God is forever good even when life is a blur...
This last month has flown by. Candy was back in the states for about 10 days, and I was working almost full time with Alex here in Guatemala helping to grab video footage of each classroom. It was a busy time, and we now have video footage of about 1/2 the classes, but we still need to edit the footage into finished class videos.
God is forever good even when life is a blur...
My work in the finance office in regards to the setup and handling of transactions in the accounting system is coming to a close. Now starts a whole new chapter - Reporting. Without reporting, all the entering of transactions is basically busy work. Where my definition of busy is "being under Satan's yoke". So after entering things into the system, it is now time to progress through getting meaningful reports out of the system that aid everyone in understanding the resources God has provided us and how they are being stewarded and how we might steward them even better to God's glory.
Don't get me wrong, I have been creating reports throughout this whole time of training. But now, I am moving into teaching the Guatemalan finance office staff how to produce, analyze and create recommendations based on the data in the accounting system. Producing reports is easy, but producing useful reports is not as easy as one might think. A simple thing like changing the dates before running a report can produce useless reports.
Analysis of reports is often seen as a secular activity by many Christians. But when we seek to steward God's resources, we need to analyze the resources we have, how we used or stewarded those resources and how that might impact our decisions to steward God's resources in the future.
And finally, creating recommendations based on financial data can often be void of God if we as humans believe that we are in control. So often I find myself referencing scripture that points out that God is the owner and provider of resources to steward; God is who we are ultimately accountable to for our stewardship; and that the scripture guides us to seek counsel from others. All of these scriptures exhort us to create recommendations that seek to honor God's ownership and provision, and not to hold in too high esteem any one person's human thinking - even our own.
I ask that you pray for me and the finance team in Guatemala. Pray that we seek and find God in each and every step of the work that we do. Pray that those who are engaged in other areas of the ministry find the reports and recommendations God honoring and helpful for their day to day ministry decisions. And most of all, pray God's supernatural guidance and counsel through His Holy Spirit as we steward God's resources to His glory.
What do I know about intercessory prayer? Well, I have to admit, I didn't know as much as I thought I did. I liken intercessory prayer to those families that Nehemiah had to fill the gaps as they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. They didn't stand in the place of other people, but the stood in the very life of God and His desires. Nehemiah 4 speaks to how the work they were doing was ridiculed, but in Nehemiah 4:9 it tells us "But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them day and night. I see this as a visual example of intercessory prayer. Guards set up against the enemy day and night, persistent, never ceasing vigilance on behalf of the workers, while workers still carried on the work they too kept their battle gear close to them.
There isn't enough room in this newsletter to provide all the references, etc.. so I implore you to study on your own before responding to be an intercessor on our behalf, for it is not as simple as occasionally praying until I hear of God's work in a situation like I once believed. But if you find God tugging at your heart to intercede for us or for the work God is doing through Impact Ministries, please let us know that you are standing in the gap for us.
Requires great responsibility - Ezek. 22:30-31; Gen 18:23-32; Ex. 32:7-14; Act 12:5-12
God seeks intercessors - Ezek. 22:30; Is. 64:7; Is. 59:16
Intercession can be heavy - Deut 5:5; Job 16:21; Is. 63:6-7; Lam 2:18-19; Mark 14:33-35
Certain people should be the focus regularly- 1 Tim 2:1-2; Eph. 6:18; 2 Cor 1:11; Eph 6:19-20; Acts 12:5; Rom. 15:30-32; Jeremiah 29:7; Daniel 9:3, 16-19
Intercessory prayer involves more than prayer - sense of burden and responsibility - Ezra 10:1, 6; Neh 1:4, Jer 13:17; Joel 2:12-14
Characteristics of a successful intercessor
Persistence and determination Isaiah 62:6-7
Patience Isaiah 62:6-7
Faith Is. 64:7
Severe self-discipline and selflessness (due to personal identification with the need) Mark 14:33-35
Thank you for seeking God's word and ask God if you are to become an intercessor on our behalf and on the behalf of the people we work with in Guatemala. If you'd like to join our prayer team please use the link below to sign up for our prayer letters on a monthly basis.
These are questions I see when I look into eyes of people I encounter in everyday life here in Guatemala. Jesus made people know how much they mattered to him and to God in how he loved them.
In Guatemala, it is cultural to greet every person individually when entering a room or to say good morning or afternoon on the street. Since my early days of feeling a bit awkward with this custom, I have learned to put into practice greeting everyone. And to my amazement, it has transformed my thinking around how much others matter to me and how much God can do with a simple greeting.
It takes intentionality to greet a person. It shows us that we play a part in each other’s lives. It challenges us to see our need for each other. And it provides individual recognition of the fact that you matter to me and I matter to you. And, it is an incredible opportunity to open a door into sharing with others how much they mean to God. Even the common greeting on the street becomes an avenue to demonstrate love and speak of the person’s value as a person created in the image of God.
I praise God for using my greetings to demonstrate His love for people who ask “Do I matter?” with their eyes and not their words. Pray that more of my greetings bloom into sharing the gospel with those who so desperately need to know they matter so much to God that He sacrificed His only son for their sake.
Again and again, during my time of training Guatemalan nationals on how to use a new accounting system, I’m challenged to reassess my understanding of God’s teachings on the financial life of a ministry and stewardship of ministry funds. At times, I have experienced pure joy and ecstasy, while other times I’ve experienced extreme lows. By the grace of God, during times of extreme lows, I hunger for God’s word more than ever, and God is faithful in presenting the Bible to me in new ways.
While reading Mark 12 and 13, I was struck by how Jesus was giving a warning about the condemnation of religious leaders before pointing out the widow and her mites.
The Message puts it this way: “He continued teaching. “Watch out for the religion scholars. They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function. And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless. The longer their prayers, the worse they get. But they’ll pay for it in the end."
This translation paints an uncanny picture that is unsettling to me, so much so that I was compelled to take a deeper look at this passage and one phrase stuck out to me. “And all the time they are exploiting the weak and the helpless.” It is translated to “They devour widows’ houses” in other translations.
You have Jesus teaching about poor widows’ houses being devoured by the educated religious leadership, and then nearly in the same breath, He sees a live example of this abuse. WOW – I never saw this passage this way. The story of the widow’s mites, given in the context of Jesus’ condemnation of the scholarly religious leaders, makes me sick. It reveals the repetition of abuses and consequential judgment to come. It convicts me to reexamine how I might contribute to this type of abuse within my own context of ministry. I’m sure that the scribes didn’t start out devouring the widows’ houses, but all fall short of the Glory of God. So I’m asking myself, why might it be different for any given ministry? Ministries are overseen by people with a commonality of sin that are at varying stages in their walk with God.
So the first thing I’m learning is that the financial life of a ministry is as flawed I am. While we are all being perfected in Christ, we’re still sinful and that seeps into ministry. We make poor decisions, we stick our heads in the sand from time to time, and we even fight with other believers to be “right” instead of admitting our fallen state and making necessary changes to the glory of God. While God is sovereign and already knows our sinfulness, His knowledge of our sin does NOT allow us to continue in sin. But God provides grace – unmerited favor, forgiveness, and restoration.
So what am I learning about the financial life of a ministry other than it is as broken just like me? I’m learning that a ministry must see God as the owner of the ministry and all resources. A ministry must reflect the value God puts on the people who support it physically, financially, and spiritually. Ultimately a ministry, even if it is your personal ministry and not through the church or a para-church ministry, is to steward God’s resources to further the reach of the Gospel to the lost. And finally, the financial life of a ministry must include accountability both internally and externally. God expects us to be both helpful and wise. Part of that wisdom involves the accountability that monitoring can help to make sure we are not enabling sin, and the other part of that is having external monitors to help us not become the scribes that Jesus condemned for devouring the widows’ houses.
Candy and I are finally back in the same place. We both left Washington state on January 30th. Candy flew to Guatemala and I flew back to Pennsylvania to participate in Lancaster Bible College's missions conference. I returned to Guatemala on February 19th after the conclusion of the missions conference to a wife who was ever so glad to see me.
While in PA I also helped my parents clean out their storage unit from their move about a year ago. While there, it came to my attention that my mother is showing signs of either a small stroke or advanced dementia/Alzheimer's, and she had a doctors appointment to confirm something had changed significantly for her. Her memory and navigation skills have been significantly affected. She has some follow-up doctor's appointments that will hopefully help to better understand what is happening and what the prognosis is for her. Please be praying for wisdom for the doctors and peace for our family, especially my mom.
Candy has been busy teaching the Guatemalan finance to close the accounting books for a year. They are doing a super job in grasping this training quickly. The finance office also added a new staff member, which is helping them get caught up and will provide for future transitions of staff in and out of the office. Whether it be elementary school students, horseback riding, or accounting software, God has always provided Candy with great joy when those she teaches have what she calls "light-bulb moments". That is the teacher's heart God has given her for those she teaches or trains. God has blessed her greatly in this with those she is training in the finance office.
As we have traveled around the country, we have seen a true cross section of the country. With politics dominating the airwaves this past fall it was interesting to observe as people passionately defended their candidate while tearing down the opposing candidate. The division and hatred for the other side reached a level that I have not personally witnessed before. It seems as if we have a difference of opinion, we can't be friends anymore. We are truly saddened by the state of affairs in the US right now. We have had several Guatemalans ask us what is going on, and all we can do is shake our heads and say, "We don't really know".
How are we as Christians to respond? One friend, trying to put things in perspective said, "We voted for a president, not a savior. I already have one of those". As much power as the president of the United States has to set the tone and direction for the country, he or she is not and will not be my savior, nor the savior of the USA. We personally believe only Jesus can fill that position. No matter what your particular political persuasion is, each and every one of us, myself included, are called to pray for our leaders, whether they are part of our preferred political party or not. While I am often challenged by a passage of scripture, Romans 12 is worth reading and taking to heart with our current climate in the US. I'd like to share with all of you that the Lord has laid Romans 12:9-21 on my heart given all the different people we've interacted with, and I am going to go as far as to challenge us all to use our sincere love to point those around us to the true savior, Jesus Christ.
9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good
Can we all extend more grace? Can we seek peace? Can we share with others who we don't agree with? If we, who call ourselves Christians, can't demonstrate the love of Christ, who will?