I've got a lot on my brain. I keep forgetting to blog and it sort of piles up. I have a journal that is more regular than the blog so I get to dump a little ramble there. But this morning I don't have language school (and can sit and drink coffee) so with each sip of coffee another thing I've wanted to blog about percolates up.
I've read through 1 Peter, Hebrews and Galatians in school. I'm reading to improve comprehension and vocabulary and pronunciation and how to speak in the rhythm of Spanish. But the Word of God is living and active! So it's impossible to read it for the purpose of understanding it and not be changed by it.
2 things (of many) have stuck with me. 1 Peter 1 says this: "13Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. 14As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." And later I read in Galatians 5, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit."
So, I confess, that I still have sinful passions and desires. No reason to detail those, but a look at the previous verses in Galatians 5 will give a glimpse if you need a reminder of what were capable of.
So, in Spanish, the verb for "crucified" is in the preterite perfect tense. Hold on here, grammar-phobes, there's a point. And the meaning of that tense is an action that has both begun and ended in the past. It is completed and won't be repeated.
And so I've been thinking (sometimes a good thing) and wondering if those two things are in conflict - my command to be holy (and not choose the sinful nature) and the fact that those desires have already been crucified and therefore are dead. How do I choose not to do something that is dead? And if it's dead, why the present struggle? I know the Bible isn't in conflict so its my job to figure it out. And I've thought about this before but each time I read the Bible the Lord brings things up fresh and in a new light.
And so I thought and read some books and asked the Lord about it. Because my experience is that I still struggle with these desires that have been crucified. And Galatians tells me (in one of my favorite verses in the book) that I have been crucified with Christ. I read a book that put that passage in this light: That the desires (and all sin) have been judged on the cross. The cross is the point in history when God judged sin through the sacrifice of His son. I am to consider those desires as judged, condemned forever, and therefore removed of their power over me.
And so it is because of that 'confusion' that I have been constantly thinking about this. And that, as Paul states in the beginning of chapter 5 that "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free". Can I get an "AMEN"? Freedom! Freedom from sin. Freedom from the crap I am capable of (please excuse the vulgarity). But oh, it is a daily decision. And today, this Sunday, I am deciding to live in freedom and not in bondage. Because bondage is awful! Slavery is awful. Freedom is wonderful!
So join me today in choosing to look those desires dead in their nasty face and say, "You have been judged forever on the cross of my Lord, so back off and get out of my way. I have a freedom to proclaim today."
- pause for applause -
Well, I'm sitting here on a bright Sunday morning. It's 58 and beautiful. I wish I could pipe some of it up to you folks sweltering in the States, especially Texas. Enjoy the swimsuit weather!
We have met a Guatemalan family who works with CAM. Renee (husband) and Nelly and their 3 kids. They came over for a visit yesterday morning and we had the pleasure of sharing lunch with them. Deacon got to play with their kids. They ran and swung him around. Sprayed the dog with the hose, made a huge mess (which the kids all helped clean up) and had a wonderful time. It's great practice for our language but more importantly it's life with people and life was meant to be spent with people. There's a reason solitary confinement is a horrible punishment.
I say this because my attitude before they came over was rather poopy. We'd had a more-than-averagely stressful Friday and I wanted to loaf a little and relax at home and not have anyone over. We have people over to our house most days and I wanted to just not have anyone over.
And I wonder where our 2 year old learns his attitude.
But they came over anyway and it was a wonderful time. Really wonderful. We are going over to there house next Saturday and will eat Tamales, a very special thing here in Guatemala.
Phillip Yancey in his Rumors of Another World says, "I have had to learn, against my instincts, that what seems attractive and alluring may in fact prove destructive. I need outside help to determine what is truly good for me."
Outside help. I need people to do that. God has designed us to live in community, in a family with all the bumps and wrinkles, bad days and bad attitudes. We are to be as comfortable with one another in our pajamas with messed up hair, morning breath and eye crumblies and we are in our polished and pressed Sunday Best. Because most of our our lives probably look a lot more like pajamas.
And so, today, even though we are tired and don't speak the language too well, we are going to church. Jenny and I are going to Sunday School where we are stand out (a lot) and are terrified someone will ask us to pray in Spanish. But, we need outside help and it's hard to get that is we never risk going outside. Even if it is in or Sunday best.
So an update on our friend Edna. She's our language tutor and we're going through Hebrews. It's amazing! I mean, I'm comprehending way faster than I thought...but the things we are reading! Tomorrow we read chapters 9 and 10. It's simply awesome because in order for her to make sure I understand what the Bible is saying, I have to make sure she understands. And Hebrews needs a lot of background. We're looked at depictions of the Temple to explain the imagery and have gone all over the Bible. Get this. Today, I explained (because of what is in Hebrews) why the Bible is separated into Old and New testaments. Old and new covenants. She understood what the new covenant is about. Wow! It's awesome.
Please pray for her. God has just put us in such an amazing place to communicate and live out the gospel right in front of her. And we want her to believe! So pray that the Holy Spirit removes the veil and reveals the truth of Christ to her. Pray Big! (right, Mike?).
I don't want this to be the "Look at how great Brandon is" blog. That's silly. God is doing this. It's so unbelievable that we can be a part of His work. What a gift. And it's not because we're holier or more faithful or whatever. I can't really explain it other than to say pray for Edna. Pray that as we read tomorrow (Thursday) that she is convicted of her need for Christ and places her faith in Him for salvation. Pray that with us. The word of God is living and active indeed!!!
I had the idea of reading the Bible in Spanish with our language teachers to help my pronunciation and comprehension and vocabulary - you name it - its in the Bible. But that was sort of a means to an end. I really wanted to have an excuse to read the Bible, chapters at a time, with someone who doesn't ever read it. Such is the case with Edna.
We finished 1 Peter last night. We read this:
1 Peter 4:1 Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because he who has suffered in his body is done with sin. 2As a result, he does not live the rest of his earthly life for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God. 3For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. 4They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. 5But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. 6For this is the reason the gospel was preached even to those who are now dead, so that they might be judged according to men in regard to the body, but live according to God in regard to the spirit.
And Edna stopped me and said that it's very important that I not just work on pronunciation but comprehension. In my mind I'm thinking, "Woohoo!" and so we keep reading, and I stop and explain back to her what I understand, and she clarifies, etc. Edna stops, begins to cry, and says that earlier today she was very sad and then she thought, "Oh, maybe, just maybe Brandon will read the Bible some more" and that thought lifted her through the day. She said that when I read it, she understands it and the meaning is very deep. And that when she read that we are not supposed to live the rest of our earthly lives according to our own earthly desires but according to the will of God she said that she knows that's true and that she wants to do that.
That's not because I read it well! It's because God is awesome! And now I get the chance to read through Hebrews with a nominal Catholic and in the process of my learning concepts and vocabulary I can help explain that most incredible book to a person very much in need of understanding that Christ alone is her mediator and her savior. Jenny and I are really excited!
Jenny also got to spend about 30 minutes helping by giving her techniques to teach her 10 year old long division. What a cool day!
Oh, Daniel B...um, I gave the Bible you gave us to Edna. Sorry man! She's learning English and doesn't have a Bible so while she was telling me about her never reading the Bible and how much she loves it when we read it I wrote, "Edna - read and study this book to know God, your friends Brandon and Jenny" and then I gave it to her. And she cried a lot more. Thank you for giving us that Bible!
That's Dave and Helen Ekstrom with Madi. They came and stayed the morning with us and ate lunch with us before they had to leave. They just had their 58th wedding anniversary! And they are even more amazing than we thought they would be. Oh, if we only had more time with them! They are translators, linguists. They translated the NT into a Mayan language, then have done 2 more and revised 2 more and then they did the OT in those languages. And that's just their day job! They used to live a 14 hour WALK from the end of the bus line. 14 hours. That's a lot of walking. But they are still kicking at 80 and 82. Oh, may the Lord give us so many fruitful years! We were talking about university students here and Helen said that so many of them are living like they will not have to give an account to God. And it made me think that these two have been serving the Lord for coming on 60 years. And then I look at my life and wonder, "what will I say?" when the Lord asks me how I spent the life He gave me here on planet earth.
Wow. I would write and write about them because their story is the Lord's story of love and service in Guatemala. How cool is that? And today, Steve and Elisa Sywulka (Dave and Helen were at Steve's PARENT'S wedding here in Guatemala - wild) are coming for a visit. Steve is the field director for CAM here and they are just sweet, wonderful servants of Christ. And we get the pleasure of hosting them for an evening. What a blessing.
We started Language school. Man. I forgot how hard that first week is on the brain. Its like running or lifting weights after a 6 month break. My brain is sore.
And of course many of you know that we are trying to foster care for a little abandoned girl here in Xela. If this is news - head to Jenny's Blog. I had an hour tutorial on the history and current status of adoptions in Guatemala. Not sure what the future holds. But the Lord does. And that's about all I need to know.
I have so much I want to share but they will have to wait. Thank you so very much to all of you praying for us as we navigate uncharted waters with this baby girl. She doesn't even have a name yet. But the Lord knows her name! And that's enough for us.
Nine years ago today I was walking the shore at Omaha Beach. It was the 55th anniversary of the Normandy Invasion and I and my uncle J were so blessed to have been there. It was a cold, overcast day and as I walked the beach I read Psalm 91:
1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."
3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
He was just a regular guy. A kid, really. But he did that which needed to be done.
I hope I never forget that freedom is always bought with a price. The greatest freedom of all, freedom from sin and judgment, the freedom found only in Christ, was bought with the greatest price - the life of the only son of God. I pray I walk in and proclaim that freedom all the days of my life.
I'm watching the national news. I don't understand much of it, but its GREAT practice. Oh, hey, there's Barak Obama. He said, "I'm a big believer in making decisions well." Not sure what that mean, but hey, at least he can say he made the Guatemalan news. :-)
So. Tomorrow is Saturday. This is good for a number of reasons. No language school (my brain is tired). But even more important, we get to meet and chat with David and Helen Ekstrom.
Click that link there to see a little about what they are doing. They came to Guatemala in 1951. That's not a typo. When they got to this country there was no such thing as McDonalds, the Internet, Barbie, the VCR, or microchips. There were no hand held calculators or PC's, no video games. No bar codes, Astroturf or cassette tapes. No contact lenses. No ATM's. No computers. No cell phones. Truman was president.
A lot has changed since they have been here. Almost twice my life span. They have spread the gospel through loudspeaker and on horseback and hand held digital recorders. I think 4 Mayan indigenous groups have the Bible in their language because of this couple. And they are still working, still serving, loving and ministering. And tomorrow we get the great pleasure of having them over for lunch.
What do you ask them? (suggestions would be appreciated).
I know they are just people. But they are some really COOL people who have 56 years of missionary ministry experience. wow! I'm so incredibly honored to meet them - and they called us to get together.
Wow. We'll let you know how it goes.
I saw the sun yesterday. For 7 minutes. It shined in the window while I studied Spanish. It was the first time I had seen it since last Wednesday. Or maybe it was Tuesday. It has rained and rained and rained. Although it's not a real heavy rain, so that's good.
You folks in Texas will be jealous of this, but it has not gotten out of the 50's for 3 or 4 days now. Our house has steadily dropped a degree or two as it heads toward equilibrium with the outdoors. We are in layers and fleeces and drink lots of hot beverages. All in all, not too bad.
But we sure miss the sun. It's funny how you get used to that big fireball heating things up.
I think the rain is supposed to thin out by weeks end. The roads out in the country are beginning to take a beating and many of the buses here can't run so many businesses are closed because folks can't get to work. Crazy. I managed to get my errands run yesterday - woohoo! So it's wait it out and study time.
Sorry Texas folks. I don't envy your heat wave.