Zacapa 2015: Loving People On a Not-So-Lonely Mountain

 I hear crickets. Dogs call to each other across the ridges. A turkey gobbles off in the distance. The huge leaves of the banana tree my hammock is perched in on the side of this mountain rustle with the never ending breeze. After a scorching week in the sun the coolness of the continuous flow of wind borders on miraculous.

It has been a week of weeks. Our team has been outstanding. They work and play with an energetic tenacity on par with their vivacious faith. Grace drips from these people like the sweat they have shed for seven days.

We have been to school after school playing with kids, performing skits, praying, speaking, loving. We have visited small churches, in the remote places of the Guatemalan Mountains where our people have preached the love of Jesus. We have given away food. We have built a wall. We have built a road. We’ve been busy. It’s been good.

Busy and good are not always words I like to put together—but accomplishing the work, sharing the good news, and serving my friend Greg’s ministry are both. Because busy can be good when it is purpose driven.

As I lay in my hammock staring out across the expanse of darkness at the closest ridge I can see the humble twinkle of distant village homes. The places that house the beautiful people of Guatemala.

I can rest full of faith in the one who sent us. I can sleep soundly satisfied in our pursuit of purpose. I never enjoy leaving my family behind—and under different circumstances would probably bring them—but even in my homesickness I can rest in the peace of God.

In Matthew 5:14-16 Jesus declares his followers to be as a shining city on a far dark night. That’s our job. To take hope with us. We partner with powerful people of God in needed places. We are Gondor in the midst of Mordor. We are beacons among burdens—and bonfires among chilling darkness.

I have burned in my heart the desire to go to far places and far people because, as A.W. Tozer penned, “if my fire is not large it is yet real, and there may be those who can light their candle at its flame.”

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Easy & Light

  

I was thinking about this passage today during my time alone with God.

For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:30)

A yoke is still a yoke. A yoke is used for something. It has purpose. It’s for accomplishing an
end. Jesus never said it would for real be easy. It is necessary. It’s work. Doing stuff takes stuff.
The yoke was made for doing stuff. 

We read Matt 11:30 and think that means it should be a walk in the park but then we forget that all of his disciples were martyred. Even John had multiple attempts made on his life. The kind of easy Jesus was speaking of was altogether different than the connotation of the word we drag up in our comfortable 21st century minds.

Paul talked about being a slave to Christ. It’s hard sometimes. And ministry life can be really
hard at times—but it beats the hell (literally) out of the alternative.

To live is Christ, to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21) 

Paul said that too. 

A burden is still a burden. There’s a big difference in the burden that Jesus brings and the one
sin brings. Jesus brings a burden of peace, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, love,
understanding, consideration, and justice—all wrapped in grace. Sin brings a burden of
brokenness, wretchedness, insecurity, deception, blindness, stubbornness, and fear—all
wrapped in death.

The burden Jesus brings is a burden. But it’s light.

It is easy to carry in respect to the death that is the alternative. The yoke is light but it is a
yoke. It is quite simply a great relief to your soul in regards to the death that is available should you choose to shackle yourself to a yoke of your own making.

Jesus is better. Believe it. 




December 11 – Approved Persecution

Acts 12:1-5

About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. (Acts 12:1 ESV)

James was John’s brother. He was one of the first disciples. He was also one of the first martyrs.

Herod arrested a few leaders from the young church. He saw how it pleased the jealous Jews and so he smelled blood in the water. He began a campaign of terror against the Christians, seeking to gain approval from the countrymen that had shunned his family’s rule for so long.

It had little to do with beliefs. It wasn’t about money, not for Herod. It was about popularity. It was about political power.

The wheels of opinion have long since shifted in America. Once secularist ideas have become commonly held world views. Things that shocked and stunned a few decades ago, are now embraced, promoted, and legitimized. As this trend continues there may come a day, some would argue that it is already here, when Christians are outright persecuted. It may happen simply so a politician can gain, or keep, the spotlight.

The possibility of persecution will not thwart the authentic followers of Jesus. It will instead galvanize the Bride of Christ to shine with the true love of Jesus. It will shine bright. It will draw people away from darkness and into the family of God.

July 12 – Seeing Jesus

Matthew 20:29-34

They said to him, “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” (Matthew 20:33 ESV)

The two blind men sat on the roadside, probably much like they always did, and heard the crowd stirring. Jesus was passing by. They had heard about Jesus. He was the miracle worker. The guy who had been causing such a big stir with his healings and controversial teachings.

The blind men began to call out to Jesus. The crowd tried to deter them and silence them, but they would not be quieted. They cried out all the louder. And, Jesus took notice. He stopped. He asked what they wanted. They answered. And he aHealed them.

Now, imagine you were one of those guys. The first sight that you had perhaps ever seen was the image if the one that had enough mercy to reach down and touch you and heal. The first face you would eve know. The first bit of light to ever penetrate your world of perpetual darkness was that of Christ Jesus.

Much in the way the miraculous healing changed their physical blindness it changed their spiritual blindness as well. From that day forward they followed Jesus. Jesus does the same for us as well. He opens our souls to see him clearly. He opens our hearts to love clearly. He opens up our strength so that we can serve fully. He takes us from a world of broken darkness and despair and interrupts it with his wonderfully marvelous light. And it all starts by seeing, truly seeing, who he is. It all starts by seeing Jesus.

February 17 – Shine

Read: Isaiah 9:1-7 & Matthew 4:12-17

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined. (Isaiah 9:2 ESV)

Early in his ministry Jesus’s cousin John was arrested for boldly declaring King Herod as a sinful ruler. Shortly after Jesus left his hometown of Nazareth and made his way to Capernaum, a place which would become his headquarters for much of his ministry. It had been prophesied hundreds of years prior by Isaiah. The messiah would be for all people. He would shine as a light into darkness.

For the Christian, Christ has exposed our inner darkness and returned us to a place of restoration and salvation in him. For the unbeliever that has yet to happen, but Jesus still illuminates. He still points us to our need for him. Because in truth we do all need him.

As a believer what do you do with the light of Christ? Do you allow Jesus to shine through you? Do you allow him to work in and through you in a way that illuminates our deep need for him?

It’s not always easy. The darkness is no fan of the light. But it is necessary. We are all people who walk in darkness without Christ. In Christ, we are to shine a light which is the hope for the world.

February 13 – The Light

Read: John 1:6-13

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. (John 1:9 ESV)

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all inspired by the Holy Spirit to record the events of Christ’s life, and each account bears its own uniqueness. However, John’s gospel stands among them as being distinct in content, not because it is contradictory, but because its author had a special perspective about Christ.

When John wrote about Jesus he regularly used the word Light. It is a fantastic use of scriptural imagery. Jesus came to illuminate sin, to expose evil, and to dispel darkness. He is the Light. John’s knowledge of this light was not merely academic or theological, it was personal.

What about you? What is your knowledge of the Light? Has Jesus worked in your life to illuminate the things that don’t belong. Has he exposed the secret hurts that maybe you suppressed, ignored, or forgot about? He can. He does. He will. It’s what he came to do.

January 21 – Way of Peace

Read: Luke 1:67-79

because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:78, 79 ESV)

At the birth of John Zechariah lifted up a beautiful song of prophetic worship. This was not merely the jubilant singing of an elated new father, this was a demonstrative work of the Holy Spirit in the elderly priest’s life. He boldly and worshipfully declared the calling John would fulfill as the forerunner to Jesus. Look at what this devout man declared about our savior.

Because of the tender mercy of our God… Jesus was sent because of God’s mercy. The sunrise shall visit us from on high… Where Jesus goes there is warmth, light, and life, not because he showers us in material things but because he gives light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death. Only Jesus gives light and life to those lost to darkness. Only Jesus rescues from the clutches of death’s shadowy embrace.

He came to guide our feet into the way of peace because without Jesus there is no peace. We may live lives free of obvious conflict, but without him there is no true peace to be had. There is no eternal overcoming of the great conflict of our soul. He brings resolution, restoration, and redemption.