The Family

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Physician Heal Yourself

Sunday morning before the message at church I had a young lady come up to me and ask about Luke chapter 4.  Specifically she wanted to know about verses 23-24:
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
She asked what was meant by "physician heal yourself." I explained that the people were having trouble accepting Jesus for the messiah since they knew him already as Joseph the carpenter's son in his home town.  The people wanted him to do miracles like he had done in Capernaum.  They did not feel he was authorized to correct them.  As one commentator put it "deal with your own defects before telling someone else to deal with their defects".  Some say it was a foreshadow of Jesus being called to come down off of the cross.

Sunday night I played Satan in a drama at church and so I had bought some white contact lenses to wear to add to my effect.  As soon as I took the contacts out on Sunday night I knew there was a problem.  My vision was very blurry in my right eye.  All day Monday things kept getting worse so I had a colleague look at it and started medication.

On Monday night, the epithelium of my cornea completely peeled away.  In other words my eye got messed up!  Extreme pain.  I spent the whole night hurting and thinking about all of the worse cases I had ever seen in my 15 years of practicing optometry.  It hurt too badly to sleep at all.All the worse case scenarios were playing out in my late night imagination.  In the middle of the night, this verse came to mind; "Physician heal thyself".  Easier said than done!

Early this morning I got Dr. Berg to check things out and we started some new medications and put in a type of bandage contact lens.  My eye is red, swollen, and ugly.  I have a booked schedule and it is not contagious so I am suffering through seeing patients.  I've tried to keep the lights low so the patients can't see exactly how ugly my eye is.  I can just hear them all thinking "Physician heal thyself" before you come trying to take care of me.

The experience has been good for me though.  I had forgotten how badly those drops burn when your eye is so inflamed.  Patients tell me all the time, but now I have more compassion.  I forget what it is like to spend the night in extreme pain just waiting for morning to get to the office for relief.  Patients come in that way all the time.  But now I can better relate.

It helped me see that verse in a different light too.  Jesus was the physician and he did heal himself. He had just left the desert being tempted by Satan- the real one not the one with the fake white contacts.  He had decided to leave the applause and the approval of Capernaum to take his ministry to the people that needed it instead of enjoying the fame and letting the people come to him.  He had broken away from family and loved ones to fulfill his destiny for the Father's kingdom.

So when I am tempted, He's been there.  When I struggle with decisions about ministry or family or where to go, He's been there.  He's made the tough decisions.  He's sacrificed to experience the Kingdom first hand.  He's been the physician and know's what I need.

I have decided that I would much rather spend my days imitating Jesus than running around acting like satan.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Three Rocks

Twa Men- Three Hands Monument in Port-Au-Prince
For those of you that have been to Haiti, the odds are you have seen the monument of three hands in the circle leaving the airport.  The monument was built during the Aristide regime.  The meaning of the monument depends on who you are talking to.

If you ask a guide that frequently brings in Christian tourists- I mean mission groups- they will tell you that the hands represent the Father, Son, and Holy spirit holding up the world and even Haiti.

If you are talking to an activist Haitian living in PAP they will tell you that it represents two hands from a Haitian and one from government, the other hand of the government is in your pocket.

The average Haitian though will tell you it has three hands because you can't do it alone.  We all need someone else to help us.  The saying in Haiti is "ou paka kwit diri sou de wo'ch"- You can't cook rice on two rocks.  It takes three rocks together to hold up the pot.  That is the way life is viewed in most societies besides ours.

In America, we believe we can do it all on our own.  We are so proud that we do not want to ask others for help or ever admit that we need it.  We base our success and achievements on our abilities and hard work. It's the "I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps" mentality.  Now I am a committed advocate of hard work and independence.  I hate entitlement and hand outs.  I am talking about something more basic yet essential than that.  I am talking about realizing that we were made by God to interconnect and help each other reach our full created potential.  When we arrogantly feel like we don't need others to reach our full potential, then any attempt by us to reach out to others to help them reach their potential will be condescending and superficial.

To be rich, I don't need you.  To be powerful, "I got this".  To achieve the American dream, "I am my own man".  To be successful I can rely on my intelligence, education, heritage, networking skills, communication ability, and inner drive.  To be what society says I should be, I don't need you.

But to reach my created potential as a Kingdom child, I need you.  I need people to speak truth to me in love.  I need people to help me be stronger in my faith.  I need people to keep me accountable as a father and husband.  I need people to encourage me on my down days.  I need people to celebrate my victories with me.  I need people to go into battle with me.  I need people to sit around and talk about nothing sometimes.  I need you.

By recognizing MY need for people, I am equipped to BE that person for others.  That is the key to humility being the basic foundation on which God builds us up.  Let's throw off the pride and self sufficiency that this society tries to encumber us with.  Let's commit to acknowledging our need of others so that we can help others reach their full created potential as Kingdom children.  It really does take three hands- and I only have two.



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Day That Ruined Me

Part of it was finding myself in what appeared to be a war zone.  Smoke, smoldering fires, destroyed buildings, and dead bodies.  The bodies.  Lines of dead, uncovered, mangled bodies.  Nameless.  Lifeless.  Futureless.  

Part of it was the eyes.  I look into people's eyes for a living but I will never forget the look in the eyes of the people in Port Au Prince that morning.  Fear.  Hopelessness.  Confusion.  They had spent the night hoping not to die.  Most had stood huddled in the streets away from any buildings as the aftershocks continued.  For hours they stood.  Eyes wide.  Nerves on end.  Even as we arrived after sunrise to search for friends, the people still stood.  The ones not digging through the rubble or holding dying loved ones stood with eyes that will both haunt me and drive me for the rest of my life. 

Part was the realization that had I remained in the comfort and security of my job, and home, and family, and future, and church, and ministry in the U.S. I would not be the one God would use to help a people heal from the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds of losing over 250,000 lives in 43 seconds.  

Part of it was the word.  As we put up makeshift clinics in the streets- far enough away from any buildings to keep people at ease- we tried to clean wounds, stitch people up, dig out shards of metal and concrete.  We carried the mortally wounded on doors through the streets to clinics.  We comforted the dying and their loved ones.  And in the midst of the desperation and overwhelming chaos I kept telling God I was an optometrist.  I kept reminding God that this was not what I signed up for.  Then I got a word.  Not an audible word.  But a clear word in my spirit.  As I said I am just an optometrist, God said "no you are a Christian.  And THIS is what Christians do." 

I was ruined.  I can never go back.  I can never go back to being ok with what's happening around us while we play church and act like we are doing what Christians do.  I can never go back to being content with chasing the American dream and giving God a token nod as I pursue wealth, comfort, security, and honor.  I am ruined.  I don't necessarily like it.  At times I wish I didn't weep over the condition of the church.  I wish it didn't break my heart knowing that there are enough Christians to care for every orphan in orphanages around the world but we don't.  At times I hate being angry about the prejudice and racism that is allowed to fester in the hearts of friends.  I wish I could just be content.  Good job.  Nice house.  Pickup truck and fishing poles.  Retirement account and people that like me.  

But I can't.  I am ruined.  Ruined to mediocrity and temporal thinking.  All I can see is me standing before God and wanting to have something to give back to him.  Some gold. A little silver.  A few precious stones.  I dread the thought of standing on a pile of wood, hay, and stubble and trying to explain to my Jesus that I went to church every Sunday.  I gave my tithe- of my gross even. I was good.  Better than some anyway.  "It was just so busy Jesus."  Work.  Church.  Ball games.  Civic clubs.  I did the best I could.  Come on Jesus, you know how it is.  

Ruined...






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

Friday, August 22, 2014

Christians Need to Quit Hating

In a country as liberated from the shackles of dark aged religious rhetoric and senseless prohibitions, we Christians need to reconsider our stance and be more inclusive.  Isn't that basically the message to the church today from our society.  All we have to do is to accept the modern version of marriage, a woman's right to choose, and quit being so exclusive of people just because they don't believe the same thing about God as we do and then we will be not be haters.  Those shifts in our positions would allow us to come along side the leaders in our communities and implement "change" and continue the peaceful advancement of moral and cultural unity.

So...let's see what steps we as churches and church leaders could take to reach such noble goals.

The problem we have with "a woman's right to choose" is the whole Ten Commandments "thou shalt not Kill" thing.  We definitely have to get rid of the Ten Commandments all together.  They are far to restrictive and absolute.  Who is God to tell us we can't murder, steal, cheat, lie, and blaspheme?  Step One- Throw out all restrictions of God and especially any references to the Ten Commandments.

The main obstacle to redefining marriage is the Bible.  We are going to have to change how we view the Bible.  Either we can just toss it out all together or we can just agree that it is basically a book of fables with moral recommendations but not absolutes.  We could even work together with those that are wanting to make a more inclusive religious book by taking pieces of all "historical religious writings" and make a book that does not teach right from wrong.  Then we could all be right.  Okay, step two- Throw out our Bible.

To include all people as just as right as us about God, Heaven, Eternity, the after life, and how we should live our lives here, we are going to have to stop talking so much about Jesus.  Jesus after all is the one that taught these things.  We as Christians can't keep teaching what Jesus taught if we are going to live at peace with all other beliefs.  Jesus himself did make the extremely radical and exclusive statement that HE alone was the ONLY way to God the Father and Heaven.  How could we possibly be all inclusive if the very foundation of our belief system is based on the teachings of someone so fanatically exclusive.  So it's settled, necessary step number three- Eliminate all references and teachings referring to Jesus.

Now... let's recap.  All we have to do in order to not be seen as haters and non-inclusive is follow these three simple steps:
  1. Get Rid of the Ten Commandments
  2. Get Rid of the Bible
  3. Get Rid of all teachings of Jesus
One other thing.  In order to not be seen as haters, we have to quit loving so much.  Loving someone so much that you want to see them find their destiny for which they were created and bring glory to God with their life instead of ruining it with sin and self indulgence is gonna have to stop.  We can't love people so much that we are willing to look foolish in order to tell them about salvation and the way to God the Father and Heaven.  That kind of love is standing in the way of unity.  That kind of love is too radical and sets a bad example for the future generation of atheistic secularists.  I know it will be hard, but if we just stop loving God, then we can stop loving his creation.  If we stop serving God, then we can stop serving others.  

So if we totally disregard EVERYTHING we believe, then and only then can we be embraced by society. So let's get to it.  We have lots of unloving to do so we won't be seen as hating.  And since Christian is a reference to Christ which reminds people of Jesus, we need to get us a new name too.  Any ideas?

***note- anyone not familiar with sarcasm and allegory may miss the point here today!



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Bi-vocational Southern Baptist Preacher/Optometrist/Missionary's Thoughts on Church

LONG BLOG POST AHEAD

A few months ago someone asked my opinion on church and the church in America.  BAD idea!  I had plenty of time to think and pray on this issue while in Haiti and this is my boiled down, able to post without being to offensive version of my answer.  As an eye doctor, I must advise frequent breaks for blinking to avoid low blink rate computer reading induced dry eye syndrome.  So grab a cup of coffee and bottle of Systane Balance over the counter tear drops and lets do this!

 “Church”

The church is the Bride of Christ for which He will gloriously return to redeem and carry across the threshold of eternity.  The church was established by Christ with specific intentions.  The church through the centuries has been the most powerful, most abused, and most misunderstood entity in history.  The true church is not a denomination, congregation, hierarchy, or structure.  The true church is composed of those souls who have forsaken themselves and their pursuits in order to follow Christ as forgiven and redeemed.  The purpose of the church is much debated.  The means to achieve the purpose of the church is even more debated.  I will lay out what I believe is a crude and simplified purpose and calling of the church.

The church’s purpose is the same as our individual purpose; to glorify God.  The end-all is God’s glory.  The church gives glory to God only when she is following the calling of God for the church.  The calling of the church can be extracted from scriptures in great depth but a simple breakdown includes three essential characteristics.

1-      Engaging-  The church is to engage the world around them in love.  There is a move today that calls for the church to “engage the culture”.  That movement pushes for the church to be more like the culture in order to engage the culture.  I disagree.  The church does not need to engage the culture, it needs to engage the individuals in the culture.  The church has to be purposefully reaching out in love to meet the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual needs of the world.  The engagement follows the great commission model to include the society in which we live but also all cultures throughout the world as God gives specific opportunities. The main focus of the church is not the members of the church but the members of society that can be impacted by the church.  We are to intentionally and diligently live in such a way personally and corporately that is a clear and accurate portrayal of Christ’s heart towards the world. 
2-      Evangelizing-  The church is to evangelize the culture through GENUINE relationships that are established by engaging our society and the people in our circle of influence.  We don’t evangelize with programs, and we don’t engage in order to evangelize.  We engage because we love and Christ called us to engage and love.  We don’t feed the hungry to make them a Christian, we feed them because they are hungry and WE ARE Christians.  If we learn to engage and love all of God’s children, we will have a longing to meet their needs.  We do not have to drum up false compassion or serve out of guilt.  It becomes our identity and what fulfills us.  As we meet needs, we share Jesus in a deliberate way out of love for the individual and a desire for them to fulfill their destiny of bringing God glory with their lives. 
3-      Assimilating-  After we have relationships and people accept Christ and begin attending church, we have to effectively assimilate them into the church body.  The traditional weekly services are established for this purpose.  The goal of assimilation should be three fold:
                                                              i.      Real Worship: Leading the people to understand that they are made to worship God.  Worship through exalting God with singing is one part, but also teaching worship through giving, worship through serving, and worship through surrendering.
                                                            ii.      Real Prayer:  The church does not pray today.  We have to help people to see the power and necessity of personal and corporate prayer.  That is not most effectively done by having a meeting where everyone shares what is wrong with them and then we make superficial requests to God for our needs.  Genuine prayer is entering into a broken state before God where He has total control to lead the time and speak to us as we learn to submit to Him.  A Christian that does not pray is useless to the Kingdom and will never discover the freedom that comes from intimacy with God.
                                                          iii.      Real Fellowship-  People need relationships.  Christian’s need Christian relationships that are genuine and transparent.  The church’s job is to create an atmosphere where the development of genuinely caring relationships are easily fostered and maintained.  Our lives are designed to flourish in community.  The goal of the church is to bring together individuals that can “do” life together and effectively engage, evangelize, and assimilate others.

The church today is so focused on “Programs” that they have lost the focus of the church.  There are countless ways to accomplish the above goals but the goals have to be clear to everyone and committed to by leadership if the church is going to break the mold of the typical American church of the last 75 years. 

I believe the church today has gone astray from the original intent of Christ and the model set forth by the New Testament church and 2000 years of church history.  In my evaluation, there are three main issues plaguing the modern church.  Of course there are a myriad of problems that are visible in individual congregations or denominations, but on a broader picture I believe there are three root issues that have led the church as a whole in Western society towards ineffectiveness.  They are listed in no relevant order.

1-  An insatiable desire to be entertained- In our society, entertainment is the premier idol.  We are entertained all day and seek it in every area of our lives.  From the ubiquity of television- you can get showers with built in TV’s, to the portability of phones and tablets, we are constantly able to entertain ourselves.  We watch TV while we eat at restaurants, we play video games on our cell phone while we wait in line, we have every sport on the planet we can watch, we worship country music stars and Hollywood celebrities.  As a culture we are overly addicted to being entertained. 

So then we go to church.  What do we expect when we get there?  We want to be entertained.  We want pretty songs by the choir and soloists.  We want eloquent messages by the pastor that in some way entertain us.  Even in churches where the pastor preaches “hell fire and brimstone” it is the same thing.  The people want to hear that and are entertained by the enthusiasm of the preacher. It is just a more traditional form of entertainment. 

So what is the real problem?  Empty lives.  We all have voids in our lives that hurt when we are forced to face them.  Entertainment allows us to escape those encounters with the voidThe void can be a relationship, a past hurt that was not dealt with, a longing, unrealistic expectations, or many other problems.  The issue is the pain that comes from facing the problem.  In a culture where pain and hardship are avoided at all cost, entertainment finds a welcome home.  We can watch Zombies eat each other’s brains and juiced up super jocks outrun each other, and by so doing, our void is filled. 

The bigger issue is that Christ wants to fill that void.  Christ is there to meet those needs, provide the healing, and fulfill the longings.  But as a church we have allowed the desire for entertainment to become the substitute for the real joy that comes from Christ filling the void.  I truly believe that Leonard Ravenhill was right when he said the entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy.

It is argued that due to the overwhelming desire and need to be entertained, that churches must change and conform to meet the culture and provide that or we become irrelevant.  Hence, most churches have concerts to start and polished orator to follow with multimedia and donuts thrown in for good measure.  I totally disagree.  I don’t believe that the joy that comes from an encounter with Christ is surpassed by superb entertainment.  I believe the soul’s desire for Christ’s joy can be appeased and temporarily cajoled by an enjoyable “religious” entertainment.   It’s not that the world is so accustomed to extreme encounters that they are bored by encounters with God.  It is that the extreme encounters we are accustomed to get us close enough to the real thing that we settle instead of pressing on to the real pinnacle of joy which is a true encounter with God that fills the void.  That can only be found in a church that is seeking God and His presence above all else.  The greetings, the music, the preaching, the ministries, and the programs all have to be focused to this end.

2- Us against Them-  Through the cultural forces behind ideas such as “separation of church and state” as we know it today, liberalism vs. conservatism, and the “politically correct” agenda, the church has allowed the culture to dictate our relationship to our society instead of it being based on the Bible.  The church as a whole isolated itself and formed a barrier of identity that is contrary to the foundations of our heritage.  We have become insecure in our true identity as the offensive force of history.  We have settled into a defensive stance of defending ourselves against them.  Our churches have not remained the equipping stations they were for centuries and have become fortified retreats that we occasionally sneak out of to do an outreach so that we can claim a little victory. 

The church was established to be a refuge for THEM.  A place where lost souls can find rest.  A place where the hungry are fed and the naked are clothed.  A place where believers find an easy place to use their gifts to minister to people in need. 

Through this shift, we have allowed ourselves to turn inward in a defensive posture and only focus on caring for our own.  It is definitely true that we need to care for our church members, but if we are creating a place of ministry, the ones with the gifts of service and hospitality, and giving, and teaching will be serving with joy and the needs of our own will be met as a divine by-product but not as the prime product.  We have to turn away from focusing all of our resources on keeping ourselves safe and comfortable and be willing to see those outside as our calling not our enemy.

3-  Acceptance of Debt-  A controversial issue in today’s church but I don’t just argue debt is wrong because the Bible says so.  I believe there are good arguments in that vein but there are other issues as well.  Debt puts dependence on man that should only be on God.

When a church has debt it inevitably becomes a source of contention in nearly every situation.  In churches where they are growing and expanding and running out of room, the congregation and leadership are eager to commit to pledges and commitments to pay off the debt in order to get that expansion done NOW.  After all, we want everything now.  The problem comes once the expansion is done and the excitement of that new building wears off and yet the debt and interest is still there to be paid every month.  The staff and the ministry leaders constantly see that debt as money taking away from the ministries that really need to be done if they are going to meet the demands of the growing congregation that now has room in the new facility.  Much attention is placed on getting the money necessary to pay the bills.  You have to cater to the individuals that are giving so the bills can be paid.  The ones giving feel they have a certain amount of leverage because they are paying for the debt.  It creates a carnal and worldly atmosphere that is tainted by an unholy attention to money and finances.  Instead of relying on God to provide money through giving for ministry and paying of those serving the church full time, we have to rely on givers and man to meet our hard costs or face foreclosure.  It is a weight that hinders church freedom and growth.  It hinders the pastor’s ability to truly help people who aren’t givers to be set free from greed because they only see the sermons on giving as pleas to meet the debt obligations.  Therefore, many in the congregations stay in bondage to debt and greed and selfishness because they have an easy psychological wall they can build up to fend off any conviction.  We cloak the need in spiritual terms of depending on God, and stepping out in Faith but the truth is the whole thing has a secular financial foundation and not one based on Biblical truth and sound spiritual wisdom.

Conclusions:
If the American Church is going to fulfill its destiny and be all that God has planned for her, we must recognize our condition and be willing to make changes.  If not, God’s plan to evangelize the world will take place, but He will use someone else. “Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.” 2 Samuel 11:1

Are we going to be like David and allow someone else to go secure the victory that was designed for us?  We all know what happened next to David.  Do we not see the church in America falling into the same type of sin?  Let’s suit up for battle as pastors and lead our churches out to war instead of hanging out on the palace rooftop tempted by what is not ours to possess!

www.Byne.org - Byne Memorial Baptist Church- Albany Ga

Friday, July 11, 2014

Faith Sometimes Equals Incomprehensible


When I first met Joy's grandmother, Mimi, she was in her mid 90's.  We sat and talked and she told me her life verse was Proverbs 3:5-6.  Many of you know that passage.  The part that gets me is "lean not on your own understanding".  In 95 years, Mimi had learned the meaning of that.  She understood that not understanding is understandingly difficult to understand- but, it is a necessary and integral part of faith.

All too often we want to understand where, why, and how about our situation when we should just settle for what.  God will show us what to do in most situations but the other things require faith.

Going to Haiti as full time missionaries was easier than us coming home.  God graciously made it clear what we were supposed to do.
What = Stay in the U.S. to handle family needs. Not what we wanted but at least we knew it was God's plan.
Where = "I'll show you".
Why = "I'll show you".
How = "I'll show you".

Come on God.  Can't I get just a little more than that?  Why make it so difficult?

We ended up having to live in south Florida... no family... no friends... no ministry partners... no optometry license... no church...no job... no network... no connections...

"God, why not let us move back to NC?  I can do optometry there.  Our home church is there.  All of our family and friends are there.  The people that helped us go to Haiti are there.  Our kids have friends there. God, can't I just "lean on my own understanding" this one time?"

I tried to get a job in a church as missions pastor or something...dead end - Why?
We sent our kids to what we thought was the right choice for Christian school...had to move them - Why?
We had some retirement savings we took out to live on...it ran out- Why?
Joy had no friends there, no support network, no one to talk to about our feelings about leaving Haiti...depression- Why?

How...Do we pay our bills?
          Do we get the kids the help they needed?
          Minister since we are no longer in Haiti?
          Deal with depression?

Where do we go to church, to school, to work, to fellowship, to minister, to heal, to cry, to grow?

God I just don't UNDERSTAND!...
"Good...now I can do what I had planned all along..."- God

Jacy and I spent hours together getting her caught up on school she had missed by being in Haiti- our relationship grew in ways I know will be impacting to her for her entire life...

I eventually took a job as a tech in a doctors office since I could not practice optometry- It humbled me and helped me see things about myself that I had overlooked- I will always be a better doctor now...

All of our kids spent time with just us as a family getting to know America and the cool things it offers without outside influence- we share a special bond because of it...

I learned more about being for Joy what she needs when no one else is there.- I did a pretty crumby job most of the time but it drew us closer together...

I was offered a job in GA that I never would have been offered if we were in NC- It led us to a church with a pastor that let me preach a few times and then when he moved they called me to be the interim- God is moving in the church and we are getting to be a part of it...

Joy is ministering to a community of believers in a way that she never has before.- She is going to Haiti next week to visit with a healed heart...

There are still lots of things about our circumstances that I don't understand...How long will we be in GA?....How long will we be in the US?... What does our ministry future hold?...How will our kids continue to progress?...Will I ever figure out how to be what Joy needs?...

But I have learned that the first of that verse in Proverbs 3:5 says "Trust in the Lord" and that is becoming a sweeter and sweeter ride as I learn to do it!  Help me "lean not on my own understanding"!



Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Loving Gnatville

Charleston, Savannah, Wilmington, possibly even Myrtle Beach or St. Simons Island.  That was our shortlist of places we would move to where I had a license to practice optometry and we could find what God had in store for us as we transitioned out of Haiti and back to the U.S. for as long as God has planned.  Somewhere near the coast with schools to meet our special needs and optometry jobs enough to provide for our family as we found where we could serve ministry wise.

Southwest GA- aka Gnatville- was not on our list of choices.  If you are unfamiliar with gnats, they are the third plague God sent on Egypt and their descendants found their way to SW Georgia.  You know if God used them as a plague AFTER turning a river to blood and a frog infestation, they can't be enjoyable.  They are little bitty demonic flies that get in your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and anywhere else by the hundreds from June until God sends cold enough weather to mercifully murder them all in the fall.  When we received the call about a clinic wanting me to come and talk to them about a job in Albany, GA I told Joy there was NO WAY!

Sound familiar?
"Do you think they will let us adopt this little foster baby?"....No Way
"Can you take this child with issues and raise him as your own?"...No Way
"Can you become full time missionaries and get rid of your every possession to live in Haiti?" ...No Way
"Can you take a one day old baby addicted to cocaine right before you move to Haiti?"... No Way
"You have to raise them somewhere they can get the help they need or they will never be able to function in a normal classroom."  ...No Way

You would think I would learn my lesson and never say No Way.  But, not yet so here we are...in Gnatville.
It is great.  We have our kids in a great school system and they are doing better than we would have ever imagined.  Jacy is completely caught up and excelling.  Josie is doing great as is Judah, Jaxon, and little Justice.  Luke is still at Hillsong Austrailia school of Ministry and will probably finish there in December.  Logan and Megan are in NC and doing well.

For a long time I could not figure out why we had to move to here though.  I did not feel it was just for work. It turns out I was right.  God has opened a door for me to get to preach each Sunday in a church while they search for their new pastor.  It is a huge blessing for me and Joy as we get to minister to a congregation with our family.  If you get really bored you can listen to a sermon or if you just want to see me in a bowtie and boots click here: Byne Memorial Baptist, Albany, GA.

We have learned so much from circumstances in the months that have passed.  From the fear of an autism diagnosis.  From the frustration of a learning disorder.  From letting Luke go to pursue the ministry.  From the joy of an unexpected pregnancy to the pain of losing the baby.  From unemployment and disappointment in searching for a position, to the joy of getting to use our gifts in a church.  The thing we have been reminded of is the theme of one of our favorite songs to sing loudly around the house..."MY God's not dead, He's surely alive and He's living on the inside roaring like a lion"...Praise God for restoration!




Dago Visits America






It has taken years of applying but Dago finally got a visitation visa to come to the U.S. I picked him up at the airport in Atlanta on Saturday as he flew in by himself. It has been a bit overwhelming as you can imagine, but it is great. He preached at our church Sunday night and we have a few other opportunities for him to share. We are going to Birmingham, AL for a men's conference this weekend and then to Florida to meet with some of the young men he has discipled through the years that now are in FL.

Dago helped in clinics for me and Dr. Dennis for years but I did an exam on him yesterday and found he has an aggressive form of Glaucoma that was previously undetected.  Pray for him that we can get him the medicine that he will need to control it or a surgery in the future.

Having Dago here has really helped Joy and I too.  Things have really changed in New Vision Ministries.  Dr. Dennis and Dr. Tom both came to New Vision with the plan to work with me and Joy and support us in what we were doing.  When we felt God was keeping us from going back it changed everything. Dennis and Tom were thrown into positions they had not prepared for.  I spent the year dealing with my own sense of failure and didn't know exactly how I was supposed to be a part of the ministry.  Going back on trips would have made it hard for the other missionaries to be seen as the ones making the decisions instead of me.

Now all that has changed.  Dr. Tom and Dr. Dennis have both moved on to other areas of ministry and New Vision does not have a full time missionary on the ground in Haiti.  We do still have work being done there though.  The kids from the orphanage have been taken in by Stephen and Autumn Byxbe at Agape House, http://togetherwecaninc.org/twc-haiti-the-agape-house/ .  They worked with us before we left and are taking care of the 15 kids from Celebration Children's Home.  Dago is the director of the orphanage.


We also continue to support pastor Cesar and the other pastors we have worked with in the past and their schools.  There is still much work to be done in that area of finishing pastor Lucien's church and helping pastor Remy rebuild on the top of the mountain.

Many of you have continued to take trips. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!  Some have already connected with the Byxbe's and others have continued to work with pastor Cesar.  That is awesome!  Thank you for picking up the slack and continuing the work during our down time.  Tracy Robinson, NVM board member from NC, is headed down next week to work with Pastor Cesar and just visit to see what can be done.


Now that there are no NVM missionaries there, I plan to resume taking trips as well.  I have a group from the church where I am preaching that wants to go in the fall to see what needs there are and how we can help.  I know others have trips planned as well.

Julie, Sandy, Pastor Jonathan, Dr. Thomas, Brad, Stan, Pastor Bill, and others are still integrally plugged in and working to reach the Haitian people.  Dago, Pastor Cesar, Simeon, Wesner, Carrenard, Roger, and others are still in Haiti ready to continue working as we support them.  Stephen and Autumn are diligently striving to provide for the kids in the orphanage on a daily basis.  

Current opportunities:  
Monthly help for Agape House expenses
Resume support for Pastor Cesar's Pastors and churches
Teacher support for the schools
Support for Dago and his family as he serves as a local missionary to his people
Donations to pay for Dago's travel expenses on this trip

There are so many ways for us to impact the people.  If you want to give just let me know or send a check to:
New Vision Ministries
PO Box 2009
Hickory, NC 28603
If you want to be on a team to go let me know and we will let you know what is planned.  

Thank you for your patience during these huge changes as God directs.  The board of New Vision has been working diligently with all the changes to try to know God's will even when I was sulking on the sidelines.  Thank you guys for never giving up.  

Thanks for your support,
Kerry and Joy Reeves

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