We say we believe the two greatest commandments are to love God and love our neighbors. How can we do that, when our own resources seem so scarce? Listen to Pastor David’s exploration of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, a story found in Matthew 14:13-21. What abundances are in your life? How can you share them with others?

Believing and Doing: The Great Commandments

We live in a divided age. Republicans vs. Democrats, rich vs. poor, English-speakers vs. Spanish-speakers, citizens vs. immigrants, Christians vs. Muslims, good guys vs. bad guys, peaceful people vs. terrorists: we have so many ways to categorize ourselves and our enemies. I use the term “enemies” very broadly to cover opponents, strangers, foreigners, people with whom we disagree, even people whom we choose to unfollow or unfriend on Facebook. Sometimes, given our emotions and our perceived level of risk, we wish harm on our enemies. Sometimes we even enact harm on our enemies. Sometimes we restrain ourselves from physical violence but use words that are quite damaging by themselves.

For people of faith (and Christians in particular), the temptation to harm our enemies is just as strong as it is for anyone else. We fool ourselves if we say we are innocent of this temptation while hating members of ISIS, cheering the latest lethal injection, or even ridiculing fellow church members who voted for the other candidate.

Christians are to follow the example of Jesus, who famously prayed that all his followers might be one as he and God the Father are one (see John 17). We have made quite a mess of Christianity by creating so many divisions, even within single congregations. But church unity is a red herring; God’s real desire is for all people to be reconciled to him and to each other.

The Old Testament prophet Ezekiel writes:

Do you think that I like to see wicked people die? says the Sovereign LORD. Of course not! I want them to turn from their wicked ways and live. (Ezekiel 18:23 NLT)

As surely as I live, says the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O people of Israel! Why should you die? (Ezekiel 33:11 NLT)

God is pro-life, in the broadest, most universal sense of the term.

Five hundred years ago, a man named John Redford served as the organist and choirmaster of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He is considered the author of a medieval poem which has been set to choral music, a piece which Tara and I have learned as part of a Holy Week choral service in which we will participate next month. Below are its lyrics:

Nolo mortem peccatoris; Haec sunt verba Salvatoris.*
Father I am thine only Son, sent down from heav’n mankind to save.
Father, all things fulfilled and done according to thy will, I have.
Father, my will now all is this: Nolo mortem peccatoris.
Father, behold my painful smart, taken for man on ev’ry side;
Ev’n from my birth to death most tart, no kind of pain I have denied,
but suffered all, and all for this: Nolo mortem peccatoris.

* Translation: “I do not wish the death of a sinner.” These are the words of the Savior.

As far as I can tell, Jesus did not say the words attributed to him in this poem, but he certainly lived out their meaning. Whether he met a woman caught in adultery, ten lepers, or a Roman centurion, Jesus consistently worked toward their life and well-being. Even his greatest enemies, the super-religious Pharisees, were people whom Jesus loved: after speaking strong words of condemnation against them, he expressed how much he longed to gather them together “as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings” (Matthew 23:37).

What if we lived our lives after Jesus’s example? What if our motto was nolo mortem peccatoris, “I do not wish the death of a sinner”? How would we live differently?

Who is your enemy, and how can you love him or her today?

(You can read the full text of this medieval poem here.)

 

ANTICIPATION! This is the first day we would walk the paths of the TRACKS with many reunions of friendships. We did not really get too much done because we were wrapped up in relationship building and the smiles of what seemed like hundreds of children. The main corridor along the school was filled with literally tons of people as the “gringos” made their way through the crowd to seek people out, visit the schools and visit the homes of our many friends in this tightly knit Christian community.  Most of the day was spent planning our agenda for the week, doing small projects and seeking out the needs of the community and its people.

Our day began as we circled for prayer at our hotel and eagerly talked about what the day would bring. We then traveled to David Beam’s home, where we feasted with a unique filling breakfast each and every day of the mission. Every morning, I passed out a colored sheet that represented The Gospel Story by Colors and focused us into our spiritual journey of the day. We received a grey sheet on this Monday that stood for our sin. It reminded us that we are all flawed and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 3:23 says “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” It was a good reminder that we are ALL in God’s Kingdom no matter where we are in the world. Whether we are divided by economics, language, living conditions or miles, we are all God’s people trying to live a humble life and bringing glory to God.

Accepting Your Assignment was our perspective for the day, and service was the core principle within our assignment. Each our devotions came from Rick Warren’s The Purpose Driven Life and only included a portion of what this excellent book provides, but these brought real significance to our mission. Our first assignment was to understand that You were created to SERVE God. Have you ever wondered why you were created and what your purpose in life is? As we follow the model of Jesus who served, we realize we were created for acts of service. And why else were we in Guatemala? We were there to serve the people of the Tracks – nothing more, nothing less. From another perspective, this is why we were created: to serve each and every day, whether in Guatemala, at school, at work, with our family, in every aspect of our lives. Jesus served and so should we.

The very Gospel of Jesus Christ brought our second assignment for the day. You were saved to serve God. Are you grateful that you have been saved, forgiven of your sins and bound for eternity with Jesus Christ? Because we are saved, we are blessed by God to bring glory to God through serving every day of our lives. So, You were called to serve God. This was a question we often dealt with in our preparation meetings: why were we going to Guatemala? Are we being called? We often talk about having a “Divine Appointment” to serve God in an area of the world with no distractions and complete focus on serving and bringing glory to God. What are you called to do in your service to God? A mission trip is only a few days of the year where you have this opportunity in such an isolated atmosphere, but what about your daily life? We are called to serve – everywhere, daily and all in God’s name. John 14:15 says, “If you really love Me, you will keep and obey My Commandments.” This sets up our next assignment: You are commanded to serve God. Now we are bringing love into the picture; God loves you to the point of sacrificing His son. Do you love Jesus? Loving Jesus is a daily decision we all have to make and part of our purpose in life. Then, because we love God, we are commanded to serve God. How much do you love God? Are you serving Him because of that love?

Every one of us is an influence or has an impact on someone, whether a spouse, a family member, a church member, a neighbor or a person at work or school. We all carry the banner of Christ, both positively and negatively. Are we wearing the title of “Christian” that brings glory to God? It’s important that we travel to Guatemala and serve the community of the Tracks; however, what about the rest of the year? Are we influencing people for Christ? Do we impact others with our walk? Service is the pathway to significance. We have impacted Guatemala and through this we see the mutual admiration, respect and friendship which exists between the people and ourselves. It is definitely significant. However, are you doing that next door, at work, at school, in our church or where life takes you? Anything that brings glory to God is significant.

Service is NOT optional was our last thought for the day. As we read this now, a few weeks after our adventure, I wonder if the assignments of service are still ringing in your heart and affecting your everyday life? This was part of the purpose of the trip: to bring it home.

Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.” What a wonderful feeling to know that Christ works within us to serve. May this be a key lesson we live each day.

A lively discussion took place on Monday evening as we shared the key questions of the day: God sightings, blessings, heart breaks, learning, scripture, community and our thankfulness for the day. Sharing our hearts was most often the best part of the devotions.

Included in each devotion time were a couple of quotes to stimulate our minds and keep us focused on God. Our first one on Monday was “Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace and gratitude.” Many things can bring us happiness, but only the joy of love, grace and gratitude can create the mind of God. Also, because we were a team, we ended with this thought: “Alone we can do little. Together we can do much.” May all that we do bring glory to God!

NEXT:  The 3rd Day of our Guatemalan Journey