Hello again, Ladies. Over the past couple weeks we have been busy exposing lies that our Enemy from down under (way under, not Australia) has been mailing us direct and sealing with an evil kiss. These steaming packages come express delivery from Hell’s “Department of Deceptions and Distractions” right to our door. Too often we sign for them, bring them in and open up trouble. BUT no longer! Through the truth of God’s word we are now gaining wisdom and slicing these lies to pieces.
So let’s get down to business on this next one too. First, read parts 1 and 2 if you haven’t. Lies we have dealt with already, 1.) I don’t fit in and I can’t connect. 2.) I don’t have any spiritual gifts. These are outright lies – scripture tells us that if we are his, we are connected and part of the body whether we feel like it or not AND every Christian has been given gifts to use for the good of the whole Church body. This leads us to #3…
LIE #3: I have gifts but no way to use them. Malarkey, hogwash and poppycock! (Yep, web thesaurus again, you need to try that thing). I won’t even let this one slide. Tell me, what kind of mean god would give you gifts and then not provide an opportunity to use them? Is this some kind of sadistic cosmic joke? Or do we have a random god who has no clear reason or purpose behind what he does? I’ll say it again, poppycock! Not the God I serve. Nuh-uh. No way.
“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” 1 Cor. 14:33a. Our God is a God of peace and order, he did not create chaos in Genesis, but set forth order with purpose. Keep those words in mind when thinking of God– order with purpose. This is true in creation, this is true in how God wrote out the salvation story and it is true for your life as well (remember we have a God concerned about individuals! See blog for lie #2). God is the author of your story (Psalms 139:16). It may not always feel like it, but God has put your life in divine order and assigned it specific purpose.
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. This verse always excites me. God has work for us to do (as individuals) that he prepared for us long ago. Think: tailor made gifts for tailor made tasks. Now that is an awesome, plan ahead, I’m-in-charge-and-I-know-what-I-am-doing kind of God. That is my God, thank you very much. And yours too, so get out there and see what type of works he has for you! Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to.
There may be a specific role to plug into at the physical church building or maybe not. But there are always, always, always ways to use your gifts for the good of the body. Remember 1 Peter 4:10, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace” If you are not using your gifts you are not being a good steward of the grace God has given you. Count this as encouragement and a warning too. Don’t be in a position where you are holding back from God (not cool).
So find ways to use your tailor made talents. Here are some possible ideas: talk with other women at church and help them connect, write scripture verses out and give them to others for encouragement, make meals for busy new moms, go on a mission trip, study God’s word deeply, watch children for others in the church, lead a Bible study in your home, pray with someone, clean the church, teach children, sit with someone who is lonely, give hugs, build relationships with the young women in the church, ask someone what they need prayer for, greet others warmly and make them feel welcome at church, write notes of encouragement and mail them out, pray for someone new each day, read the Bible with someone, support missions, decorate the church or offer help in homes, paint, sit next to those who come to church alone, share your testimony, invite others into your home and show hospitality, invite someone to get coffee and talk about what you are reading in the Bible, play an instrument for praise, share your joy with someone, share someone’s burden, take a young lady to get her hair done and talk about purity, take a walk with someone and see how they are really doing.
This list could go on for miles, you get the idea. Now make yourself take the time to have your own brainstorming session. Your God-given personality style will shape how you serve and love others. Do not fall into the trap of gift comparison, each of us is unique. Simple acts of service are demonstrations of a heart belonging to God and that’s what it’s all about. You may not slash though a jungle in Guinea to spread the gospel (though you might), but you can build up the body with a smile and the sharing of God’s word right where you are. Let’s not complicate what God has made plain.
So, serve, love, teach, and encourage with God’s word. Practice your gifts, stretch yourself and grow into the awesome story that he has written just for you. It is oh, so good.
Time for part two in our series, but first I want to point out an important word in the title that I hope you caught. That word is “Christian”. That’s right these lies are aimed at Christians (I’m talking to women directly today, but men are affected as well). If you are not a true Christian this is not for you and honestly, you probably don’t often struggle with many (or any) of these lies I will be discussing. You are not a threat to the Enemy, actually the Enemy likes you right where you are (that is right next to him). There is no need for him to convince you that you don’t belong in a church or that you have no gifts to share because your heart is not inclined that way.
This message is to encourage my sisters who are in Christ that they have been given gifts to use and that they can discover what those gifts are. So, that being said, if you have struggled with this lie – rejoice! Seriously rejoice - you have been found a threat to the opposition and he is not liking you one bit. This lie has been thrown at you like a hand grenade to blow up in your face and send you crying back to your room to hide. Sisters, let’s begin some serious counter attacks, beating that devil back to where he belongs. We need to refuse to put up with these ridiculous cheap shots. So, fasten your truth belts and pick up your sword.
LIE #2: I don’t have any spiritual gifts. Hmm… interesting. I used to tease my little brother that he must have been gone the day God was handing out brains because it was obvious he got skipped (I think I repented of that long ago). So somehow God must have skipped you when he was handing out spiritual gifts. Whoops! What an oversight! Some of those Quality Check Angels (QCAs) were not paying attention there. Wow, send them back to training. Not an area we want remedial angels to be working in, they may fit in better where they check if you can walk and chew gum at the same time.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts brothers [and sisters], I do not want you to be uninformed.” Okay, not my words, but Paul’s, but I mean them too (they are from 1 Cor. 12:1, you really need to read that whole awesome chapter). Don’t be uninformed, ladies, read your owner’s manual, “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace:” 1 Peter 4:10. No one has been overlooked; each of us has been given gifts to be used for the betterment of the body. Let me repeat that in case you weren’t listening… NO ONE has been overlooked - every. single. Christian. has received a gift!
There are specific gifts listed in at least two places in the Bible. Here are some gifts listed in 2 Corinthians chapter 12: the utterance of wisdom, the utterance of knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, and the ability to distinguish between spirits, also teaching, helping and administrating. Some from Romans chapter 12: faith, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leading, and giving mercy.
“All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.” 1 Cor. 12:11. Each of us is given a gift in the portion best for us, decided by God and this is done individually (love this word used in relation to God). Sounds like no QCAs are needed after all! We don’t have a careless God that misses people when they are going through the creation assembly line. As if new humans are being produced faster than he can keep up (yes, mental picture of Lucille Ball in the chocolate factory assembly line here). We have a perfect God that hand creates each of us individually with love and purpose. Phew! That is good news… I think I might need to call my little brother.
Ladies, you have been given spiritual gifts! You just need to discover what those gifts are. This is not a daunting task, be excited that there are awesome things to discover about yourself that you simply haven’t uncovered yet! Hidden gems that God has placed within you to be revealed at the proper time in order to shine brilliantly for him. Oh, I hope this is sinking in, because this is good stuff!
Here are some tips to discovering your giftings: read 1 Corinthians chapter 12 and Romans chapter 12 to review lists of spiritual gifts, pray that God would reveal your gifts to you, ask others what they see in you (come talk to me, I would love to help you with this!) and practice potential gifts. Begin by practicing some of the more “common” ones like service and giving mercy (especially before trying out the working miracles and prophecy ones, jumping into these may prove embarrassing at the next Sunday service). Allow God to work through you to bless others. You will soon learn more and more about your spiritual giftings. Often new gifts are revealed as you grow in Christ or at least new ways to use and improve your current ones.
So, ladies, you should now be armed with enough ammo to refute these explosives coming your way. Keep reading God’s word in order to stay armed and to guard your heart from deceit. One of my favorite tactics in this spiritual battle we engage in everyday is to use the weapons of the Enemy against him. So next time one of those lie-grenades comes flying at you, whack it with your shield of faith and send it right back where it belongs. You do this by holding fast to God’s truth in the Word and living it out. Use your gifts to build up the body and strengthen the brothers and sisters by your side. Batter up, Ladies.
“No weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed,
and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord
This is the blog that I don’t want to write and you don’t want to read. Can we just be honest about that right up front? Like bad medicine you need to take but only want to spit out. The sweetness can only be tasted when the healing comes… but, oh how sweet the healing is when it does come. So, take a deep breath with me, ladies, it’s time to swallow.
Introverted, anti-social, hermit, reserved, don’t like crowds, being shy, a wallflower, a loner. I have used each of these terms to describe myself many times in my life (heck, the past week). They are a handy excuse for my behavior and serve as a warning for people to stay back. Like saying, “Please carefully remove yourself from my precious personal bubble. Um, one more step back…aaand one more. There, now we are far enough apart that we can be pleasant friends but not have to get caught up in any messy personal issues.”
I enjoy using the above terms if I must be honest (and I must)…and I know I’m not the only one. If this blog caught your attention you are probably in a similar boat as me (not the same boat hence the issue). You may be offended already that I have called it a…SIN. I don’t like it either, but I’m not the boss and I don’t make the rules.
A verse that came up in a women’s Bible study recently, and that just keeps slapping me in the face, is Proverbs18:1 which reads, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.” Did you feel that smack like I did? Hear that clear element of selfishness in “seeks his own desire” and foolishness in “breaks out against all sound judgement”?
How can isolation be selfish? When we distance ourselves from others we are not able to connect and display Christ to them. We are not there to speak God’s words of encouragement to them. Paul in his ministries lived with the people and worked with the people in order to win them to salvation, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9:22. This is not possible if we are hidden away.
How is isolation foolish? Our purpose for breathing is to glorify God through sharing the gospel and proclaiming his name to the nations. Hard to be effective in this calling when our noses are in a novel or we are “just not in the mood to deal with people”. Taking ourselves out of interaction with others is like taking ourselves out of the race and still expecting to win, pure foolishness.
So, ladies, let’s be big girls and call sin “sin” when the Bible calls it out. No sense softening evil to make it comfy. We don’t want it comfy. We want sin as uncomfortable in our lives as putting on a wet swim suit covered in sand or like a mouth full of gravel (Proverbs 20:17).
Is taking time to be alone always sin? My goodness no. There are times of needed refueling and resting. Time to get yourself away from the world to spend time alone with God (epic oxymoron when you think about it). Jesus himself often moved away from the crowds that followed him, he also often got up early in the morning and found a solitary place to pray. Time alone can be good, acceptable and beneficial when done for the proper reasons.
The motive is the crucial difference, the essence of whether the removing of yourself from others is a sin or a time of godly refueling. Think carefully, what is causing you to want to shut the world out? Is it fear of rejection, judgement, being socially inept, not wanting others to see the “real you”? Is it laziness? As painful as these can be, they are inadequate excuses. We cannot hide behind our feelings. Spend time studying who you are in Christ for your strength, looking at him not yourself. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7.
So consider this a reminder to check your heart - is how you are living fulfilling what God has called you to? If you are claimed by God, you contain a treasure beyond measure - step out and share it. Multiply your joy in fellowship. No more keeping others at arm’s length for fear of discomfort. Decide not to be okay with selfish and foolish isolation, be disgusted by it; shed the suit and spit out the gravel. Be bold and connect with others, dare to get messy and love people with the crazy love of Christ and… allow them to love you back.
Praise God and wage spiritual war with the incredible act of engaging with others.
Peyton finally agreed to go on a waterslide with Troy and me at the indoor water park last week. As we ascended the ever climbing stairs, his grip on the railing tightened. I could see the doubts rising in his mind; this was hard work for him. By the time we reached the top, with only a few groups ahead of us, Peyton began to crumble. The tears started and his head shook as he announced that he had changed his mind. He was not going on this ridiculously dangerous and potentially deadly slide (yes, he is my dramatic one). He planned to walk back down the steps and meet us at the end; preferring safety over risk.
At that point I did what every other practical and loving mom would do. I looked him in the eye, told him he was not going to die and that he better shape up because I planned to plant his bottom in that raft whether he wanted to go or not. Peyton, having been mothered like this before and having had plenty of past experiences similar to this one, said okay and took a deep breath, still trembling but resigned to his potentially dismal fate.
Am I mean? Yes, I can be. I can be pushy, persistent, and downright bossy. Have you not heard me telling you to read your Bible with your pencil?? As we all tend to be, I am hardest on those I love the most. I most often correct and discipline my children (you’re welcome). I most often rebuke and instruct those that I mentor and disciple. I love them way too much not to.
This is not being mean, though it can feel that way at times (and if I do it incorrectly it is mean and sinful). Done biblically, it is loving. Scripture is designed to train us and for us to train others, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” 2 Timothy 3:16.
I didn't force Peyton up those stairs and down that slide because I am a bully mom or wanted to torture him. I did it because I love him (and we used it for biblical training later). I have been his mom for 11 years, I know him very well. He needs to be pushed to grow; he needs to know what it feels like to fear and to overcome (moms, don’t shelter your children from all fear). I knew he could handle it and that it would be good for him.
It is quite easy to see where I am going with this one. We need some pushing in life. We need pushed toward things we would never do on our own. God will often give us a nice shove once in a while to get us to grow. We also need to push ourselves more than we do. Just as in exercise we have to lift more or run farther or faster to gain improvement. In our spiritual life (which is much more important, see 1 Tim. 4:8) we need to go deeper with God and put in the effort to get closer to God and to see more of him.
If we were already perfect and as Christ-like as we could get we wouldn’t need any pushing. However, as Paul said in Philippians 3: 12, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul needed to keep working, “pressing on” in order to become more perfect like Jesus. If Paul wasn’t there I know I’m not there yet. He was still pushing. He was still, “straining forward to what lies ahead” and pressing “on toward the goal” verses 13 and 14 respectively. Do the hard work it takes to strain and press on, study the Word intently, reach out to difficult people with the gospel, give sacrificially.
In other words, allow your Heavenly Parent, who loves you very much and knows you better than you know yourself, send you up some stairs and toss you down some scary waterslides for your own good. Better yet, go with joy, keeping your trusting eyes on Dad. Rejoice in the ride and see where he takes you and how it grows you. Always, always closer to Him.
Peyton survived the treacherous family rafting waterslide, we barely got wet. Seriously, on a scale of danger from 1-10 it would have been a two. Peyton was so psyched that he was jumping up and down, pumping his skinny arms in the air and asking to go again. Which we did, happily, again and again. He even ventured on the slightly more dangerous family rafting waterslide (maybe a three). He overcame and had grown in courage.
Ladies, time to buck up, climb the stairs and get wet. Follow God where he leads, trusting in his sovereign goodness and mastery over the plans of your life. Push and get pushed and grow in God.
I love to be comfortable. Just ask my husband, he will tell you after working all day I can’t wait to climb into my “comfy clothes” (otherwise known as yoga pants and a t-shirt). In the winter months, I could be found in pjs as early as 5:00 pm. Phil sees me and just shakes his head and laughs.
I also like to hang around good friends, eat good food, and read good books. I much prefer these activities over interacting with strangers, fasting, and public speaking. If you’ve read my blogs before, you already know my tendency toward being an introvert. I enjoy being comfortable, that’s all there is to it.
Don’t get confused, I like to get out and about and love the outdoors. I even love tent camping… as long as the weather is great and I have an air mattress and remember everything for s’mores.
How much comfort can one person stand? Is being comfortable a legitimate goal in life? If I was able to remain in a state of constant comfort, say, wearing my non yoga-ing yoga pants, while reading a good book and eating as many Georgia Mud Fudge Blizzards as I desired, would I be happy? HECK YES!!! …for about one day, maybe two… okay a week max.
Your version of comfort may be a little different than mine (you may prefer cookie dough Blizzards, I get that), but my point is we all have comfort zones. These are very real and very appealing.
So appealing that we can, if we allow ourselves to be led astray, work our whole lives trying to gain or maintain our ideal comfort zone and be able to spend as much time in it as possible. Or we work the best years of our lives so we can retire and spend the remaining years living in the ways we are most comfortable.
Here is the big question: did Jesus die so that we could experience comfort? Another way to state it: is your comfort worth Jesus dying for?
Agh! Why did I have to go and ruin it for you? Replace the word “comfort” with “happiness” or “success” if you want. Those are just other words to describe your comfort zone.
You see, I don’t buy into the “American Dream” that the world tries to sell me. I don’t buy into any ideals the world tries to sell me. Dead end pursuits that are fun and cozy along the way still lead to dead ends.
Just as your final destination determines the route you take on a journey, so should your final eternal destination determine the route you take while on Earth.
Too many of us get pulled away by the cares of this world and get convinced that the “comfort zone pursuits” of this mortal life are worthy of our time and energies and even eventually our souls. It is so sad a thing to live for, so very temporary.
God says in Revelation 3:16, “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” And in Zephaniah 1:12 “I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, ‘The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill.’”
So, this is why I so often ask God to please, “Kick me!” Kick me out of my comfort zone; don’t allow me to be pulled into an apathetic lifestyle or complacent way of thinking. Do whatever is necessary to keep me about Kingdom business and not my own.
Oh, he is so faithful in this! As he slaps that Blizzard out of my hand and tells me to get dressed like a big girl. Time to be un-cozy for the glory of God and for my own good.
This is what keeps me ministering to women, holding Bible studies, and staying up way too late writing blogs. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10.
Did you hear that? He has work for us to do! Why? Because he created us specifically for these specific tasks eons ago. Ladies, this means something!
If God is the Potter and we are the clay would we prefer he keep his hands off us and allow us to sit as a useless blob? No! Please fashion me into something useful that displays your goodness, Lord! No matter how painful or pleasurable, mold me as it pleases you, for “all things were created through [you] and for [you].” Colossians 1:16.
So, yes, “kick me” is often a prayer I pray. I need it. I mean it. I too easily hold on to my comfort zone. But, oh, when you get out of it and are willing to fully trust God, what a beautiful thing it is! What a glorious feeling to be used for the purposes of a great God. There is no better place to be.
“Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean.” Only a woman could read this often overlooked verse and find great joy in it. It is found in awesome chapter 14 of Proverbs and God brought it to my attention this week just when I needed it.
Who wants a clean manger? Well, honestly I do. Or I think I do. I sure spend a lot of time and energy trying to get one. I clean my house multiple times a week, often multiple times a day just trying to keep it “presentable” whatever that really means. I can easily get caught up in the futile frustrations of it all…
BUT...(you could feel that coming, right?)…is it really futile? If I didn’t have oxen, my manger would always be clean. If God hadn’t blessed (yes, I said blessed) me with a husband and children, I would be able to sit back and enjoy a clean home all day, every day. But let’s be real, I wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I sometimes imagine I would. I would miss my cattle very quickly and desire a full and messy manger again with all of my heart.
This verse provided me with a quick shot of proper perspective from my Loving Father. Ladies don’t fret about a messy home. Yes, we need to care for it and keep it comfortable, but we know it will be just a matter of time (usually about 10 minutes in my house) before it is messy again.
If the manger in Bethlehem all those years ago would have been clean and empty, Jesus wouldn’t have had a safe place to lay his head while Mary recovered and could hold him in her arms (not to mention we would be without one of the most awesome Christmas songs EVER). It was all in God’s perfect plan.
God uses our messy homes for his purposes too. We may feel that it is wasted time and of no “real eternal value”, but get real! Remember, God uses EVERYTHING in our lives to shape our hearts as he desires them to be. Through caring for messy oxen, we learn patience, how to serve with a right heart, how to honor God in all we do, how to love others, perseverance, and tenacity. Also how to train our children, delegate, and manage a home. Recall that, “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” Luke 16:10.
We may call it housework, but God calls it all heartwork.
If you are single and feel as if your manger is just too clean… time to mess it up. Seriously. Invite others in to minister to and serve. Find ways to bless the hearts of others in the name of Jesus as God transforms your own.
The second half of this verse goes like this, “but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” Where there are oxen, the harvest is plentiful, in our hearts and in theirs. You may at times feel like your family members really are farm animals, but these “animals” are assigned to you to accomplish in your heart exactly what your All-Knowing Father knows you need most. Trust God, the fruit will come and it is promised to be ABUNDANT if you follow him.
Welcome to the glorious process of sanctification, Ladies! I enCOURAGE you to thank God for your messy mangers and the oxen he has entrusted to your care for your good and his glory today.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5. This was the verse a group of ladies and I were focusing on during our weekly Bible study in the park just a few weeks ago. An awesome verse everyone should commit to memory.
One of my final questions to these godly women that day was, “If you honestly exercised full trust in the Lord, what might your life look like? What radical things might God call you to?” There was silence, then some hesitant answers of sharing Christ with others, correcting blasphemies, and getting serious about teaching their children about God. I repeated myself, sure they didn’t understand what I was getting at, “Think big! If you had enough faith, what might you do that would require full dependence on God?” More silence and a few responses similar to the first ones.
We ended in prayer and went our separate ways. I found myself frustrated, why didn’t they get it? Why couldn’t they trust God in BIG ways, just grab onto a dream and imagine how God could work everything out? I wanted answers like, “I would quit my job and enter full time ministry,” or “I would open my home up to all those in need and begin a ministry of hospitality,” or “I would pack my family up and head to another country as missionaries!” Yes, me and my big dreams, but those weren’t the answers I heard that day.
It wasn’t long before God began convicting me of a wrong attitude. I could feel the Spirit nudging at me. I then came across a quote in a book I was reading from Oswald Chambers:
“The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. ‘Jesus took a towel… and began to wash the disciples’ feet.’”
That was enough to bring tears to my eyes, God had my attention. I had assumed an attitude of thinking my “big works” would please God more than any small scale act I could do.
Yes, Jesus did many awesome signs and wonders while on earth and we love to read about them and point them out to others. We quickly forget all the seemingly little ways Jesus was fully obedient to his Father God. Along with washing the disciples’ feet (even Judas’) he: had compassion on the needy, spoke encouragement, told stories to demonstrate God’s goodness, taught and prayed for his friends, played with children, suffered, went to church (temple), endured insults, forgave his enemies, and ate with friends. All Jesus did was for the glory of God; he is our perfect example in the “large and small” of our lives.
I read on… “There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task. Routine is God’s way of saving us between our times of inspiration. Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling minutes, but learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God… The tiniest detail in which I obey has all the omnipotent power of the grace of God behind it. If I do my duty, not for duty’s sake, but because I believe God is engineering my circumstances, then at the very point of my obedience the whole superb grace of God is mine through the Atonement!” Oswald Chambers
Even our small acts of obedience, done out of trust in our Lord, are filled with the full power of God’s grace. A heart set on living in servitude to him is what God desires; obedience is obedience.
Lord, forgive me for making the all too common error of thinking you are more pleased with the world-changing evangelist than the community changing, obedient woman who shares Christ with others, will not tolerate your name used in vain, and is intent on training up her children in your word! These daily, routine acts of obedience train our hearts to trust him more and cause us to live out his written word.
It reminds of the interaction between the Lord and Elijah in 1 Kings 19:11-13, “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him…”
I want to be wherever God is leading me, whether that is in the earthquakes of the big callings in life or the low whispers of the small. I enCOURAGE you to trust in the Lord with all of your heart for every size task he puts before you.
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.