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Thursday, October 30, 2008
When Joy and I accepted the call to full time missions, I thought that we were making 'quite a sacrifice' and that because of that, we would be really pleasing to God. I thought that since I considered the house we had just moved into 'better' than the house we moved out of, that giving up this house to go to the mission field would be a more pleasing sacrifice to God than the house we had sold a year earlier. After all, this house had land and a pool and more bedrooms and we liked it more. So because of that, if we agreed to give it up, God would some how be even more blessed by the whole deal.
Boy was I wrong. Three times in the last couple of months God has brought I Samual 15 into my life. In that passage we learn that God does not want sacrifice. That sacrifice is not what pleases God. It turns out that I easily found 12 other passages that clearly state the same thing. That sacrifices are not what please God. I do not know how I missed it before. It all started even with Cain and Able. Why did Abel please God and not Cain? It was not the sacrifice of Abel that pleased God it was the OBEDIENCE. Abel had done what God had commanded and Cain had not.
In the passage in 1 Samuel God says that sacrifices do not please him. Obedience pleases him. The size of the sacrifice is a measurement for us to see our level of committment but it is not a leveraging tool to please God. God is only pleased by obedience.
God told us to go to Haiti and serve the Haitian people and we would be pleasing to Him. We will be pleasing because of obedience. Not because of the acts or ministry we perform. We will be pleasing because we will be obedient. If we go to Haiti and do everything in the world to help people and even preach the good news and see souls saved, we will still not be pleasing to God if we do not serve the people as servants because that is what God called us to do. He is pleased by obedience.
What is it in your life today that God has told you to do that will please Him. It does not matter how many good things you are doing, if you are not doing what God told you to do, you are not pleasing Him.
We don't like that. We want to call the shots and do what we want to for God and Him accept it and be pleased with us. So many Christians spend their entire lives burning themselves out in ministry that is UN-pleasing to God because it is not what God told them to do! Don't fall for it. Don't get caught in the cycle. Seek God. Pursue after Him and allow Him to tell you what it is that YOU can do to be pleasing to Him. He wants to show you. You just have to let him.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
I had the honor of visiting Haiti for the 5th time in the past 2 ½ years last week. My decision to go on this particular trip was based on my discussions with Kerry about the condition of the country following the recent devastation, caused by four hurricanes in three weeks. Immediately, God spoke to me with these words, “If your biological brother’s house was destroyed by floods, how long would it take you to go help him? It should be no different when it is your spiritual brother.” Having formed real relationships with the Haitian people over the past few years, I have no doubt that they would rush to my aid if they could.
The main point of going is not feeding starving people. It is much more about bringing hope. The food we delivered will only meet physical needs for a couple weeks. However, the message that Jesus loves you so much that He is choosing people to come to your rescue, to meet your needs, and to answer your prayers, has an eternal effect on the people. Haiti is a place of hopelessness. It is a place where people truly believe that their condition cannot improve because things have always been this way, they seem to be getting worse, and no one seems to care. The simple fact that Americans would leave the greatest country on earth to travel to the least country on earth (which has recently gotten worse) blows the mind of the average Haitian. They want to know why we would do such a thing. So, we tell them. It’s not about us at all. Left to my own, I would much rather lay on the couch and watch football. But when I consider the grace of Jesus Christ that has been freely offered to me in spite of my sin and pride, how can I not get out of my comfort zone and share that grace with others? It is not even a choice. It is simple obedience to Christ’s command.
I cannot pinpoint one event from this trip to highlight. Instead, the week was another fresh reminder of how blessed we are in America, and how much we take our blessings for granted. I am convinced that it is almost impossible for the average American to love the Lord with all his heart because all the other things that we love so much get in the way. How much grief do we go through when our 401k loses money, or when our car stops running, or when the cable TV is out for a day, or if the A/C doesn’t work right, or the water faucet leaks? My frustration over these things is an indicator of my lack of complete reliance on my God. My typical attitude is usually, “I totally trust Jesus as long as my income level is stable, nothing needs to be fixed, and no one is sick.” We live in a money and comfort saturated society, and whether we admit it or not, money controls us.
But for a Haitian, life is completely opposite. The day begins with a search for water. Virtually no one has a well or city water supply. Around 5:00 am, you begin to see Haitian men and women walking with buckets on their heads to find the nearest water supply. Usually, this water comes from a contaminated creek or stream where clothes-washing, bathing, and animal-watering take place upstream. There is no way to sterilize this water, and therefore sickness abounds. Afterward, most people begin to make their way to the streets or markets to sell something. It may be fruit, bread, shoes, old tires, charcoal, contaminated goat meat, or whatever else they may have that could potentially produce some income. They use this meager amount of money to buy food for the family for the day, which typically amounts to one meal of rice and beans. Those who own land may use the rest of the day to cultivate the soil by hand. Then evening comes, and they start over again.
This endless routine of utter survival allows Satan to “steal, kill, and destroy”, eventually causing the people to just give up. I am so excited that Jesus has allowed me to be His hands and feet in Saint-Marc these few years, and has used me to partner with Kerry, Joy, and many others to share the truth that Jesus can bring abundant life even to the darkest corner of the earth. The more we go to Haiti, the more I see hope in the eyes of the pastors and teachers whom we encounter. They are beginning to actually believe that God is interested in providing their needs, and that there may really be hope for their children in Haiti. Most of all, the fact that Kerry and Joy are moving to Haiti brings assurance that we are in this for the long haul.
What they do not totally realize is that they are more of a blessing to us than we could ever be to them. I have learned the majority of what I know about joy, kindness, patience, worship, and faith in the past 2 ½ years. Americans really do not understand what it means to have faith. When I open the cabinet and discover that I have no food, I don’t pray about it. I simply leave my nice house, ride in my nice car, and go to the store to buy food. If a Haitian runs out of food, he typically has no option but to trust that God will sustain him for another day somehow, and then he waits to see the method which God will use, while patiently comforting his hungry family. Scripture tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen. In other words, it is absolute assurance that He will take care of all my needs when I cannot see any possible way out. I must admit that I struggle to open my clenched fist and to give God control.
The opposite of faith is stress. Which do you feel more of these days?