Guatemala Missionary Trip: Day 5

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

God is good, and so very faithful! After a good night’s sleep, and the assistance of some pharmaceuticals, I had awoken feeling a hundred times better. I was well-rested and ready to face the day. It’s a good thing, too, because we were absolutely slammed!

It seems that there is a great deal of political unrest in Guatemala. I did some research into it and discovered that the former president and other high-ranking officials had resigned and were under arrest on charges of corruption and racketeering. The people are angry with their current president as well, as they feel he lacks political commitment and doesn’t put the needs of the people first. All of these problems and more have left Guatemala in a state of desperation with underfunded social programs such as healthcare. Understandably, the people of Guatemala are frustrated, which led to protests and demonstrations, known in Guatemala as “manifestaciones” (manifestations). There were manifestations scheduled to happen in Guatemala City on this day. What this meant to us was traffic like I hadn’t seen since I lived in Southern California! It normally took us 15-20 minutes to get from our hotel to the Planet Kids building where we held the daily clinic, but today it took us over an hour. We didn’t see the actual protests as our driver took us around the outskirts of the city, but we certainly felt the ramifications of it. On a positive note, we did get to enjoy a long, scenic tour of Guatemala City.🙂

When we got to Planet Kids we were greeted by a line around the corner of the building, as we were quite late, and word had spread about our free clinic. Once again, the day passed by very quickly because of how busy we were.

One rather alarming thing happened that day that had me more than a little concerned. A couple of our translators had fallen ill the previous day. One of them stayed home to recover, but the other returned to work some more. It was discovered that he – and presumably the other, based on the symptoms – had contracted scarlet fever. Knowing that I had worked closely with both of them, and also knowing that I am immunocompromised, I admit I was worried. I prayed and prayed that I would stay healthy, despite everything going on around me and all the illnesses I was exposed to! Most people would (and probably do) consider me crazy to go on a medical missionary trip knowing my health concerns, but I knew God had led me there for a reason and that whatever happened, it would be according to His plan.

Among the patients we saw that day, I recall one itty bitty baby who had been born premature, and at one month old weighed just 4 lbs. The doctor examined her thoroughly and found that, despite her tiny size, she was perfectly healthy! We saw countless patients who were running fevers, had mystery rashes, and were suffering from out-of-control diabetes and high blood pressure. One large family stands out in my mind because each and every member had severe scabies. It reminded me how sad the state of affairs in Guatemala is when a family like this can’t afford to see a doctor or get medication for something as common as scabies. I thank God for the practitioners who so generously gave of their time and talents during this trip.

The old woman I mentioned in my previous post was back again collecting more freebies. Being mindful of her poverty and life circumstances beyond anything I can imagine, I helped her with a smile and a cheerful heart. Praise the Lord for frequent reminders of His grace and love.

By the end of our fourth clinic day we had seen about 800 patients. We were all feeling tired, but thankful for the opportunity!

Just for fun, here’s a selfie I snapped after we closed up the clinic for the day:


After the work was done, we headed to the hotel to rest a bit and then walked over to a nearby restaurant for dinner. The walk to and from dinner that night was definitely one to remember. There was an uneven stretch of sidewalk that was about 18″ wide, and we had to carefully navigate that with cars zooming past within arm’s reach!


I thoroughly enjoyed our group dinner. I had really missed seeing everyone the previous night, so this was a great time of fellowship for me. I loved hearing the stories everyone shared. It was wonderful.


After dinner, we (carefully) made our way back to the hotel. I collapsed into bed and slept very, very well!

Guatemala Missionary Trip: Day 4

Monday, July 25 2016

This was our first full clinic day, and we were told to expect somewhere around 300 patients to come through our doors. I, for one, was really excited to get started! But first, we got to experience worship and devotional time with our team:


I was disappointed to find that the first half of our day turned out to be frustratingly slow. We had little spurts of activity, but overall we were lacking patients and I was itching for something to do. It was the first time since arriving that I found myself with time on my hands and no work with which to fill that time! I wandered around to the various areas begging for a task to fill the time, but it seemed that everyone else was left feeling much as I did. During the lull there was a lot of chatting with other team members, which I rather enjoyed since most of the people working in the triage area with me were from other churches. It was fun getting to make new friendships!


After lunch, things really picked up, and from that point on it was all hands on deck. We didn’t get much of a chance to even stop and think until we closed the clinic for the day at 5 PM. We worked hard and sweated even harder in the sweltering heat.

One particular lady stood out to me that day. She was an elderly Guatemalan woman and I immediately recognized her because she always wore a decorated apron over her dresses. She had been to the clinic each day it was open, always collecting more and more items we were giving out. She got clothes, hygiene bags, shoes, toys and more. Admittedly I was initially frustrated by her because she was clearly being greedy and taking advantage of us. Each thing she took was one less thing we could give to someone else who was also in need. After speaking with a fellow teammate about it my heart was changed and my attitude adjusted. I have never walked in this woman’s shoes. I have never had to wonder where my next meal was going to come from, nor have I had to worry about how I would clothe my family. Even in my most lean times of life, I have always had my most basic needs met. I shouldn’t be so quick to judge someone when I have never had to walk a mile in her shoes.

On the bus ride back to the hotel that evening I began feeling unwell. Mostly I just felt weak and nauseous. I chalked it up to a combination of exhaustion from the busy afternoon and intense heat, and perhaps some motion sickness from the bus ride back. Once we got to the hotel we had about an hour to ourselves before needing to meet in the lobby for dinner. I took some anti-nausea medicine and lied down on the bed to rest. It was soon clear that things were not improving, so I made the decision to skip the group dinner in favor of spending the evening in bed. Having Crohn’s disease, these symptoms aren’t unfamiliar to me. All I could do was rest up and fervently pray that I wasn’t starting a flare-up…

To read about Day 5, click here.

Guatemala Missionary Trip: Day 3

Sunday, July 24, 2016

This is the day I had been excitedly awaiting: getting to meet the children of Planet Kids! We arrived at the warehouse at 8 AM and had a time of worship and prayer as a team before the children began to show up. We were able to have this prayer time each morning, which I really appreciated as it allowed me to start the day off focusing on God and giving thanks for this wonderful opportunity he had given me.

After our devotion time we readied ourselves for the children. The garage door rolled up and then the buses began to arrive. Each bus was crammed full of children (standing room only!), and as they began to pour in we saw the surprise and delight in their sweet little faces as they realized that a huge group of “gringos” (Americans) were there to greet them! Our team lined up on both sides of the entrance and we were able to welcome each child with an “hola!” and a huge hug. Some were shy, but most of them beamed up at us in absolute delight at the attention. I have always had a soft spot for children, but these children in particular stole my heart the moment I laid eyes on them. Even though we didn’t speak the same language, we were still able to communicate through the sharing of love and affection.

After the children arrived (there were several hundred, easily), we got to participate in their worship time with them. I have never seen such energy in one room! They sang, danced, jumped, and ran around worshipping the Lord. I’m normally fairly reserved when it comes to that sort of thing, but I had no qualms about dancing along with them – though I am sure I looked absolutely ridiculous!

In addition to a medical team, our missionary group also consisted of construction and evangelism teams. The evangelism team was able to go out into local schools are share the gospel with children, perform shows for them, as well as give out things like hygiene bags, clothes, shoes, etc. The team had practiced some Spanish songs and dances and were able to perform for the children on this day. It was so sweet and amusing to watch their reactions to our singing and dancing. Click here for a little peak of some of the performance.

After worship there was a time of teaching for the children, then they broke into four large groups and sat in circles on the floor. We then got to serve them a yummy lunch of spaghetti and meatballs. They were so polite, nearly all of them remembered to thank us  – some even thanking us in English! I loved every moment of serving these precious children.


After the children were fed, we moved outside the warehouse to witness the baptism of some teenagers who attend Planet Kids. There were 12 in all who were baptized, and one of our church’s pastors as well as two other Assemblies of God pastors on the team were able to perform the baptisms. It was such a special thing to witness! After each baptism the Guatemalan pastor and everyone present would burst into song. I couldn’t tell you what the words of songs were, but I could most definitely feel the joy in their voices as they all rejoiced together!


After the baptisms, we handed out bags of beans and rice to each of the families who were present. We had a short lunch break while the children and their families headed home, then we got right to work and opened up the clinic for the remainder of the day. We saw somewhere between 150-200 patients in the roughly 4 hours the clinic was open. I was a little apprehensive upon learning that two of the children, a brother and sister, with whom I had been cuddling that morning, had very severe cases of head lice. All I could do was hope and pray that the little buggers jumping off their heads didn’t make their way onto mine! Even if I did end up with lice, I told myself, it was a small price to pay for the reward of being able to help these families who so desperately need medical care and medication.

When we closed up the clinic for the day we then headed to a restaurant called Skillets where we enjoyed a delicious dinner of a burger and fries. I found it humorous that we traveled all the way to Central America just to eat American food, but it was good nonetheless. When we returned to the hotel I hopped in the shower to scrub my hair (even though I knew it wouldn’t get rid of the lice, if I had it), and then headed to a teammate’s room to have my head checked. I was quite grateful that she had thought to bring a lice comb! Thank the Lord I didn’t have any sign of them, but I plan on continuing to periodically check over the next month (the life cycle of lice is 28 days). After getting the all-clear I was able to collapse in bed and sleep in peace without picturing tiny creatures creeping about my skull.🙂 Before nodding off, I gave thanks for the many children I was able to interact with that day – even the ones with lice.

To read about Day 4, click here.

Guatemala Missionary Trip: Day 2

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This is the day we had been waiting for! I was initially told that we’d be setting up our clinic that day, but not actually starting to see patients until the following day, but a few hours later learned that we would in fact open the clinic at 1 PM. I was glad because I was so excited to start seeing people! But first we had a lot of work to do to get things set up. We had a buffet-style breakfast in the hotel restaurant at 6:30 AM, then met downstairs in the lobby at 7:30 and loaded up the buses.

Our clinic was at Planet Kids, which is the ministry run by missionary hosts, Dave and Debbie Amsler. The bus drive to Planet Kids took about 15 minutes, then we unloaded everyone and all the supplies. We had packed bags and bags of supplies which all had to be transported to the site, unpacked and set up before we could begin seeing patients.

Planet Kids meets every Sunday where a couple hundred local children come and worship, learn about Jesus, and get a nutritious meal provided by the Amslers. They meet in a large warehouse donated by a local businessman who wished to give back to his community. We utilized this warehouse space to see patients from Saturday until the following Wednesday.

When the patients first walked in the garage-style roll-up door they would be greeted and get checked in. From there, we had set up a triage area where we took their vitals, and with the help of volunteer translators were able to ask questions and get an understanding of what services the patients wanted to take advantage of. Our team included three practitioners (a doctor, PA and nurse practitioner) and four local dentists who provided their services free of charge. We also offered free eye checks, and gave out hundreds of reading glasses as well as tens of thousands of dollars worth of prescription and over-the-counter medication. Our providers were able to help people with everything from common infections and colds to stomach illnesses such as parasites, high blood pressure to diabetes, dehydration to cavities, athlete’s foot to eye sight problems, and so much more! It was a joy to be able to help with health concerns for which these people might not otherwise have been able to receive care.

After going through triage (where I worked), the patients moved on to a waiting area where they could sit and children could play and color while waiting to be seen. From there they saw a practitioner and got prescriptions if needed. They then went on to a tented area where two pastors were available full time to sit with families, pray over them, and share the Good News message. After that they went to our makeshift pharmacy and were given the medications they needed. All of these areas needed to be set up before we could begin seeing patients. All of the supplies we needed had been packed into a couple dozen suitcases, so it was quite a lot of work to unpack it all, organize and set everything up. Even with as many of us as there were it took half the day to get all that done, but by about 1 PM we were ready to start helping people. At noon our group headed around the corner to get a quick lunch at Pollo Campero, a local fried chicken restaurant, before opening the doors of the clinic.

Here is a video tour of our clinic. I apologize for the low volume, but turning up the sound should help.🙂

When the patients began pouring in things really got crazy! There was no air conditioning in the warehouse and the only source of airflow was from the garage door. With hundreds of bodies in the building at any given time, things got very hot and stuffy very fast. I sweated more in that warehouse than I ever had in my entire life! Despite the stifling heat, it was all so rewarding. Everyone was so friendly and happy to be there. Word must have spread about our clinic, because the line of people waiting to be seen was nearly always out the door and even around the side of the building!


Of the many patients who passed by me that day, one in particular really touched my heart. Her name was Sayda, and she was a single mother of two daughters. She had been married, but after 13 years with an abusive husband she finally had the courage to leave. Having been a single mom myself, and also coming from an abusive marriage, I really hurt for her and understood where she was coming from. Her teenage daughter really struggled with these changes in life, and Satan was fighting hard for that girl’s soul. She had self-inflicted cuts on her arms in the shape of satanic symbols. Sayda tearfully told me these things and begged for prayer. I was so deeply moved by her story that I laid hands on her and her daughters right then and there and prayed over them. I asked God to place a hedge of protection around her family, to be a father for Sayda’s daughters, fill the role of husband for Sayda, and provide for their many needs. I asked the Holy Spirit to comfort them, give them joy, guidance and direction. I prayed, too, for the battle over her daughter’s life, that the demons trying to capture her would not prevail. I was touched so deeply by Sayda’s story that I know I will remember her for the rest of my life and always continue to pray for and her daughters.

After we closed the clinic for the night we headed to a restaurant called Los Cebollines and enjoyed a super yummy dinner of fajitas and the most delicious pico de gallo that I have had in years. There was a lovely singer providing live entertainment which we all very much enjoyed. She even sang one song in English, which definitely won her lots of clapping and praises from our team! The restaurant had beautiful decor, and I couldn’t resist snapping a photo of the beautiful lighting. If you ever find yourself in Guatemala City, definitely check them out!


Returning to the hotel that night, we were all absolutely exhausted! I fell into a deep sleep pretty quickly, which is saying a lot because I normally suffer miserably from insomnia. I was particularly excited to begin the next day, as we would be getting to meet the children of Planet Kids. Hearing about those children is what initially touched my heart and made me decide to go to Guatemala in the first place.

To read about Day 3, click here.

Guatemala Missionary Trip: Day 1

Friday, July 22, 2016

Today’s the day! My day of travel began at 2:30 AM when I left for the airport. I spent the entire previous day preparing for the trip: packing, shopping for supplies, and stopping by practically every bank in town in an attempt to get crisp, clean money (I don’t know why, but for some reason in Guatemala they will only accept new-looking American money). In the end I didn’t have much luck, but I was able to get a great tip that worked out well. Apparently, ironing money between pieces of fabric (I used a t-shirt) will make bills look brand new!

After getting the packing done, I hit the hay at 8 PM and slept till midnight. I was too excited to sleep, so I got up and had something to eat. My 10-year-old woke up and came downstairs to see if I had left yet. Upon finding me, she asked if she could wait with me until I left, which I thought was a great idea. So, we hung out and chatted until 2:30. My husband had fallen asleep, so I woke him up to say goodbye, then my ride got me and off we went. I was really glad that someone was able to drive me, so I didn’t have to wake all of the kids up in the middle of the night to take me to the airport!

After picking up one more team member, we arrived at the airport at 3:30 and got all checked in. Our team of about 30 was unable to all go on one flight, so we were split up onto 3 flights. There was one minor fiasco where I accidentally kicked the hard plastic bottom of my suitcase and ripped half my toenail off (I couldn’t believe how much it bled and how hard it was to find a bandaid!), but overall the entire check-in process was surprisingly quick and easy. The flight I was on left just before 6 AM, so there was enough time to grab some breakfast and caffeine before we left. I was feeling so excited and nervous that I was barely able to eat, but it did at least help pass the time as we sat at the gate waiting to board!


Our first flight took us to Washington, DC. I had never been there before, so it was super exciting to see the Lincoln and Washington memorials, National Mall, and even the White House! The sun was just rising, making the entire experience even cooler. We had a very short layover with just enough time to grab a quick bite to eat before hopping on our next flight. This one was much longer and took us to Miami, FL. This was yet another first for me, as I had never before seen Florida, either.


The next flight, going from Miami to Guatemala City, was the longest leg of the journey at about 2.5 hours. There were some issues with baggage delays, so we sat in the plane for about 30 minutes before taking off. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except there was something wrong with the air conditioning on the flight so that the air it was moving never got cool. I was pretty miserable for the 3 hours I was stuck on that flight! (Little did I know, it was nothing to the heat I was about to experience!)

Flying over Guatemala was pretty amazing. I was really blown away by how lush and green everything was, and the view of the mountains was absolutely spectacular. I hadn’t realized how much I missed seeing mountains since moving away from Colorado. I was deeply moved by the beauty of it all.


I was dismayed upon entering the airport in Guatemala City and discovering that there would be no relief from the heat I had endured since boarding in Miami. It’s a third-world airport, so they do not have any air conditioning whatsoever. I was also shocked at the state of the bathroom. It was less than what I would consider clean and tidy, smelled awful, and there were signs on the doors asking us to throw toilet paper into the trash cans and not flush it down the toilet. (I later learned that this is the case everywhere in Guatemala, not just in the airport. I had never before realized that flushing toilet paper was a luxury that could be taken for granted!) We were all too glad to get through customs (a surprisingly quick and painless process) and get outside into the fresh air. Feeling a cool breeze on our faces was absolutely amazing. Outside we met up with Dave and Debbie Amsler, who would be our missionary hosts for the next 8 days and the rest of our team of about 60 people from 3 different states. We loaded ourselves and all our baggage onto 3 buses and then set out. Driving through Guatemala City for the first time in my life was very interesting. And by interesting, I mean frightening and absolutely insane. I thought California drivers were bad, but they’ve got nothing on Guatemalans! We would quickly learn that we put our lives in the drivers’ hands every time we got on those buses!

We headed straight to a Pizza Hut where we ate dinner, heard speeches from our hosts, had some time to meet and greet one another, and got instructions about the week ahead. From there it was a short drive to the hotel. Wow, what an impressive place that was! I honestly felt guilty getting to stay in such a nice hotel, knowing the level of poverty of the people we where there to help.

We got checked in and settled into our rooms, then rested for the remainder of the evening. We were all exhausted from a very long day of travel, and were more than ready to get some rest so we could get to work the next morning. I was very excited to see what God was going to do!

To read about Day 2, click here.

Counting Down!

In two days I will be leaving for Guatemala for a short-term mission trip. This has been in the works for so long that it seems almost impossible that I will actually be there in two days! In addition to making lists and packing, I’m also taking some time to reflect on why this trip means so much me, what I’ve learned from the process so far, and what I hope to gain from the trip.

It all began a couple of years ago, really. At that time I felt very… well, spiritually useless. I have always tried to share the love of Christ with others and to treat my life like a mission field, for it is the mission field God has called me to, yet I still felt as though I was stagnating. There are so few people around me to whom I can witness, as it seems that everyone is either already saved or has heard the gospel and chosen not to believe. Nonetheless, I strive to be a servant to others. Somehow, though, I felt like I was missing a calling. That I was supposed to be doing more. I prayed and cried and begged God to show me where I was meant to be. I remember having conversations with my husband where I told him I wished we could sell our home and he could quit his job so we could leave this country and become missionaries. Unfortunately he didn’t/doesn’t feel that same calling. And do, for months on end I prayed for answers and God was silent.

planet kidsThen, one Sunday in October of 2015, some missionaries our church sponsor came to share with the congregation. Their names are Dave and Debbie Amsler, and they run an outreach program called Planet Kids in Guatemala City. Their story was amazing, and their love of children was truly inspiring. One story that I recall from Mr. Amsler’s sermon that day was about the poverty of the families they work with. It seems that there is a Burger King just down the road from the Planet Kids building. One day they were discussing future meals for the children (the Amslers provive a meal to these children once a week – and for some of them it’s the only decent meal they get). One child expressed a desire to try Burger King as he had never had it before. Another child interjected that the idea was ludicrous because Burger King is only for “rich people” and not for the likes of them. Some visiting missionaries who there at the time were so touched by the story that they all pitched in and provided burgers and fries for all the children (several hundred, as I understand it) the very next week. The children were all SO excited to be enjoying “rich people” food! This literally brought me to tears. Something so simple as a quick run to get some fast food – something I am very guilty of taking for granted – is something these most of these kids had never before experienced, and likely may never experience again. At the end of his sermon, Mr. Amsler asked the congregation to prayerfully consider visiting them in Guatemala to help with their efforts there. In that moment I felt like God had lit a giant neon sign to grab my attention. This was where I was meant to be! This was the answer to many, many months of prayers!

I attended our church’s Guatemala informational meeting in December, and in January I began raising the funds needed to cover the trip. I had several generous donations, but I was still a long way from reaching my $1,800 goal. I had the idea to have a bake sale, which then turned into two bake sales: one at my husband’s work and one held in my neighborhood. I baked for about 20 hours over the course of two days to prepare enough goodies to sell. I hoped they would, but all I could do was pray that God would provide. Boy, did he ever come through! I couldn’t believe how many people bought my baked goodies! Many people donated above and beyond the asking price, and still others simply donated without even buying anything. My husband’s coworkers bought absolutely every last item I sent to work with him! The neighborhood sale the next day turned out even better, and dozens upon dozens of my wonderful neighbors showed up to buy treats, donate, and speak sweet words of encouragement. I made several hundred dollars from the sales, and then my in-laws matched the donation. I couldn’t believe that in two days I had raised the all of remaining funds needed, and the very next Sunday my trip was paid in full. I still marvel at the generosity of everyone around me!

Since January our team has spend many hours preparing for the trip, learning about Guatemala culture, and praying for the Amslers and the children and families we will be working with. In addition to outreach in the local public schools of Guatemala (the schools there allow missionaries to come and share with the children) where we’ll get to share the gospel and love on the kiddos, we will also be providing free medical services to local families who would otherwise have no access to such services. The clinic will be run by a doctor and PA, in addition to a nurse, myself (I’m a trained CMA) and countless volunteers. There will also be an optometrist providing free glasses and eye exams! We, all of us, are so excited to get to know these precious people and use our talents to serve them however we can.

I will be sharing the story of my trip in upcoming blog posts, but in the meantime I ask you to please pray with me for Planet Kids ministry, the Amslers, the kids and families they work with, as well as safe travel for our team.


Until I post again, God bless you all!



What is the Church REALLY For?

The other day, as I was cleaning, I was thinking about the church. Not my church, specifically, but THE church as a whole. What is its function? Why was is created? If Jesus himself set about creating it, then surely it must have been brought about to have a huge impact on the world. The more I thought about it, the more clearly I heard God speaking to me on the matter. You see, so many churches these days seem to have gotten it all wrong. They focus on growing numbers, ear-tickling sermons, or being exclusive and catering to their elite members; but are those the reasons the church was created? All these thoughts swirling around in my head led me to take some time to closely study God’s word on the matter. Two primary passages stood out to me as I studied, and those are Matthew 28: 18-20 and Acts 2:40-47. While I will reference a number of passages, I will be focusing a great deal on those two passages throughout this post as I believe that together they highlight what a healthy church should look like and what it’s priorities should be.

So, without further ado…

The 4 Primary Functions of the Church

  1. Outreach and Evangelism. I truly believe this one is the most overlooked, and it really ought to be the most important one! I read innumerable articles on the subject of the purpose of the church, yet this one was either not talked about or was way, deep down in the list of priorities. I see a real problem there. If we look to Jesus as the standard by which we should live our lives as we are commanded to, then it becomes pretty clear that spreading the gospel should be of the utmost importance to us. Based on my study of scripture, I cannot think of anything more important to Jesus than bringing others to the knowledge of his Father. Jesus says this in Matthew 28:18-20:
    “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
    Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

    It’s called The Great Commission for a reason! Jesus was tortured and deprived and then hung on the cross and left there to die for the sole purpose of assuring me a place in heaven; I don’t know about you, but I WANT to tell others! It shouldn’t even need to be a command because our hearts should be bursting with gratitude and the desire to sing his praises it to the world!

  2. Baptism. Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20 can be broken into three parts. As I already covered above, part one tells us to make disciples. In part two, Jesus specifically tells us to baptize new believers. Why is this? I believe that the importance of baptism is in its symbolism. It’s not only an outward display to the world of an inward change in our hearts, but it’s also a physical representation of a spiritual event. Romans 6:3-4 says the following:

    Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

    Water baptism represents the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ – all of which were done for our salvation. We go into the water as our old, sinful selves. Sin is death; likewise, going into the water represents Jesus’ taking all of the world’s sins upon his shoulders and dying for them. The immersion in water represents Jesus’ burial, as well as our burial of our old selves. Coming out of the water represents Jesus’ resurrection. We come out of the water as new beings, free of the bondage of sin and washed clean by the shedding of Jesus’ blood. When we are baptized, we are saying to the world that we have accepted that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and that we are fully embracing his freely-given gift of salvation.

    To further stress the importance and significance of baptism, check out Acts 2:41-41:And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

    After hearing Peter’s words, the crowd accepted salvation and were immediately baptized!

  3. Building-Up of Believers. The last part of the Matthew 28:18-20 command is to teach believers. If you continue reading the account of Peter’s sermon in Acts chapter 2, the same pattern is followed: make disciples, baptize, teach.
    And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,
     praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42,46-47)

    After we have led people to the knowledge of Christ, we need to equip them and continue to edify them so that they are able to go out into the world and make more disciples. We accomplish this edification by teaching, rebuking, encouraging, and through fellowship and worship together. We were not designed to grow in faith alone, but in unity. Together we learn (1 Peter 2:2), hold one another accountable (Romans 15:14), encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 5:11), worship together (Colossians 3:6), partake of communion (Luke 22:19-20), and discover our place within the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). The most important thing we do in fellowship is to love one another (1 John 3:11).

  4. Serving Others. Jesus himself was the ultimate example of servitude. In following Christ’s example, the church is meant to serve others. Individuals make up the church as a whole, and each individual has special talents God uses to help others and to further his plan (1 Corinthians 12). Every single person’s unique spiritual gifts are necessary to God’s plan, and a big part of God’s plan is to serve one another (Galatians 5:13). Looking once again at the model church outlined in Acts 2, we see that meeting needs was something they all valued and prioritized:

    Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. (Acts 2:45-46)

    We may sometimes find it easy to help out our fellow believers who are in need (Galatians 6:10), but it can be easy to forget that our duty to help others does not end there. The church is called to be his hands and feet whenever there is a need that can be met, not just under special circumstances (Matthew 25:44-46).


NT Church

Ask yourself, what are the priorities of my church? Does my church focus on all of these things, or only a select few? Are they striving to follow Jesus’ command in Matthew 28:18-20, or do they only exist to grow the numbers and financially prosper? Do they focus only on providing for the believers within the church, or do they also prioritize serving the community? Does my church have the mindset of bringing the unsaved to the gospel, or bringing the gospel to the unsaved? Is my church modeling itself after the examples set by Jesus and the early church, or after modern crowd-pleasing trends?


Can Christians Suffer From Depression?

I have seen many opinions on this subject recently. According to some people, “good” Christians do not suffer from depression or anxiety. If you have a mental health problem you’re simply not trusting in God enough, not praying enough, or your relationship with the Lord isn’t strong enough.

I would like to squash that ridiculous myth once and for all.

First, let’s all recognize that there’s no such thing as “enough” when it comes to humans. We’re all sinful, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God, and we all need salvation in equal measure. Living in a fallen world, we have to accept that sometimes bad things happen. It’s the nature of a fallen world to have illness, and depression is just that – an illness. Medical research has proven that a depressed person’s brain functions differently from that of a normal person. It is a real, measurable condition. Praying more, reading one’s Bible more, and attempting to increase one’s closeness with the Lord isn’t going to cure true depression anymore than it cures cancer.

Let me pause right here to say that, YES, there are times when God intervenes and full healing is granted through a miracle. However, this is not always the case, and it’s not for us to question why a person is or is not healed of an illness. That decision lies solely with the Lord and His sovereignty and omnipotence.  A lack of healing does not indicate a faith that is inadequate, nor should it be a reason to discredit one’s suffering.

Quite frankly, I find it appalling that any Christian would bash the amount of faith a fellow believer has for a disease that the person has no control over. Instead of finding reasons to vilify those brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer from mental illness, we should find ways to reach out to those who are struggling. There are commands throughout the Bible urging us to help those who are sick or struggling. In 1 Peter 3:6, we are instructed to have humble compassion for others. Galatians 6:10 reminds us to always do good to others, especially fellow believers. Romans 12:9-13 gives clear guidance:

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.

Next time you come across someone suffering from depression, show them compassion and grace. Be patient and forgiving. Remind yourself that what they are struggling with is not imaginary. Meet them in their dark place and bring light into it instead of denigrating them for what is beyond their control. Pray for them. When in doubt, as cliché as it sounds, ask yourself what Jesus would do if He were in your shoes, and then be Jesus to them.



Thoughts on Being Unequally Yoked and Fellowshipping With Darkness

For most of my Christian life I have assumed that the command in 2 Corinthians 6:14, telling Christians not to be unequally yoked, referred only to dating and marriage. It was not until very recently that my eyes have been opened to the reality that this command goes beyond romantic relationships to include all relationships of an intimate nature. Here is the 2 Corinthians 6 passage in full context:

O Corinthians! We have spoken openly to you, our heart is wide open. You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted by your own affections. Now in return for the same (I speak as to children), you also be open. Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” Therefore; “Come out from among the and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:11-18, NKJV)

Taken at face value, this certainly sounds like a prohibition on any and all interactions with those who are unsaved, but obviously that cannot be the case. How could we fulfill the Great Commission if we eschew all relations with nonbelievers? This is where historical context is key, so I did some in-depth research on the subject.

The church in Corinth was started by Paul himself, therefore it is natural that he had a particular affection and concern for the Corinthians. At the time of the writing of the letters in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Corinth was a thriving trade city, rife with idolatry and sexual immorality. Unfortunately, much of these pagan ways were sneaking their way into the church and influencing how the Christians in Corinth worshipped God, as well as how they conducted their lives. In 2 Corinthians, Paul praises the church in Corinth for heeding his warnings in his earlier letters and repenting of their follies. He had heard some concerning reports, however, and wrote the letters contained in 2 Corinthians (most historians believe 2 Corinthians is a collection of more than one letter) for the purpose of addressing these worrisome things he had heard. One of the concerns he had was the intimate mingling of Christians with non-Christians. The Greek word used for the phrase “unequally yoked together” is heterozugeo, and appears just this once in the Bible. It’s actually a compound agricultural word that translates to: “to yoke up differently; to associate discordantly; unequally yoke together.” It paints a clear picture of yoking together two different animals, such as an ox with a donkey, for the purpose of plowing a field or pulling a wagon. This practice fundamentally does not work, and results in work that is poorly done or unable to be completed at all. Paul’s concern in this passage is that the Corinthian Christians were having all sorts of “yoked” relationships with pagans, from marriages to close business partnerships to intimate friendships. The problem with such relationships is the potential for the relationship to compromise the integrity and ministry of the believer. As we have all heard, it’s easier to drag someone down than it is to pull someone up. Also, when Christians have close relations with people whose values do not match the Bible, the natural response is often to turn a blind eye to the sin or to water down Biblical truth in order to keep from offending the nonbeliever. This is in direct disobedience to the command that we are to have no fellowship with darkness, but rather to seek it out and expose it (Ephesians 5:11). The commentary in my 1599 Geneva Bible offers the following insight:

“Now he [Paul] rebuked them boldly, for that they became fellows with infidels in outward idolatry, as though it were a thing indifferent.”

The real question here is what constitutes unequal yoking. It’s not spelled out in black and white terms, and whenever there’s grey area you will find divided opinions. I think we all can safely agree that our relationships are something we should routinely examine. This is not to say that we should have nothing to do with nonbelievers, but that we should tread carefully and utilize discernment. The first and foremost purpose of our friendships with nonbelievers should be to bring them to salvation. When the degree of closeness of our relationship with a nonbeliever begins to compromise our Christian walk or our outward ministry to the world, it’s time to step back and pray about it. I’ll close with the commentary of 2 Corinthians 6:14 found in my Archaeological Study Bible, as I believe it accurately sums up how the Holy Spirit has convicted me regarding friendships with nonbelievers:

“Paul pleaded with the Corinthians not to be ‘yoked together’ with unbelievers. He was referring to any kind of association that might significantly form an individual’s identity. Determining whether someone is ‘yoked together’ with another is a judgement call. The answer depends on the degree, significance, purpose and level of self-identification involved in one person’s relationship with another.” (Emphasis mine.)

Truths About Truth

Truth. Man, that’s a powerful word, isn’t it? Well, it should be powerful; however, we live in a world where truth has become so watered down and completely relative, that the word has really lost all its meaning. The part that has been plaguing me is that this desensitization to the truth has even trickled down into Christianity. When we have a question, should we not first look to the Bible and take it to prayer? Sadly, few Christians do that anymore. The first thing we do is consult our friends or do a quick Google search to find our answers, and as long as what we get meshes with our preconceived notions then we continue merrily along our way never realizing that we are often living a lie. The Bible, God’s instruction guide to mankind, should be lighting our path and not words from fellow men. When did this happen? When did we stop allowing the Holy Spirit and His Word to guide our decisions?

The other problem as I see it is that society as a whole has had too drastic an influence on our faith. All the world cares about is the here and now. Everyone wants what feels good and what doesn’t push anyone too far outside of his or her comfort zone. This has sadly become a popular theme in the church as well. When Christians are occasionally faced with biblical truth that defies what we have always been taught was acceptable by the world, our human defenses immediately go up and we close our ears. When backed into a corner of truth, we would rather get angry, become emotionally illogical, or flat out ignore God’s word than entertain even for a moment that perhaps we are in the wrong.

I’ve been prayerfully begging God for some time now that He would change my heart into His heart. It is my desire that He would do away with my erroneous instincts and human limitations. That prayer has resulted in some pretty huge changes in my life that have caused many others to assume that I have pretty much lost my mind. Well, I sure hope that’s the case, because that is precisely what I have been praying for! If losing my mind means gaining God’s, then you know what? I am all in!

The Bible tells us that we are not of this world (John 17:14-17), and that while we must for a time dwell in the world, we should not be guilty of becoming like the world. Christians, the time has come for us to set aside our presuppositions, traditions and worldliness, and look solely to the Bible as the guide for our lives. If you are faced with a truth that ruffles your feathers, I urge you to prayerfully consider that perhaps the Holy Spirit is convicting you about something you need to change. After all, confrontation of error or sin is rarely ever an enjoyable experience, but it is necessary for personal and spiritual growth. Look back in your life and ask yourself when you have grown the most: through times of comfort and ease, or through difficult and unpleasant circumstances? And when it was over and you were forever changed, did you ever regret what you went through?

In closing, there are four things I exhort you to remember:

1. We cannot allow our feelings or emotions to guide our choices. Feelings are exceedingly changeable and far too susceptible to whims and moods. The truth can never be changeable. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered. (Proverbs 28:26); There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. (Proverbs 14:12); The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9).

2. If we are participating in so-called Christian activities that are embraced by the saved and unsaved alike, perhaps we should take a step back and ask ourselves if these activities are truly of the Lord, or if we have fallen victim to the Great Deceiver. Remember that Satan rarely comes in the form of blatant evil; rather, he stealthily slips into our lives and takes on the form of things that make us feel warm and happy. Such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:13-14)

3. Lastly, and most importantly, let the Holy Spirit and God’s infallible Word be our guide, not the traditions of the world. It’s very likely that if you are doing the will of the Father, the unsaved world is not going to like you for it. There is even a chance that fellow “Christians” may mock and condemn you. Jesus himself faced persecution for speaking and living the truth and tells us that the same will be true for us. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:18-19)

4. When we ask God to make truth known to us, wisdom most certainly will be given. It may not be easy to face, but God will give us joy when we embrace the truth. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5) Let us not forget that even Eve was deceived by Satan (Genesis 3:13), and she lived daily in the presence of the Lord! The devil is very, very good at his job, and he will deceive many, both inside and outside of the church. The great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:9)