Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good is Not Good Enough

Jacmel Haiti


Our calling is not primarily to be holy men and women, but to be proclaimers of the gospel of God. ... Reality is not human goodness, or holiness, or heaven, or hell— it is redemption. The need to perceive this is the most vital need of the Christian worker today. As workers, we have to get used to the revelation that redemption is the only reality. Personal holiness is an effect of redemption, not the cause of it. If we place our faith in human goodness we will go under when testing comes. CHAMBERS

There is a reality that we are not aware of until we become Christians.  Some people have taken that to an extreme where they deny that the natural life even exists .. It does but there is a greater reality … an eternal one that supersedes this one.  That is why Paul talked about the insignificance of the affairs of this world .. even his own life .. because of his understanding of the greater reality … How we live our lives … what we consider important would be radically changed if we could ever grasp the truth of the greater reality.  To understand it is one thing … to believe it and walk in it is something else again.  Someone once said, ‘The only part of the Gospel that you believe is the part you obey.’  What would your life look like if you walked in the reality of your new life .. understanding that your citizenship is in heaven … this world is not your home …

One thing that you can do while you are in Haiti is to buy trinkets – souvenirs to take back with you … but the Word says to abandon your affection for the things of this world … each time I see those cute little ‘whatevers’ I am reminded of that.  We don’t have a wall of our own to hang a picture, we have a storage space full of things we don’t use … we are living in the new reality … well, most of the time …

Christian workers fail because they place their desire for their own holiness above their desire to know God. “Don’t ask me to be confronted with the strong reality of redemption on behalf of the filth of human life surrounding me today; what I want is anything God can do for me to make me more desirable in my own eyes.” God cannot deliver me while my interest is merely in my own character. Paul was not conscious of himself. He was recklessly abandoned, totally surrendered, and separated by God for one purpose— to proclaim the gospel of God.  CHAMBERS

In other words, I don’t become more holy so I can know God .. I know God more and then I will become holy … It is His presence that makes me aware of my sinfulness … ‘Woe is me, I am a man undone!’   I am able to stand in His presence  because of what Jesus has done .. not because of my personal holiness …  The curtain has been torn down … I now have free access to the Father through the Son, living by the Spirit … Amen.

(John 14:27)

Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.

27M'ap ban nou kè poze. M'ap fè kè nou poze nan jan pa mwen. Mwen p'ap fè li pou nou jan sa fèt dapre prensip ki nan lemonn. Pa kite anyen toumante tèt nou, nou pa bezwen pè. (Creole)

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)


Sunday, January 29, 2012

Trying Harder For God


God has to destroy our determined confidence in our own convictions. We say, “I know that this is what I should do”-and suddenly the voice of God speaks in a way that overwhelms us by revealing the depths of our ignorance. We show our ignorance of Him in the very way we decide to serve Him. We serve Jesus in a spirit that is not His, and hurt Him by our defense of Him. We push His claims in the spirit of the devil; our words sound all right, but the spirit is that of an enemy. “He . . . rebuked them, and said, ’You do not know what manner of spirit you are of’ ” (Luke 9:55). The spirit of our Lord in His followers is described in 1 Corinthians 13 . Have I been persecuting Jesus by an eager determination to serve Him in my own way?  CHAMBERS

It seems sometimes that you can’t win.  I mean you make a decision to follow God … to serve Him and then … then you read something like this … Isn’t it enough that I want to DO ‘godly’ things?  The thing is, this life is not about determination … trying harder .. it’s about surrendering my will … not exercising it in another … more ‘spiritual way’ 

 Oswald Chambers words sound a bit harsh sometimes .. but so do the words of Jesus … that is because they pierce our hearts in places that we have not yielded to the Lord.

My way will not be to foster a meek and quiet spirit, only the spirit of self-satisfaction. We presume that whatever is unpleasant is our duty! Is that anything like the spirit of our Lord— “I delight to do Your will, O my God . . .” (Psalm 40:8).  CHAMBERS

The challenges we face here in Haiti can seem so insurmountable if we are not careful we will lose hope .. maybe even try to solve the problems in our own strength and ‘say’ that it is God .. but God does not fail … He cannot lose … Proverbs 3:5-6

 Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)


By His Grace and For His Glory

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Song of the Sirens


‘A warning which needs to be repeated is that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches,” and the lust for other things, will choke out the life of God in us (Matthew 13:22). We are never free from the recurring waves of this invasion. If the frontline of attack is not about clothes and food, it may be about money or the lack of money; or friends or lack of friends; or the line may be drawn over difficult circumstances. It is one steady invasion, and these things will come in like a flood, unless we allow the Spirit of God to raise up the banner against it. “I say to you, do not worry about your life . . . .” Our Lord says to be careful only about one thing-our relationship to Him. But our common sense shouts loudly and says, “That is absurd, I must consider how I am going to live, and I must consider what I am going to eat and drink.” Jesus says you must not. Beware of allowing yourself to think that He says this while not understanding your circumstances. Jesus Christ knows our circumstances better than we do, and He says we must not think about these things to the point where they become the primary concern of our life. Whenever there are competing concerns in your life, be sure you always put your relationship to God first.’ CHAMBERS

If you find yourself far from God, it is most likely for this reason …. It is subtle … It is reasonable … it makes sense … virtually everyone is doing the same thing … The things of the world are like the ‘Sirens’  (In Greek mythology, the Sirens were dangerous creatures, portrayed as seductresses who lured nearby sailors with their enchanting music and voices to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island.) The call is nearly irresistible … it speaks to your ‘natural’ desires …

(James 1:14-17)

 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

(1 John 2:15-17)

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world--the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life--is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

The classic commercial is “It’s my money and I want it now!”  Our flesh is demanding .. like the Sirens, it calls us to take great risks that most often lead to more trouble, not less … Get a title loan that you will never be able to pay back … Whatever the temptation, we must resist ..

In the Odyssey, the Sirens sing a song so irresistible that none can hear it and escape. Circe warned Odysseus of the danger and told him how to avoid it.   So Odysseus lashed himself to the mast of the ship and the crew plugged their ears. 

We must do the same by lashing ourselves to the Cross ..

Our Daily Bread

 (Psalms 18:30-36)
As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the LORD is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him. For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God? It is God who arms me with strength, And makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, And sets me on my high places. He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip.

“Rock of ages, cleft for me,

 Let me hide myself in Thee;

 Let the water and the blood,

 From Thy wounded side which flowed,

 Be of sin the double cure,

 Save from wrath and make me pure.

Think of your struggles. Do you need a place to hide? Do you need Someone to shelter you from life’s assaults? Do you need the assurance that you’ve been forgiven? As (the write of the song “Rock of Ages”)  experienced, we can find shelter and assurance in God.  Don’t stand out in life’s storms alone. Seek God’s shelter. Ask Him to protect you. Make sure you have received His forgiveness. Get close to the Rock of Ages. It’s life’s safest spot.” ODB

I often find that these two devotions – My Utmost for His Highest and Our Daily Bread – contain a thread of spiritual truth between them on any particular day.  I don’t think it is man’s intention, but God’s design.   

Bondye Beni Ou (God Bless You)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Th Right Kind of Trust


“Every time we lose ground in our fellowship with God, it is because we have disrespectfully thought that we knew better than Jesus Christ. We have allowed “the cares of this world” to enter in (Matthew 13:22), while forgetting the “much more” of our heavenly Father. …. Consecration is the act of continually separating myself from everything except that which God has appointed me to do. It is not a one-time experience but an ongoing process. Am I continually separating myself and looking to God every day of my life?” CHAMBERS

We lose ground in our faith when we allow the cares of the world to dominate our thinking and our doing.   When we decide that we have to do something to protect ourselves … and not trust in God then we begin to edge God out of our lives … before you know it, He is nowhere to be found, or at least that is the way we live.  Keeping in touch with God requires us to keep in touch with God every day.  It is something that we must do … doesn’t mean we will have more money … but money doesn’t make those anxious feelings go away … it doesn’t fix broken relationships … possessions don’t bring comfort to the soul … they don’t speak to the deep insecurities that we don’t want anyone to know about … they don’t relieve the weight that bears on us because of past hurts …. But God does, He is the God of all comfort 2 Corinthians 1 …. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

Psalm 42:5 (NIV)

5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Revelation 22:1-5  (NIV)

1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Power of God


“Beware of anything that competes with your loyalty to Jesus Christ. The greatest competitor of true devotion to Jesus is the service we do for Him. It is easier to serve than to pour out our lives completely for Him. The goal of the call of God is His satisfaction, not simply that we should do something for Him. We are not sent to do battle for God, but to be used by God in His battles. Are we more devoted to service than we are to Jesus Christ Himself?” CHAMBERS

Galatians 2:20  “….and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

The things that we do for God are done by the power of God.  We so often try to live our new life in the power of our flesh .. by our wisdom .. determination … abilities … In the midst of the fiery furnace, the three men were not alone … Daniel 3:25   When Peter and John stood before the religious leaders … they stood with a strength that they did not have before Jesus gave them the Holy Spirit …. Act 1:5,8 “ for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."  ………  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

And that is what happened on the Day of Pentecost … What they could not do before  .. they could now do … not because they decided to, but because they were empowered to.  David was anointed and killed Goliath, not with his own abilities, although God used them, but by faith in God …

So what is the point … to live our lives as Christians, successfully, we must live by the Spirit and walk by faith … not try to be a Christian through our own effort ….

Act 19:13-16  Then some of the itinerant Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."   Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.  And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"  Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

In this case, these men decided to do what Paul did but they did not do it by the same power that Paul did … and they failed miserably … That is what happens to us … we may not get beat up by an evil spirit but we live defeated lives … wondering why faith in God doesn’t seem to make a difference … when all along … we are not depending upon the power of God in our lives but in our own plans and strength …  I would venture to say that the majority of Christians live that way.  But we don’t have to … Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Should I Go Or Should I Stay?


The call of God is not a reflection of my nature; my personal desires and temperament are of no consideration. As long as I dwell on my own qualities and traits and think about what I am suited for, I will never hear the call of God. But when God brings me into the right relationship with Himself, I will be in the same condition Isaiah was. Isaiah was so attuned to God, because of the great crisis he had just endured, that the call of God penetrated his soul. The majority of us cannot hear anything but ourselves. And we cannot hear anything God says. But to be brought to the place where we can hear the call of God is to be profoundly changed.” Chambers

To be called, but more to respond to the call requires us to yield everything to God … When Jesus spoke with people who were interested in following Him … He told them that they had to leave everything behind … What He meant was that to follow means to be completely devoted to God …Matthew 22:37 says we are to love God with our whole being … It is not just an attitude or philosophy of life, but a commitment to the Lord  … He is bigger than family … career … financial condition … physical condition … It means that we will trust in Him and do what He says … In John 21, Jesus asked Peter … ‘Do you love me more than the things of the world? ….. Then show Me’  (paraphrase)  

What we think is uncertainty as to whether it is God’s voice is often our own lack of faith in the One who is calling ….

"Luke 9:59-62"

Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God." And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house." But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

He did not say stop loving your family … He was saying … to follow Him meant that their devotion had to be to Him … someone once said that if Jesus is not Lord of all He is not Lord at all.  Not everyone is called to physically leave their family … but everyone is called to place family and ourselves in the proper order … individually we are to be living sacrifices ..  Romans 12:1.. laying our lives down .. Matthew 16;24 ….. and trusting fully in God …Prov 3:5-6 … relationally … we are to love God first then our Neighbor – others Matthew 22:37-39 … financially … not to love the things of this world … 1 John 2:15 … do not lay up your treasures on earth … Matthew 6:19-20

This is a new way …a difficult path .... when faced with this hcallenge,  many people stopped following Jesus … lost interest … they were not saved … they stopped following because He challenged them to give up what they loved … for something greater … This is Spiritual wisdom which is foolishness to the natural man ….

 "1 Corinthians 2:12-14"

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man's wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

 Listen to the Spirit and live for Jesus ….

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Sharing the Good News

I now send you, to open their eyes . . . that they may receive forgiveness of sins . . . —Acts 26:17-18

That is what going to Haiti is really all about … it is not just building buildings .. but making Jesus known … it is simple … but it can be intimidating … think about it … sharing a message that has an eternal consequence … our role is twofold … tell them about Jesus and show them what a transformed life looks like by the way we live … God works through us by the power of His Spirit and in them by that same power.  Why did God choose to do things this way?  Because He did … "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  Isaiah 55:8-9

For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,  1 Corinthians 1:21-23

We don’t have to be smart .. skilled … eloquent ….. or good looking … just obedient … God is good!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Living for Christ or Living With Christ

My Utmost For His Highest

“Days set apart for quiet can be a trap, detracting from the need to have daily quiet time with God. That is why we must “pitch our tents” where we will always have quiet times with Him, however noisy our times with the world may be.”

We went to church Wednesday night and I noticed that there were not many people there for the study … then I realized two things were missing .. they were not serving supper and they had not started the new set of studies … the only one going was the pastor teaching out of 2 Corinthians.  But it is not Sundays or Wednesdays where my spirit is refreshed and strengthened .. it’s in the early morning … as I read the Word and reflect on it … as I think about the Lord and my life and those around me.  This discipline of sharing my devotions actually helps me be more consistent with my time in the morning … it is too easy to let other things push this time aside …

I saw long time friend at Wal-Mart last night … I have not seen her or her husband for over 10 years … But it made me think about he and I, and our time together in the military … and our close relationship with them that seemed to have faded somehow … but the truth is that it faded because it was neglected … and that is the same with our relationship with the Lord … Devotions don’t happen naturally, they are deliberate … it’s a discipline …

We cannot possibly walk with the Lord if we don’t spend time with Him … everyday …. That is my motivation for posting these thoughts … that as you read them you are mindful of your Father in heaven and your life in Christ …

Our Daily Bread

 Philippians 1:21-28

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

I was talking to someone the other day about the trouble missionaries had in Jacmel, Haiti.  I was explaining that God is sovereign and the living or dying, for the Christian is a Win-Win … I either live for Christ or live with Christ … we are all dying … for some it takes longer than others .. but at the point of death … we all step into eternity .. what we are in eternity we will be for eternity … By the way, did you know that they don’t have Gold’s Gym or Weight Watchers in Heaven …

27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, …… stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation,[b] and that from God.

It matters what you do and what you think … Most Christians don’t live each day mindful of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us .. I think largely because we think of Him as a man … not God … and we think of the cross as the end and not the means … Jesus understood the eternal consequence of Sin and the price that He would pay to redeem us … if we really understood that and appreciated it  .. we would live our lives in a radically different way … pray for understanding ….

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

December 2011 Newsletter
Well, where did that year go?  It seems like we just got started and BOOM, the year was over!  I have a personal theory about that by the way … I’ll keep it short … I think it is a simple matter of perception … I know you are thinking ‘That guy is a genius!’   Or not!  Anyway, when I was, say 15, I had maybe 70 years yet to live, but when I am 70 (I am not yet!) I will have 15 years to live. The more life, on earth, that we have in front of us, the slower time seems to pass; the more life we have behind us, the quicker time seems to pass.

So let’s review the year that just blew by us.

(1) On January 1, 2011 neither Martie nor I had ever been to Haiti.  By January 1, 2012 I made five trips to Haiti (about 5 months total) and Martie had made 2 trips. 

(2) We moved from Clanton, AL to Eclectic, AL in May.
(3) We connected with five ministries in Haiti: New Missions in Leogane, Thirst No More in Petionville, Children’s Hope, Calvary Chapel and Hands and Feet in Jacmel. 

(4) We completed construction on Phase 1 of the Children’s Hope Orphanage in Jacmel – 19 Children have lived there since the first of October. 

(5) We helped with the delivery of supplies to people who were affected by the tornadoes in Alabama.
(6) We helped build 25 sheds for families who lost their homes to the tornadoes. 

(7) We have made two separate trips (March and October) to California to speak to churches and groups about our work in Haiti. 

God has been faithful to meet our needs and has been leading us to new places of faith.  Someone told me the other day that it is important to discern the difference between faith and foolishness.  This had to do with a discussion about a problem in Jacmel in November and December.  Bandits had targeted the homes of North American missionaries in Jacmel.  They were showing up in the middle of the night with weapons (guns) demanding money and other valuables.  Nearly all of the missionaries left Jacmel to wait for the bandits to be arrested which they eventually were, we think.  But the question raised was  Will God lead you to a place that is not safe?”  Now sitting in the stands, watching, we may all nod our heads reverently in the affirmative.  But down on the field … maybe looking down the barrel of a gun … well, that may affect our perspective and opinion on the matter.  The question my friend was raising was “Is going to Jacmel knowing that danger is lurking faith or foolishness?”  My response was that if you know that God has called you to a place, say the land of  Canaan with the giants lurking about, or Jacmel with bandits looking for North Americans, God knows what’s up and is sending you there in spite of the danger, but you will not be alone.  You have Him as your front and rear guard so you go there by faith. BUT if God is not in it and you go because of some sort of false bravado or self-determination, that is foolishness.  Never, and I mean NEVER, try to do a God-thing without God.  Any guesses about how I know that? :o) 

So what is ahead for us in 2012? 

Haiti.  Martie and I are celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary on the 22nd of this month.  She told me she wanted to go to Haiti as her anniversary gift.  (Let me off easy!)  So on the 28th, we are going to Jacmel.  Martie for a month and me for 3 months.  We are starting Phase 2 of the orphanage construction.  God continues to bless us by connecting us with just the right people at the right time to do the work that needs to be done in Jacmel. 

We are building a total of 8 buildings in Phase 2.  They will be concrete block with wooden trusses and metal roofs.  It is going to take some time to get this work completed.  Andy Birchfield, the director of Children’s Hope Ministry, is also looking at launching a Tilapia farming project at some point in the future.  As you may recall, we are providing the construction support for Children’s Hope in Jacmel. Children’s Hope is a ministry out of FBC Montgomery.  FBC Montgomery is the church that asked Martie and me in 2005 to go to Bay Saint Louis, MS and help them establish a volunteer camp there. 

 Jessica will be spending the month Martie is gone in Mendocino, CA with various families that we know there.  I am sure she will have a great time.  Since she is home schooled, she won’t miss a beat with respect to her studies. Something I know she is thrilled about! :o)

In May we will be moving from the house we are living in Eclectic. At this point we are not sure where we will be moving to, but we know that the Lord will provide for us.  Please be in prayer with us in that regard.  For this next year, Martie and Jessica will spend the majority of their time in the U.S., while I will be mostly in Haiti, although Martie will continue to make short trips to Haiti.

 Prayer Requests

As I just mentioned, we need to find another place to call home (beginning in May) while we are in the States.

 Martie’s brother, Tom, passed away Dec. 23rd.  Pray for his immediate family and for Martie in this regard.

We still lack the funds to purchase the block press that we want to use in Jacmel.  The total cost of purchase, shipping and importing the block press from India to Haiti is $8000.  Rather than delay the construction, we intend to start building with conventional blocks and improved construction methods. 

Transportation costs to Haiti are about $1000 per trip per person.  Between Martie and me, we will make 7 to 8 trips in 2012.

Health Insurance costs.

We want to expand our spiritual impact in Jacmel. We’re not completely sure about the scope of that so we asking God for clarity.
Purchasing Haitian Creole Bibles and the Jesus Film in Creole.