1 Corinthians 3:4-9

"For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building."

1 Corinthians 3:4-9

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Holy Week or a life of living holy?

For the last ten months we have called the city of Antigua, Gautemala ‘home.’ We’ve grown to love being here, not because of anything the city or the people can offer us, but a love born fully out of our love for Jesus and to walk in obedience to His call on our lives. I remember my first few months in language school in San Jose, Costa Rica how everyone would talk about Antigua and how beautiful it was here and particularly about how special, beautiful, and fun it would be to be in this place during Semana Santa or Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter Sunday). At that point in our lives, I never would have imagined that I would actually call this city that everyone wanted to go to ‘home.’ But I do now. I walk the cobblestone streets every week. I talk with the vendors. I maneuver my way through the throngs of tourists that crowd the streets, as I go about my daily life here. This is the place God has called our family to serve. It is a place that we most likely never would have picked to live, however, that is why we surrendered our choice long ago. Our ways are not His and our plans fall so much shorter than the ones He has for us. 

Jeremy Camp sings this song called “Speaking Louder Than Before.” The song contains these lyrics, 

We are, we are in desperation
We need to reach this generation
We are speaking louder than before                      

When Queen Esther realized the plot against her people, the Jews, her uncle Mordecai, spoke words to her that ring so true to me today. He said to Queen Esther, 

“Yet, who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I believe with all my heart that God has our family serving here through PFM and alongside Calvary Chapel Antigua for such a time as this in order that we may be a light through which He might reach this generation as we speak louder than before.

During the five years we served in Costa Rica, we were able to witness so many people who have been deceived by a mix of animism, witchcraft, legend, and Catholicism- a conglomeration  called religion that had been passed down from generation to generation. We began to learn that the Catholicism of Latin America is not the same as the North American religion. However, because most of the people in the areas in which we lived and served in Costa Rica were merely Catholic by name and did not go to mass or even have an understanding of what it is they said they were or believed, we had a only a very small glimpse into the religion. 

Since arriving here in Guatemala, we recognized an extreme difference in the people and the importance they place on religion compared to what we experienced in Costa Rica. Catholic people here are very closed to Christianity and are generally hard-hearted toward the gospel. God is good, He is faithful, and He is working despite the hard hearts and stiff necks that abide here. People are coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus and finding their salvation in His amazing grace. But the reality is that Antigua, a city perceived to be rich in its religious heritage and traditions, is actually a desperate city, deceived and enslaved by Satan. 

The last week or so in and around Antigua began the ‘processionals’ or parades that make Holy Week in Antigua famous. People began preparing ‘alfombras’ or carpets and just as a family finishes the alfombra a ‘float’ weighing thousands of pounds passes over top of the alfombra. The float depicts some aspect of the crucifixion, usually Jesus carrying the cross and Mary crying or with a knife to her heart. Many have small signs on them with various different sins listed. Others have depictions of hell and suffering. All are carried by men, women, or children wearing purple or white robes or all black. These people pay high fees, like $100.00 (more than a weeks wages for many), to participate in them and to ‘carry the burden’ of the float. The alfombras, the floats, the purple robes, and the carrying of these ‘burdens’ or floats all are done in hopes of gaining the favor with God. There is an undeniable feeling of oppression as you hear the somber beating of drums and sad, mournful music as the parade approaches. You can smell the incense carried by several scattered throughout the processional. And then as the float approaches, you see the faces of those carrying the float. Many times they are hunched over due to the weight of the float on literally their shoulders. As the float approaches the alfombra and proceeds to walk across it, the belief is that the items used to create the carpet like sawdust, palm leaves, lilies, flowers, fruit, vegetables, and many other items, become sacred. As soon as the float crosses the alfombra, destroying it in the process, the crowds rush the remains of the alfombra and the gather anything that might be useful to them as fast as they can. 

Many look upon all of this and see tradition, rich heritage, and culture. But as I walk through the streets during this time, I see the faces of the people, watch the cameras snapping pictures, hear the oohing and aching of the voices bantering back and forth about how beautiful all of this is. My heart breaks. I remember when Jesus approached the city and looked down upon it and wept. I have wept over this city. Watching and learning the deep seated roots of deception that come with all of these celebrations and traditions have only caused my heart to ache more for the salvation of the Guatemalan people. As you go further and further and learn more and more about the reasons behind why all of this is done, you begin to realize the inaccuracy of ‘Catholicism’ that was brought here when Spain conquered Latin American. 

These traditions demonstrate what the real belief of the people is: that salvation is earned through acts, works, and by suffering, none of which is true according to God’s Word. Our salvation is by grace through faith and not by works, but rather it is a gift of God, so that no one can boast.  Yet, the Guatemalan people believe that if they put themselves through suffering, as Christ did, they will gain salvation and favor and remove the sin from their lives. 

The root of all this is the same deceit that was present in the Garden of Eve. The enemy roams around like a roaring lion looking for who he will devour. He seeks only to steal, kill, and destroy. His hand has been allowed to bind many, leave more wounded, and unfortunately has even destroyed some. You see, one thing we see during these celebrations and traditions is many, many drunk people walking along with the procession, carrying the float, wearing the purple robes. They’ve paid the price to be a part of the whole grand procession, and therefore are now free to do as they choose…until next year. 

But Jesus came that we may have life. He died on the cross, yes. We must never, ever forget the cross. But HE paid the price for all sin, ONCE AND FOR ALL, on the cross at Calvary, so that we do not have to carry the burden of our sins. There is no price that anyone could ever pay that can take away sin. Jesus is the only way that one can ever be free from sin! We we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us of them and cleanse us completely. He asks us to come to Him, all who are weary and burdened, and we will find rest in Him. He asks us to take upon ourselves His yoke, which is light and we then will learn from Him. We will find rest then. He takes upon himself our burdens precisely so we do not have to carry them ourselves. So the entire idea of carrying a thousand pound float upon ones shoulders and proclaiming to do so in the name of Jesus is absolutely contradictory. 

Another part of the Jeremy Camp song, Speaking Louder Than Before, says the following:

Many hurting hearts are crying
But our voices seem to be dying
Can you see the battle raging on?

These people are a hurting people. The problem with doing things in order to gain salvation, peace, and favor with God is that it is a vain effort. Nothing we can do will gain us favor with God. Nothing we can do will earn our salvation. The battle rages on throughout this country. 

This is why we have asked for prayer this week. This is why our hearts are breaking. We wake up every morning knowing fully well that we have nothing to offer Jesus. He has called us here, given us much opportunity to serve Him, and we have nothing, absolutely nothing to offer Him except the choice we have to serve Him every day to the best of our ability. We sit in the park often and watch the people walk by. Just yesterday, as we watched the tourists and people walk by, our hearts were deeply burdened. Sometimes, the Lord directs our conversations and we have the opportunity to share His love with people He has chosen for those exact moments. Sometimes all we can do is pray. We always ask Him to give us His eyes, His heart, to see and hear the way He would at all times.

We are the light to reach this world
We are the salt preserving these souls
Let's show them the love that we've received now

This city is in bondage and chains and what is most heart breaking is that the voices that carry the light of Jesus are only but dimly heard, crying out, proclaiming  the truth, in desperation to reach this generation. You can see them walking amidst the people, talking and buying, see them carrying their cameras and taking pictures of the ruins, the famous Catholic churches, and in front of the ancient architecture. How can we, who carry the Spirit of the One True Living God inside of us not stand firm, speak the truth, and call sin sin? 

Every thing's so surreal
But this urgency I feel
We should be reaching out to
All these desperate pleas

There is such desperation in all of this. We really do not know what the answer is as to how to reach the people here. But the Lord has made some things so very clear to us and so we walk obediently in those things. And we continue to seek Him. We continue to try to understand. But as we try to understand, we must guard our own hearts, being careful not to turn to the right or to the left, so as not to be deceived ourselves. 

I’ve been reading through Deuteronomy in my personal devotions and I’m reminded of chapter 11-12. Moses gives the Israelites instructions, exhortations, and warnings as he reminds them of the faithfulness of God and the many ways in which He has shown His greatness to them. 

From chapter 11:
13 ‘And it shall be that if you earnestly obey My commandments which I command you today, to love the Lord your God and serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, 14 then I[a] will give you the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the latter rain, that you may gather in your grain, your new wine, and your oil. 15 And I will send grass in your fields for your livestock, that you may eat and be filled.’ 16 “Take heed to yourselves, lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them, 17 lest the Lord’s anger be aroused against you, and He shut up the heavens so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you perish quickly from the good land which the Lord is giving you.
18 “Therefore you shall lay up these words of mine in your heart and in your soul, and bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 19 You shall teach them to your children, speaking of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. 20 And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates, 21 that your days and the days of your children may be multiplied in the land of which the Lord swore to your fathers to give them, like the days of the heavens above the earth.
22 “For if you carefully keep all these commandments which I command you to do—to love the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, and to hold fast to Him— 23 then the Lord will drive out all these nations from before you, and you will dispossess greater and mightier nations than yourselves. 24 Every place on which the sole of your foot treads shall be yours: from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the River Euphrates, even to the Western Sea,[b] shall be your territory. 25 No man shall be able to stand against you; the Lord your God will put the dread of you and the fear of you upon all the land where you tread, just as He has said to you.
26 “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.
12 “These are the statutes and judgments which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. 2 You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess served their gods, on the high mountains and on the hills and under every green tree. 3 And you shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, and burn their wooden images with fire; you shall cut down the carved images of their gods and destroy their names from that place. 4 You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things.
5 “But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go. 6 There you shall take your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, your vowed offerings, your freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 And there you shall eat before the Lord your God, and you shall rejoice in all to which you have put your hand, you and your households, in which the Lord your God has blessed you.
8 “You shall not at all do as we are doing here today—every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes— 9 for as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you. 10 But when you cross over the Jordan and dwell in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to inherit, and He gives you rest from all your enemies round about, so that you dwell in safety, 11 then there will be the place where the Lord your God chooses to make His name abide. There you shall bring all that I command you: your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, the heave offerings of your hand, and all your choice offerings which you vow to the Lord. 12 And you shall rejoice before the Lord your God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female servants, and the Levite who is within your gates, since he has no portion nor inheritance with you. 13 Take heed to yourself that you do not offer your burnt offerings in every place that you see; 14 but in the place which the Lord chooses, in one of your tribes, there you shall offer your burnt offerings, and there you shall do all that I command you.
The Lord is so careful to remind the Israelites to be careful not to allow themselves to be deceived by the false idols and practices of the people in the land they will soon enter. He gives them the promise of rain, and blessings, if they earnestly obey His commands and serve Him with all their heart and soul. He exhorts them to teach His word to their children and that it be made known to all who pass by their homes who they are and that their hearts are for the One True God. And the Lord also promises them that He will drive out the enemy, the idolatry, and the false gods. He tells them to completely destroy the places of worship of these people, the sacred pillars, the wooden mages and to cut down the image of their false gods.
And then He tells them to be careful about where they worship, to go only to the place in which He will direct them. He is careful to tell them that not only will He direct them about where to worship Him, but that the temptation will be there to do as other men do…but that they must not do that. 
Theses verse have made such an impact on me. I believe that the Lord has given them to me for such a time as this. That I might not allow the false gods, false hope, false worship into my life. That I might not accept what I see before me as tradition or culture, but see it for the sin it is and stand firm against it. 
Following Christ always has a cost. We’ve counted the cost - it is a daily thing as we constantly have to make the choice to follow Him or go our own way. It never gets any easier, but it is always the right way. It is always the better way. Our way often looks like the God life, as Pastor Mike Rozell often shares with new IGNITE classes. But no matter how good our way might look, God’s way is always the better life. 

I feel a heavy, heavy burden this year for those who have yet to open their hearts to Jesus, both here in Guatemala, but also those we love back in the United States. Please consider joining us in praying through the weekend for the people of Guatemala, especially those thousands upon thousands in the city of Antigua this weekend. There is all of this emphasis on making this week holy. Please pray that instead of a holy week, they would seek a holy life; one surrendered completely and fully to Jesus, their Savior, Redeemer, and the One who forgives their sins. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Happy 12th Birthday, Isabelle Adair!

Oh Isabelle, today is the day we celebrate your birth and we thank God that He gave you life, He gave you a plan that includes a future that He has picked out just for you. We thank Him for making you part of our family, because we would not be complete without you. You shine the light of Jesus every single day. You bring joy and encouragement to everyone around you. This shy little smile you have in this picture has been with you from birth and it shows your heart: kind, humble, loving, compassionate, caring, and ultimately full of Jesus and His Spirit. As you grow and change, life seems to move faster and faster and I know that is sometimes scary. Always remember that God is with you and He will never leave you. His plans are far greater than anything we could ever come up with ourselves. Sometimes it is scary to not know what is next or sometimes it is scary to know what is next but not know how it will all work out. Sometimes, we just fear change because we like the way things are. But always remember that our God is greater. Our God is stronger. If He is with us, we have nothing to fear. Remember what Joshua 1:9 says? "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be discouraged, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Never be afraid to walk in the future that God has given you. It is so worth it Isabelle. Look at your life. Look at how much change God has brought into it already. And think about how wonderful the adventures that He has taken you on have been! Would you have ever thought you would have lived in Costa RIca for 5 years? Then, lived in Montana? And now, you live right next door to a volcano in Antigua, Guatemala! You have a BIG God, girl! He loves you so much. Your Daddy and I do too, Iz. You bring us such great joy! My heart swells with joy when I see the acts of kindness you think of doing for other people. When you share with me what God teaches you and challenges you with, I cannot help but thank God for giving you to me. I know that I do not deserve to have you as my oldest daughter, but God has given me such grace and blessed me with you in my life. I can remember the day you were born like it was yesterday. Oh my goodness, you came so early and you were so tiny, and so incredibly beautiful! You have always been your Daddy's sidekick girl, your older brother's little buddy, and your younger sister's best friend in the whole world. What would she do without you? As you all three grow, things have changed and will continue to change but always remember that they are your family. There is nothing more important than keeping them as your best friends. They love you so much. You bring laughter to our family and pass it along to others. You always know the goofiest thing to God that will make all of us laugh!

We are so thankful to God for your life. Today we celebrate and give thanks for you!

Happy Birthday, Izzy!!!

2010 Villarreal, Costa Rica

2012 Tamarindo, Costa Rica

2012 Niagara Falls 
2007 Frankfort, IN -  5th birthday

2013 Whitefish, MT

2013 Whitefish, MT

2010 Tamarindo, Costa Rica  -  the day you were baptized!

March 11, 2013 Happy 11th birthday!! Whitesfish, MT

2013 MT - skiing with your Daddy!
PFM Ranch March 11, 2013

...to be continued next year...