in whatever results I was hoping to achieve while there.
The only reason to go on a mission trip is out of obedience to a call God has placed on your heart and in order to proclaim his name through the testimony of the gospel. All we do must be centered on Christ (Colossians 1:16) and for his glory and not our own (1 Corinthians 10:31).
We want to be like those from the church at Macedonia. They were sending gifts to be given to those in need. Paul was commending them to the Corinthians. In 2 Corinthians 8:5 he says, “and this not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us.” The order is very important here. We must first give ourselves to the Lord, being fully his and at his disposal for usefulness. Then in obedience to him, we give of ourselves to others.
If our focus was to just “do good” the best we could hope for would be to place a Band-Aid on broken hearts headed for destruction. We then would walk away back to our lives of comfort feeling smug about our “goodness”. Our “help” would be fleeting, forgotten and utterly pointless.
However, if we go to share the undiluted, unadulterated, and straight from the Word of God gospel of Truth to those same hurting hearts we can make an eternal difference in their lives. Let me rephrase that, God can use us as conduits of his powerful Word as he changes those hearts into hearts that beat for him for eternity. Then all glory goes to him alone. We return home humbled by what God has allowed us to be a part of, deepening our love for him.
Guatemala is a country with many confused people in it. Many claim to be Christian yet have no idea who Jesus is and what he did for them on the cross. Most have blended Mayan traditions with Catholic practices making for a very unique worship style that is not God-honoring. The Devil has had his way, twisting the word of God and making Guatemalans think they need to earn God’s favor instead of it being a free gift.
This angers me and saddens me. There is only one, true gospel. Jesus proclaimed it himself, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6. Only through Christ can we be redeemed and it is “not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:9. We go to Guatemala to boast in Christ alone, to point others to his perfect gift of grace. To speak the true gospel of Jesus as Paul did, tolerating no other teaching. “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:8
We are blessed to be able to share Christ in homes, schools, and garbage dumps while in Guatemala. The team and I appreciate your prayers so much. In doing this you share in what God is doing while we are there.
Ladies, wherever you are, I enCOURAGE you to give yourself fully to the Lord first and then allow him to use you to share the one true gospel with others.