Faith That Climbs Mountains: Haiti Days 4 & 5

On Wednesday, we got to the orphanage early because the kids at school have chapel first thing. As we got there, the kids were all lined up outside. They sang a song together that they had sung in church. After that, they sang the National Anthem of Haiti as they raised the flag over the school. They then prayed and went into the main room for chapel. Each class walked in one by one in an orderly fashion in their bright red shirts and blue bottoms.

 

 

Once inside, we sang several songs and prayed. One of our students had volunteered to teach chapel that morning. He told them the story of a father who had a son (me) and a daughter (my wife) (This created many jokes from the Haitians all day!). The father gave each of them a mango seed. One of us threw it away and were mad because all they got was a seed. The other was great fun and buried the seed. They watered it and cared for the tree as it grew. When it was old, the tree produced more mangos that people from all over could enjoy.

  

He then shared how what God gives each of us may not seem like a lot. What matters is what we do with what God gives us. Many people throw away the little things God gives them because they seem insignificant. But if we are willing to plant it, cultivate it and feed it, God can use it to plant seeds in the lives of so many others. He pointed out that each person who took a mango from the tree not only walked away with food, they walked away with a seed they could plant. The replication of the growing process is endless as long as we use the seed for its intended purpose. 

After chapel service, the kids went back to class and we went back to work. We were able to finish all of the projects we were assigned to do. The pirate ship was now painted with weatherproof paint and the ground behind the school was level. We gathered out front, cleaned up our messes and the kids came out for recess. We played with them, loved on them and many were coved up by them. They love to pile on top of people. It seems the more they can get on you the better. 

  

After lunch, we held a service for the orphans. Our students reenacted the story of David and Goliath. It helped that we had a boy who was fairly short and one who was 6’9″. The kids watched in amazement as he fell. They were told that they can defeat the things in their lives that they’re afraid of. We then sang, “My God is so big, so strong and so mighty. There’s nothing that He cannot do for you!” After singing. We handed each kid a paper and crayons. We asked them to draw the thing they were most afraid of. After they showed others what they were afraid of, they ripped the paper and declared that with God, they don’t have to be afraid. 

  

On Thursday morning, several of us got up early to climb the mountain across from our guest house. For me, it’s always a spiritual journey. As we go up, there are Haitians crying out to God, praying and signing. It’s a very reverent thing for me to walk by as they pour out their hearts to Him. I often pray for them as I walk past. The path is very steep and rocky. There are many times people on the team want to give up. I tell them to quit looking at the summit and find a place about a hundred yards away. I ask, “Can you make it to there? Then let’s go there and rest again.” We inch up the mountain at times, but in the end, when you reach the summit, the view is all worth it. You almost forget how difficult it was to get there.

  

In our Christian lives, it’s very much the same. The path is narrow and often rocky. There are plenty of opportunities to give up. If we are willing to walk along side of each other, we can help motivate and encourage each other through those times. God did not intend for us to stay in the valley. He wants us to climb to the top of the mountain like Moses did and spend time with Him. When we finally get to Heaven, I don’t think we will complain about the climb. We will rejoice that we made it and celebrate together.  

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Faith That Works: Haiti Days 2 and 3

Our second and third days in Haiti were filled with work. We split the team up to get some maintenance things done around the property of the orphanage. We took a group of guys and went behind the main building to do dirt work. At the back of the property, there was a hill of dirt that sloped down into the cafeteria building. We spent three days with pick axes and shovels breaking up that hill and shoveling it into wheel barrows. We would take the wheel barrow of dirt and dump it closer to the building to level out the ground.

The sun was hot and we often tried to find shade from its heat. As it got higher in the sky, shade was increasingly more difficult to find. We drank plenty of water, but we kept at it. We were able to make it level where once it was not. I kept thinking of the scripture in Matthew 21:21 where Jesus said we could speak to the mountain and move it if we had faith. I was then reminded of James 2:17 that says, “Faith, if it does not have works (deeds and actions of obedience to back it up), by itself is destitute of power (inoperative or dead).”

  

Often we try to speak to the mountains in our lives asking them to move without ever picking up a shovel. We want God to do all the work while we simply “believe”. One of the things I shared with the team on these days is that God always requires a proactive action on our part before He moves. We must seek if we are to find. We must knock if the door will be opened. We must ask if it is to be given. We must draw near to God if He is to draw near to us. I have yet to find a place in scripture where we don’t have to be proactive before God moves. We can’t wait for God to do something. We have to step out in faith first.

On these trips over here, I remind the team that they are coming to put sweat equity in the Kingdom. We come to work and to serve. It’s hot and dirty, but God honors us and the work we do when we do it with a cheerful heart. Our second team was painting a pirate ship that was built for the playground. The first day of work on it was tedious. They had screw drivers and were digging rocks out from in between the boards before they could paint  it reminded me that God is in the nitty gritty details. We look for Him in the big picture, but we find Him in the small things.

  

On Tuesday afternoon, we were able to do a Bible lesson for the kids. After the lesson we took them on a nature walk / scavenger hunt outside the walls of the orphanage. As they walked down a dusty road, several of us were spread out along it. When they came to us, we acted out different emotions and the kids determined whether the actions were pleasing to God or not. After they found the last person, we continued walking to a dried up creek bed. There were mango trees all along its banks. The kids picked up rocks and threw them at the tree to knock down the mangos. 

We walked further down towards some other mango trees that didn’t require rocks. We picked mangos from the branches we could reach and gave them to the kids. Some mangos were ripe and others had more time left. The kids would bite through the skin and peel it back to get to the sweet pulp. We sat under the trees and laughed with the kids as they enjoyed them. It was an incredible afternoon that gave us a refreshing from our hard labor. The team was reenergized and and ready to work more the next day for these kids.

  

On Wednesday afternoon, we took a beach trip to jump off a cliff into the ocean. It was a long journey across the beach, over boulders, up rocky cliffs and over crevices. When we got there, we took a rest and began jumping in. Standing on the edge of the cliff looking down brought fear to many. It was a long way down to the water, but everyone who went up there faced their fears and jumped in. Fear paralyzes us and tries to prevent us from doing things. So many Christians stand at the edge of a cliff and never take the leap of faith. They’re scared to do anything for God, so they spend their lives in that place. 

God has asked us to live by faith and not sight because sight brings fear. It tells us the journey is too long, too hard and too far. It asks all kinds of questions that prevent us from taking those leaps of faith. If you’re in that moment of standing on the cliff with God calling you to jump, don’t stand there and think of everything that could go wrong. Step out in faith, trust God and jump. It will be the ride of your life. When you put action to your faith, it brings great power. 

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Showing His Love: Haiti Day 1

 

 On our first full day in Haiti on this trip, we started off going to a church service with the orphans and the local community. As they sang songs of worship, it was incredible to watch young children raise their hands and sing. During times of prayer, many children would get down on their knees and face the benches they were sitting on. It was moving to see so many of them engaged in the service knowing that very few of them had probably ever been to church before coming to the orphanage. 

After church, the kids changed clothes and we got to play with them. One of the incredible experiences of coming on a journey like this is that you get chosen by the kids. They run through the crowd of the team looking up at each face and determine who their “blanc” is. For the rest of the trip, the children who chose you will find you each time you’re there and climb in your lap, hold your hands and love you. Watching it happen reminds me of how God seeks us out like the one lamb who got away. Once He finds us, He holds us and gives us unconditional, undeserved love.

As we were playing, a bell started ringing from the cafeteria and the kids immediately ran to go eat lunch. While they were eating, we took a walk into Maya to visit with some of the locals. On every other trip, they have come to us, but this time, we went to them. On our first stop, we encountered a man who was proud to show us his two bedroom home made of rock and mortar. It had a tin roof, dirt floors and no electricity. His face beamed as he showed us his handiwork. He then walked us over to a 3′ by 3′ house looking structure. He proudly proclaimed that is son built it. You could see from wall to wall how much his son improved each time. This father had now passed down the ability for his son to survive. 

After visiting a few more houses, we returned to the orphanage. We played with the kids some more and then went to the covered porch during the heat of the day. Several kids layer down on our team members to rest. As I looked on, I thought of how my own son loves to lay up against me or my wife. Doing so provides them with a sense of security and love. These orphans don’t have parents to give them that. It was a blessing to watch our time provide those emotional necessities to these children.

After playing some more, we then returned to our guest house in the city of Gonaives. The team cleaned up, ate dinner and then met for our own service. We shared stories of things that we had seen that touched our lives and how we saw Jesus in those things. We were reminded that Jesus shows up every day in our lives all around us. We will see Him if we take the time to look. We also have the opportunity to be His hands and feet to others if we will be available when the opportunity arises. 

God’s desire is to use each one of us daily to show His love to someone. There are hurting people that sit next to us, walk by us on the street and post on our social media feeds. It’s up to us as believers to reach out to them and show them the love of Christ. If you don’t, who will? Jesus said in John 13:35, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples. (NLT)” How will you show love today to prove to the world that you are His disciple? 

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Fully Submitted

I once had the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation with a man who counsels kings, queens, presidents and corporate CEO’s. He said, “I want to start off our conversation with a question. ‘If you woke up tomorrow morning with $10 Million in your bank account, how would that change your life?'” That amount of money would certainly change most of our lives. You can’t come into that much money and not live differently than before. It’s the same when we give our lives to Jesus. You can’t invite him into your life and not be changed.

The message of John the Baptist, Jesus, Peter and Paul was “Repent.” It wasn’t, “Say a prayer and you’re a Christian.” The word repent in its original form means “A change of mind.” God asks us to change our mind from how we were living to a new way of thinking that in turns changes how we live. You can’t change your behavior unless you change your mind. The call to repentance was and is about changing how you live.

Jesus put it another way. He said, “If any man wants to follow me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” I love how the Amplified version takes Luke 9:23 and really explains what Jesus said there. It puts it, “If any person wills to come after me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow me [cleave steadfastly to me, conform wholly to my example in living and, if need be, in dying also].” When Jesus said repent and follow Him, He wasn’t asking you to say a prayer. He was asking you to give up yourself and how you want to live.

There’s a missionary in Haiti I’ve met several times. He moved there over twenty years ago and never went back to his home country. He is involved in pastor get a church, orphan care, running a school, feeding the helpless, running a bakery and water purification shop, helping deaf girls learn sign language and so many other things. When asked why he does so much and how could he never go back home, he responded with, “My life is not my own. When I said, ‘Yes’ to Jesus, I gave up my life.” Those words should challenge us in how we live.

He understands what it means to follow Jesus by taking up his cross and denying himself. You may not be called to leave your home country and live in a third world country the rest of your life, but you have been called to change how and why you live. The call to repentance is a call to change your reason for living. It’s a call to give up what you want for what God wants. Philippians 2:5-6 says we need to have the mind of Christ who gave up what He wanted for what the Father wanted. He was and is our example of daily taking up our cross. He showed us how to submit to what God wants.

If you think back to the $10 Million question earlier, just like you can’t come into that kind of money and not be changed, you can’t have a real encounter with Jesus and not be changed. When you say, “Yes” to Jesus, your whole life and way of thinking should change. I liked that question he asked, but I think the question you and I should think about today is, “If you woke up tomorrow morning and had fully surrendered your life to Jesus, how would your life change?” Think about it and then surrender your will to His. You’ll find there’s no better life to live than one that is fully submitted to Him. 

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Be Like A Timex (Video)

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again.  (‭Proverbs‬ ‭24‬:‭16‬ NLT)

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10 Scriptures On Favor

 

1.   Find a good spouse, you find a good life— and even more: the favor of GOD! (Proverbs 18:22 MSG)

2.   For His anger is but for a moment, but His favor is for a lifetime or in His favor is life. Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. (Psalm 30:5 AMP)

3.   Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation. (Proverbs 3:3-4 NLT)

4.   The grace (spiritual favor and blessing) of the Lord Jesus Christ (the Anointed One) be with your spirit. Amen (so be it). (Philippians 4:23 AMP)

5.   A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. (Proverbs 22:1 ESV)

6.   The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is upon me, for the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed. He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the LORD’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. (Isaiah 61:1-2 NLT)

7.   The Lord says to his people, “When the time comes to save you, I will show you favor and answer your cries for help. I will guard and protect you and through you make a covenant with all peoples. I will let you settle once again in your land that is now laid waste. (Isaiah 49:8 GNT)

8.   Lord, You will ordain peace (God’s favor and blessings, both temporal and spiritual) for us, for You have also wrought in us and for us all our works. (Isaiah 26:12 AMP)

9.   For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. (Psalm 84:11 ESV)

10.   But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise up and restore your happy home. (Job 8:5-6 NLT)

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Mercy And Grace

  

As I’m driving somewhere with my preschool son in the car, most of the time he will say, “Dada, I NEED your phone.” I typically respond back, “You don’t NEED IT. You want it.” I wonder if that’s how God sees us with our prayers sometimes. We often cry out in desperation, “God, I NEED this answer to prayer!” The truth is that many of those NEED prayers are truly want prayers. We WANT it very badly and are desperate to get the answer, but the truth is, a lot of those prayers are not really needs. 

I’ve been reflecting on Hebrews 4:16 quite a bit. It says, “So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most. (NLT)” I’ve quoted this scripture in many of my prayers, but I haven’t really broke it down until recently. I know that if I approach God’s throne of grace in prayer, He hears me. I often assume that because He hears me, He should answer according to the way I’m praying. That line of thinking has led to a lot of disappointment misdirected at God. 

The verse says that at His throne of grace, we will receive mercy. When I hear that, I think of blind Bartimaeus outside of Jericho. He heard that Jesus was passing by and knew that He healed people. Bartimaeus yelled out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me! (NLT)” Jesus called him over, had mercy on him and healed him. When we approach God’s throne of grace, we are often crying out for God to have mercy on our request. Sometimes, He calls us over like Bartimaeus and grants us mercy and other times He gives us grace.

The last part of Hebrews 4:16 says that we will find grace to help us when we need it most. In II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks of a thorn in his flesh that he asked God to remove. Instead of giving him mercy by removing it, God replied to him, “My grace is all you need.” God told him He wasn’t going to answer his request for mercy, but instead He would give him the grace to help him when he needed it most. He does the same for us. He gives us grace that is sufficient when He doesn’t answer our petition for mercy.

I don’t know what makes God choose grace over mercy so often. I wish I did. What I do know is that when He chooses grace, it’s enough. He has promised that whatever I face, He will give me grace that is sufficient to endure. He will be strong when I’m weak. He will carry me when I can’t seem to find the strength to move forward. Each time I approach God’s throne of grace, I know that I will either receive mercy to grant my request or I will receive grace to help me through the situation. Either way, I know that God has heard my plea and is giving me just what I need in order for Him to fulfill His purpose.

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