The Family

The Family
Justice, Logan, Jacy Klaire, Joy, Josie Kate, Luke, Megan, Judah, Kerry, Jaxon

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Haiti is Still Haiti

A Humbling Gift

Many of you that have been to Haiti have met Pastor Remy. He lives in the distant mountains and pastors a small church there. He is the father of 7 children and lives in the two room house that I stayed in with Tracy Robinson, Tracy White, and Mark Ikerd the one trip we managed to make that far into the mountains. He fell and broke his shoulder recently and at about the same time their donkey died. They have a 3 hour trip to get water and without the donkey it was very tough for them. So we were able to buy them a new horse to replace the donkey. He wanted to come down and thank us and bring us a gift.

When they arrived they very formally told us they had a gift to give Joy and I as a thank you from their family. They first took out of their bag a large papaya. Next she pulled out a beat up canister with ground coffee in it. Finally she opened a container that she had carried the four hours to meet us and began to pull out eggs that her chickens had laid. She gave us 10 eggs. I came up with the excuse that I would go and get a box. I actually had to go because I could not help but cry. To think that these humble people would bring us their best. They wanted to bless us so badly. I immediately was reminded how selfish and proud I am. God used this encounter to remind me what true love and humility looks like. Thank you pastor Remy. I know you will never read this because you lives miles from electricity and have never used a computer. But Thank you for being used to humble me and remind me why we left all the entanglements of the life of prosperity to come here to be loved by people that give us eggs.  
(Originally Posted Tuesday, February 2, 2010)

Update:  When cholera hit Haiti in 2010 it was a compounding difficulty on top of the devastating earthquake in January.  Just months after Pastor Remy and his wife came to deliver us this gift she succumbed to the disease. She was out working in the field in the morning and started feeling sick.  Before she could get down the mountain she died.  She left pastor Remy with 7 children to care for alone on top of that desolate mountain.

I was praying for the pastors in Haiti this morning as Pastor Remy came to mind.  I called to check on him through pastor Cesar and found out his father is deathly ill.  What a tough life to live.  Pastor Cesar reminded in his tone of wisdom "Haiti is still Haiti".  Pastor Remy is also the pastor of a small church that has a small school.  The school had to close 2 years ago due to lack of support.  The kids that can afford to pay now travel down the mountain to a school in a distant village each day.  We need to help him restart the school. So many needs. "Haiti is still Haiti."



Thursday, September 25, 2014

WHO ARE YOU?

Do you really know the answer to the question "Who are you?" Do you REALLY know the answer?

I think we all have a little bit of confusion at times in our lives and it can have a huge impact on where we go in life.

This is a picture of Jacy Klaire in her Lee County Middle School cheer uniform after a competition.  Do you have a better grip on your identity than when you were a middle schooler?

What if we put emphasis on the different words?  If we say:

"WHO are you?"-  As opposed to WHAT are you.  'What' is much easier to define.
  "I am a teacher"
  "I am a mother"
  "I am a runner"
  "I am a husband"
  "I am a coach"
  "I am a middle child"
  "I am a ..."

But you are not defined by WHAT you are- You are defined by WHO you are.

"Who ARE you?" - As opposed to who WERE you or who WILL you be.
  "I was all-state in three sports"
  "I was valedictorian of my class"
  "I was beautiful"
  "I was such a sinful person"
  "I was a drug addict"

  "I will be better once I finish school"
  "I will quit soon"
  "I will be retired"
  "I will be alone"

Our past helps to mold who we become but it does NOT define us.  The hope of our future motivates us to be the best we can be, but it can't dictate who we are in the present.

"Who are YOU?" - As opposed to who you appear to be.
Facebook and social media are great tools to connect with people that are not in your everyday circle of encounters.  Distant relatives, past friends, and others we like to communicate with can seem closer.  But, it can also be a huge confusing element in our true identity.

Most people are NOT who they seem to be on Facebook.  People put on Facebook what they want people AND themselves to believe that they are.  We see how other people are on their pages and we want to be like that.  If we can't actually be like that, at least we can look we are.

The greatest influence in my spiritual life other than my father has been Pastor Ruffin Snow.  Pastor Ruffin taught me more about life and about myself than anyone else in my life.  He teaches that pride is wanting people to see us as ANYTHING other than what we really are.  Humility is allowing EVERYONE to see us as we truly are.

Facebook and social media make it hard for us to stick to that standard of humility.  I don't mean you should "air your dirty laundry" on social media.  That is not being transparent and humble.  I mean you should recognize Facebook and Twitter etc. for what it really is.  A place of communication and "social"-izing.  Hence the name "social" media.

Don't base your identity on who you are and who you want people to believe you are on Facebook.  Don't modify your identity based on how many "likes" you get from a post.  Base your identity on what the ONE WHO MADE YOU says you are.  God made you.  God made YOU to be YOU for a reason.  God has a perfect plan for the REAL YOU in His Kingdom to make an impact.  His plan is not for the Facebook you, or the High School Year Book you, or the Sunday morning you, or the water cooler you, or the past you, or the future you.  God says "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."- Jeremiah 29:11.

Don't miss that plan because you don't know you.  Take time to find the YOU that God has the plan for.  Study His word.  Talk to Him about it.  Make it enough of a priority that it has an impact on your life.  Your kids need that you.  Your spouse needs that you.  Your friends- fake Facebook friends and real life friends- need that you.  And if you don't start living in that you- YOU will miss the very purposes for which YOU were made.


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Get Engaged

Jaxon, Josie Kate, Judah, Justice, Jacy Klaire, Paige with Logan
There are words that get tossed around ministry circles at times that represent a ministry intention or purpose and then the phrase often becomes cliche'.  I hope "engaged" doesn't become cliche'.
I like it.
I like using it.
I have come up with several ministerial scenarios where it fits well and makes me feel "relevant" (one of the aforementioned cliche'd phrases) to say it. But most of all, I think it appropriately describes the proper interaction I want to foster in the relationships in my life.


I want to be engaged.
I want to be involved...but more than involved.
I want to be committed...but more than committed.
I want to be passionate...but more than passionate.
I can be involved, committed, and even passionate about ministry, or relationships, or church, or family but still just cruise.  I can be all of those things but still allow myself to be distanced and non-impacting.

But if I am "engaged", then I am all of those things.  I am involved in fostering the engagement.  I am committed to the relationship to the point that I want to see it blossom.  I am passionate enough about it to make it a priority in my life daily.  Engaged.  If I was a tattoo guy, I would definitely get Engaged tattooed somewhere cool.

If we engage the people around us with the intention of expressing to them the love that we have for them because of the love of Jesus flowing from us, then we will have the opportunity to impact that person's life.  

As a preacher, I want other people engaged too.  I want them engaged when I preach.  You can tell when people are engaged versus when people are enduring.  Often times I preach to enduring crowds.  They are willing to endure me as long as I don't engage them too long. But when the congregation engages...man it all changes.  You can tell when they are internalizing what you say.  You can see emotions and deeper than "what's for lunch" thoughts plowing into their minds.  They are exploring the possibility that what I am saying might actually be true, and then seeing the enduring ramifications of that truth.  I love engaged people!

Engaged people change.  
Engaged people put forth the energy and diligence to cause change in the conditions around them.  Engaged people don't quit.  
Engaged people fight for what's worth fighting for.  
Engaged people recklessly pursue the goal set before them of being like Christ.

Disengaged people don't.  
Disengaged people don't have impact.  
Disengaged people are content with mediocrity.  
Disengaged people just cruise. 
Disengaged cruisers drink the Kool-Aid of the propagandists in our culture and surrender their right and opportunity to fulfill the destiny for which God created them.  

Engage.  Engage the relationships you are in.  Engage the people you are around.  Engage the circumstances in which you find yourself.  And in the end you will see that you have engaged the essence of what it means to be Christian.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Evil is Evil

In light of 9/11 tomorrow and our President's speech tonight, I can't help but think of how diverse our nation is and how it fills its role in the world.  In my worldview, God established the United States of America as the first nation in history to be founded as a Christian nation from the start.  A nation whose initial purpose was to be a light to the world and a major player in the historical role of evangelizing the nations.

So what is the big deal about that?  Evil.  Plain and simple.  There are evil forces in the world that work to oppose ALL things established by God.  His initial creation, His chosen people, His church, and even America and other nations since our founding that have been instrumental in furthering God's plans.  

In comes ISIS.  Just the next player in the role of opposition to all things Jehovah.  Based in the demonic religion of Islam.  Does that offend you?  It shouldn't if you understand that Muhammad was so engulfed in demonic activity as he devised the religion of worshiping Allah.  Satan is the father of all lies according to the apostle Paul.  Any religious force that is based in lies and opposes Jehovah and Jesus Christ is powered by evil.  Jesus said if you are not for me, you are against me.  The prince of the world is Satan and he directly opposes the things of God.

That's the problem.  Our leaders and the progressives of the world don't ever like to admit that evil exists.  Evil exists only if God exists and has influence in the world.  If we can take Sec. Kerry's stance that all these groups just get misunderstood and peace is possible if we can just come to terms, we don't have to acknowledge evil and thereby God.  No God, no judge.  No judge, no absolute truth.  No absolute truth, I can do what's right in my own eyes.  

Don't be afraid to stand up and call evil- evil.  It's not unloving or narrow minded.  It's not ignorant or radical right wing fanaticism.  It's right.  Let's do what's right.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Hate, Hope, and Home


Riots in MO, open borders, amnesty, beheadings, ISIS or ISIL - what's up with 2 names-, Golf outings, Hamas, Gaza, "bless you", and ebola.  Anybody else ever feel like things are a little out of control?    
   
Throw in personal tragedies, terminal illnesses, strained relationships, financial hardships, workplace pressures, and gnats...and it's almost too much to handle!  
   
That makes you wonder what really pushed Robin Williams over the edge. Money, fame, comedy, success and yet he chose the most painful way out for his family and friends.    
   
Good thing there's Jesus.  He has never crossed a border and yet keeps no one out.  He never grants amnesty yet forgives all who ask.  He hates terrorism but understands Holy war.  He loves all people but declares none come to God but through him.  He never leaves his leadership post- even for a golf game.  He has rightly battled Palestinians for over 4000 years.  He is the healer.  
   
Whenever those personal trials abound, He says - Rejoice!  Take joy!  This trial can help you know me more.  This pain leads to perfection.  This sadness leads to sanctification.  He says "I don't like it either but I am with you all the way!"  
   
Don't despair or get too caught up in the world and it's problems.  The end of The Book says its just going to get worse anyway.  Stand firm for what's right.  Fight only for what's important.  And most of all, be the ONE person in the lives around you that everyone in your circle knows will never leave them or forsake them.  Be the person that keeps others from crossing that line.  Be Jesus and a source of hope and it will ALL be worth it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Dog Fights and Socialist Schools

In America, Christian schools are a ministry or outreach of the church. We all raise our kids KNOWING they are going to school somewhere. Most of us have choices. We don't worry about whether they will get to go this year. We don't have to decide which two get to go and which two stay at home. We don't work half the year to try to save enough money to be able to send just one of them. We don't consider the impossible choice of putting one of our children in an orphanage or worse yet send one to a distant city to essentially work as a slave so we will have resources to at least educate one. We don't usually place all our families' future and hope on the possibility that one educated child might somehow change it all.
In Haiti, mission schools are the backbone of many churches. The schools themselves are a tangible sign of God's remembrance of the mountain people. The school gives the church members hope in Jesus. It makes their faith alive in a difficult world. It is not simply one of many options for school. It is not simply a source of knowledge. Over the last 50 years the illiteracy rate has dropped from 98% to under 50%. 80% of all kids educated during that time went to mission schools. The generation that are now parents were the first generation to truly see education become a possibility. For the ones educated, they want nothing less for their kids. For the ones that just never quite got to go, they dream of all their kids actually getting to go to at least sixth grade.

That integral connection of school and faith has been instrumental in the strides Christianity has made in Haiti. The education system has been far from stellar. The quality of the education has often times been poor. In spite of this, the impact the Christian education system has had is tangible. That may all be changing.
The government, under the weight of external powers, is pushing to do away with mission schools and implement public education as the dominant model. On the surface that seems great. Free education for all. How perfect is that! Just what we always wanted! Well, not exactly. Free doesn't mean free after all. What about the mandatory uniforms, shoes, books, and even socks that are required? Many still can't afford that. But let's dream for a moment that it was truly going to be completely free. Education totally ran by the Haitian government. Take it from someone who has spent WAY too much time in Haitian government offices, there is not a lot they have done well. Yet we say what a great idea to let them be responsible for developing ALL our children. Does that make sense?

If I were a secular socialist, I would be fighting and clawing to get this done. It has worked in the U.S. Show me one area of influence the church surrendered to society that has done more to foster secularism than public schools. I am not simply arguing for Christian school. My kids go to public school at the moment. I am just making the point that if missions give up on mission education in Haiti, one generation from now social secularism mixed with voodoo influence will dominate the mindset of the public school product and fifty years of fighting for a culture influenced by a Christian worldview will be lost.

Those of you thinking, "I ain't got a dog in that fight..." might need to consider expanding your view of God's Kingdom beyond your borders. The hearts of kids are at stake. Consider supporting a ministry that educates kids in Haiti. I just left Baptist Haiti Mission and they have over 68,000 kids they support in school. Due to these new forces, that may have to change if people don't step up to help. It would't take much for you to "have a dog in the fight" and make a difference...it's up to you.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Too Many Racist Slaves

There are way too many Racist Slaves in the church.

I don’t care if you are Democrat or Republican.  Conservative or Liberal.  Rich or poor.  Baptist or Catholic.  The term “Racist Christians” should be an oxymoron.  How could a Christian that bases their entire belief system on receiving unconditional love from a forgiving Savior be a bigot towards someone else for ANY reason? 

I know some of my “white friends” will be embarrassed by me taking such a stance and calling out bigotry and preferential treatment.  Don’t get me wrong, those of you that know me, know I don’t give a hoot about “political correctness” and “social sensitivity”.  I do care about truth and freedom.  And too many of us are not living in freedom in this area of our lives.

Let me start by saying that I believe that race relations in our county have worsened more in the last six years than in any other 6 year period.  We had been on an overall improving state for a couple of decades with only occasional backslidings.  Under Holder and Obama, race has been more of an issue of division than it has been in 30 years.  Now I have all my black friends mad too.  But it’s not about politics.  It’s about reality.  Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton and the New Black Panthers make their living and feed their power hungry appetites by creating racist tensions.  The problem is, their actions cause us Christian white folks to justify our own bigoted and racist attitudes without having to view it the way God does.  Black Christians feel they are justified in being bigoted towards whites because a “pastor” says it is okay.  Even in our churches we are not forced to confront our sinful attitudes because we are surrounded by people that feel the same way.  We use the sin of others- racism towards us- as a justification for our sin- so we keep ourselves in chains of bondage.  We become the slaves! 

Jesus replied, "Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. “ John 8:34

I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR WHETHER BLACKS OR HISPANICS OR OTHERS ARE RACISTS TOWARDS ME.  I AM RESPONSIBLE FOR EVEN A LITTLE BIT OF PREJUDICE TOWARDS OTHERS IN MY HEART.

As Christians we are commanded by Jesus himself to “love others”.  If He had said “love others like yourself” then there would not be a problem.  But He didn’t.  He said we are to love all people unconditionally.  We SAY we do that- but we don’t DO that.

We see that 72% of black homes have no father.  Instead of that breaking our heart and driving us to change that in our community, we allow it to justify our position that “they” bring it on themselves.  “They” are just using the system.  The family is broken in America and minority families are the most affected.  IT DOES NOT MATTER WHY! The very fact that we say “they” instead of “us” signifies there is a problem! 
 I hear people all the time complaining that “black fathers are not taking responsibility.  Black pastors not preaching against sexual sin.  The government is awarding broken families.  The government system is designed to do that so the Democratic party stays in power.  Republicans don’t support minorities…”  Forget all of that!  Do we love them?  Do we love those kids?  Do we love those single moms?  Do we love those men caught up in sexual sin?  Do we love the ones living in poverty due to poor choices, or poor systems, or poor government, or poor CHURCHES? 

If we TRULY love them, we would be there making a difference instead of building up walls of prejudice and bigotry.  We don’t need to help them so we feel better about ourselves.  We don’t need to help them so we look good to our country club neighbors.  We need to help them because we are going to stand before a RACELESS God one day and He’s gonna ask us why we didn’t take care of His children.  You gonna tell God it was the government’s fault?  “I didn’t want to be an enabler, God.”

Good luck with that. 

I say all of this because I had my heart ripped apart.  I was raised in the deep south.  I had good parents but unfortunately, white or black, in south Georgia we were raised to be bigots.  Some lived above that, but not many. It was and still is a way of life for many.

 Then I held my baby girl one day.  I looked into those deep brown eyes.  I stroked the black skin of her soft cheek as she smiled up at me and God broke my heart.  He brought to mind the words I used to say.  He pierced my conscience with the way I talked about people her color in years gone by.  The jokes I laughed at.   The criticisms I agreed with.  Filth.  Hatred.  Bigotry.  Godlessness. 

It broke my heart to think my daughter from Haiti would have to live surrounded by people like me.  She would be judged by her color even before a word was spoken.  She would suffer pain at some point in her life by hearing words of hatred from people like me.  I didn’t want her to be around white people who were bigots or black people that are racists.  I want her surrounded by Christians.  People who just love her because she is a child of the King.  I want her to hear she is beautiful from white, black, brown, or red people.  It’s not about the world we live in.  It’s about the church of Jesus Christ standing for what’s right and loving for the sake of Love.  How can I demand that for my daughter but not care about all the communities where I have friends that lead churches that don’t reach out to their underprivileged communities.

It’s time for the church to stand up to racism of every flavor and say it’s enough!  It’s time we decided “that as for me and MY house” we are going to love.  We are going to raise raceless children to serve a raceless God as we build His Kingdom.  He is worth it.  Let’s not be slaves to prejudice, racism, bigotry, hatred, preference, profiling any longer.  Let’s repent and ask God to change US so we can love according to who we are in Him.  We are ONE race as Christians, picked, chosen, adopted by God to be HIS OWN POSSESSION!  Let’s live that way!


“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” 1 Peter 2:9