Monthly Archives: March 2014

A Tale Of Two Orphans

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One of the best things about going to the orphanages is when you first arrive. As we get out of the trucks, the kids come running up to us. They’re grinning from ear to ear and looking into each face. When they find you, they throw their arms up in order to be picked up and loved on. When you get them in your arms, they wrap their arms around you, lay their head down on you and smile in contentment. As you wrap your arms around them and hug them, that same contentment comes over you. There is completeness in that moment.

On my last trip, I couldn’t help but notice one little boy who didn’t run up to anyone. As I approached him, he took off running with a frightened look in his eye. I squatted down where I was and held my arms open. I motioned for him to come to me. The more I did, the further he got. When any of us got close to him, he began to cry. He was scared and didn’t know how to trust yet. No matter what we tried, he still ran and cried. I wish I could say that by the end of the trip, he was running up to us and hugging us. I wish I could say it got better, but it didn’t. He still ran when we came near.

As I watched the two types of relationships unfold over the week, I saw our relationship with God. So many times in life we face rejection by those we love, a devastating loss or an unexpected life change that takes us out of where we were comfortable. In those moments, God comes near looking to show us love and comfort. Many times we are like those orphans who run to Him with our hands up. We just want to be held and loved on. We want to find contentment when our world has been shattered. God gets that same contentment as He holds us. The same contentment as a father holding his child.

There are sometimes though when we run from God. We’re scared of what coming next. We don’t feel like we can trust Him after all we’ve been through. When He reaches out for us, we run. When He comes near to make things better, we reject His help. We think we’re better off alone. It’ll make us stronger if we do. We won’t have to depend on anyone. We think, “If I can just make it through this, I’ll be all right.” We try to do it in our own strength and in our own way. God patiently waits when we do. He knows that once you let go of the fear and embrace Him, you’ll see that it’s going to be all right.

We each fall into one of these two scenarios. Either we are the type that embraces God when He comes near or we are the type who runs from Him. Where do you see yourself? Are you resting in His embrace with your head on His shoulder? Are you smiling with contentment in any situation because you know He’s there to protect you and help you? Or are you afraid to trust Him? Are you running from His open arms? It’s time to realize you can’t fight every battle on your own. You can’t go through life without trusting. Stop running away and run into His arms. You’ll find the peace and contentment you’re looking for.

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Changed Through Serving

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It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back from all God has for you. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “No Longer A Slumdog: Bringing Hope To Children In Crisis” by K. P. Yohannan. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

On our last full day in Haiti, we started off by climbing the mountain in front of the guest house. It was as much a spiritual journey as it was physical. We walked through a poor neighborhood on the side of the mountain and then followed the rocky path up. We had to stop several times to catch our breath. It was good to see how far we had gone and then be able to look at the top to know where we were going. It reminded me how we often grow weary doing good. We get tired in our walk with Christ. We hit plateaus at times, and at others, we have steep climbs to make in a short amount of time.

When we got to the top, there was a spot where a church was being built. There were two ladies and a man who were up there singing and praying over the community below. When we walked back down the mountain, there were more people along the path who were also singing and praying. It challenged me to pray for my community, city, work place and wherever else God has me. The sound of prayer was inspiration on such a tough journey. It reminded me that prayer gives us strength where ours runs out.

After we arrived back at the guest house, we loaded up the team and headed for Roboto. It’s the poorest part of Gonaives. The students got out of the truck and immediately started filling plates with the rice we brought. We then went class to class giving these students the only meal they will receive for the day. It was incredible to watch these students serve the poorest of the poor in the Western Hemisphere. They truly were the hands and feet of Jesus and brought light into such a dark place.

After we finished feeding and playing with the children, we went to the Gonaives orphanage to pick up the children there. For the first time the children were going to visit the Myan orphanage. They climbed the trucks like they were jungle gyms. As we drove over the mountain to Myan, the kids were smiling ear to ear. There was laughter and excitement. When we pulled into the gates, they jumped out and immediately began playing with each other. It was beautiful to watch orphans from both our orphanages playing together for the first time.

Before we left, we went out of the gates to where we were breaking ground for a school building. While the construction team was digging up the ground for the foundation, they came across another foundation that was a part of a nearby wall. The contractor researched the history and found that there was a French fortress that had been built on that spot in 1802 that enslaved Haitians. Over 200 years later, an orphanage and school are being built on that very spot and is setting Haitians free! Our God new 200 years ago that we would hear the call to defend the orphan and would build in that spot.

God moved in our hearts on this trip. He called several to be missionaries and others into ministry. I watched as God took kids who were timid and opened them up to share what He has done in their lives. This experience has wrecked their lives because they’ve done what James 1:27 calls true and undefiled religion. They have cared for orphans and widows. They have helped push back the darkness in Haiti with the light of Jesus. Not only have we been changed because we were here, Haiti is different too. We now have a 14 hour journey home where each one will tell their story and others will catch the vision.

If you would like to win “No Longer A Slumdog” by K. P. Yohannon, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (March 29, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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Small Things Are A Big Deal

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On our fifth day in Haiti, what we had planned changed and we learned to be flexible. We arrived at Myan first. They gave 5 of us shovels and gardening rakes. We split up, climbed to the roof of each building and scraped them clean of rocks. It was hard work in the burning sun. With no breeze and very few clouds, we had to drink lots of water to stay hydrated. I started to feel bad that we all needed to take so many breaks, but it was necessary to keep going. It’s a lot like prayer and reading the Bible. Your spirit man requires them to keep going and to stay fresh.

While we were doing that, another group gathered the children together on one of the porches. They sang with the kids and did a Bible lesson for them. It was great to be up on the roof watching as they held those kids during that time. We weren’t just meeting their spiritual needs, but that team was meeting their need for love and physical contact. By holding those children, they were showing them that they are accepted and loved. Most had one or two kids in their laps and others on every side up against them.

Another team went inside the building we have been painting all week. They were able to go in and paint all the accent colors on the walls, window sills, door jambs and columns. It’s a night and day difference with the new colors. Their cafeteria / meeting room will be a relaxing place where they will enjoy good food, great company and experience an all mighty God. I kept imagining all the children who will go through there and be feed physically and spiritually. To be a part of something so small is a big deal. We all want to do great things for God, sometimes those great things look like insignificant things.

While all of that was going on, another child was brought to us. They were asking if we could take him. I didn’t get to hear his story from where I was working. What I did see was them introducing him to a group of children in the same boat and those kids welcoming him. There were smiles all around as if to tell this boy he just hit the jackpot without even knowing it. He won’t have to worry about where his next meal will come from, if he’ll be able to go to school, where a clean water source is, where he’s going to live, if he can afford medical treatment or if he’ll be able to get a job one day. When you take those worries away, by doing what we do, he has the chance to just be a kid.

We left mid day to come back to the guest house to pick up cupcakes that several of our team members made and presents. We went to the Gonaives orphanage with them and celebrated birthdays for the kids who had one in March. Each child that had a birthday this month was brought out front. They were asked how old they were and what would they like from God this year. We then prayed and asked God to give it to them. After prayers, we sang “Happy Birthday”, handed out cupcakes and gave them each a present. It was beautiful to see these kids beam with pride as we honored them.

We went next door to play basketball while the orphans watched and cheered us on. We then headed back home, ate dinner, got more cupcakes and headed back to Myan. The local children we’re let into the orphanage and our team had double duty on loving children. We went into the building we had been painting all week and celebrated birthdays there with cupcakes and a movie night. As the movie went on, one by one the kids fell asleep until there were only a few awake at the end. We sent them to bed and rode home looking at the stars in such a remote place.

There is a lot of poverty here, but there is also great beauty. Each day as we work, I’m reminded of the work God does in our lives. We don’t always recognize it or know what He’s doing. Everything He does though, is for our good. Sometimes we need the rocks cleaned off our roofs so He can grow us and take our lives to the next level. Sometimes he gives us a fresh cost of paint. He makes us feel good inside and that reflects on our outside. Other times He simply loves on us, holds us and let’s us near Him just so we can feel loved and know we’re free to be His children. Each of us were spiritually orphaned and have the ability to be adopted by God. Instead of it being His choice, He makes it ours. We have to accept His love and offer of adoption. When we do, we become joint heirs with Christ, His son.

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Let Go Of Fear, Be Used By God

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We started our fourth day in Myan. We picked up right where we left off. One team went back in to keep painting and the other team went to finish staining the bed rails in the girl’s rooms. A group of freshly hired nannies showed up for orientation. They started with prayer and a beautiful song. While they met and others painted in the same room, I began cleaning paint off the floor with a few others. As I scrubbed, I began to think how my own sins have stained my life. I’ve tried to wash them off on my own with limited results. Nothing I do can ever erase them, but God’s love, like the paint thinner we were using, can wipe away the stains.

As the day progressed, it got hotter. The wind wasn’t blowing either which made for a tough day. When we got through painting the walls and the others were through staining, we met outside to play with the kids. Everyone stayed on the porch in the shade. As I walked around, I saw three small children taking a nap on a blue carpet outside of their room. They were so peaceful. When I got on another porch, I found more orphans asleep on the chests of our team members. I thought of the rest we get when we trust God fully in our lives. When the fires come and life gets hot, we can rest assured that God will take care of us. We just need to crawl up on His chest to rest in the assurance of who He is.

In the early afternoon, we came back to the guest house to grab a sand which, grab things for the Gonaives orphanage and to get some reprieve from the heat. Not long after arriving at the orphanage, the kids, orphans and locals, all came running. We sat them on a hill and one of our students told them the parable of the Lost Sheep. She told them that wherever they went in life, no matter what happened, Jesus would always be looking for them. We then played Marco Polo on the soccer field to illustrate the point. It wasn’t long until Marco Polo turned into a soccer match.

In the evening, we came back to the guest house, cleaned up and ate my favorite meal here, roasted goat. We met on the balcony for service. God spoke during that time and challenged us to let go of the fear that keeps us from true worship. He wanted us to let go of the fear of what others might think and to let to of the fear that keeps us from talking about him. The students began to share what God laid on their hearts. They began to share why they came and what they wanted God to do. One said she was afraid she’d be a nobody in life, but found that no one who serves God will ever be a nobody. We are heirs to the King of Kings, princes and princesses.

We all struggle with sharing our faith at times. If we can’t share with other believers, how can we ever share with the world? We should be so full of Jesus that He leaks out of us wherever we go. We have to learn to let go of the fear of what others will think of us, push past that feeling like we’re going to explode and just speak. God will do the rest. It’s not our words that change people’s lives. It’s His love and His spirit that draws them in. We are merely vessels used by Him. We only work when we’re full of Him, are willing to open up and are poured out. Don’t be afraid. Let Him use you today.

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Jesus Is In The Details

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We got up early yesterday ready for a day full of work. We loaded the trucks and headed for the white, dirt road that leads to Myan. It’s a slow, bumpy ride that takes us out of the city, over the mountain side and into the quiet life of the country. As we got closer to the orphanage in Myan, my heart began to beat faster. On my first trip here, the foundation was being poured. On my second trip here, we stained and varnished beds as well as built shelving units. But on this trip, I’d get to see the first children who were brought in last week. I could hardly wait.

As is the custom when we get to Myan, we get out of the trucks, meet the locals who followed us and head up Prayer Mountain. When we got to the top, for the first time there were orphans running around on the property. We then heard all of the miracles that have taken place over the last 2 years that made this orphanage possible. We tried to balance the poverty we saw against the beauty of the country side. Your mind wants to figure out how you can be surrounded by such beauty, yet have so many who survive on less than $2 a day. We began to pray over the orphanage, the community of Myan, the staff, future children and the stewards of Coreluv.org.

We made our way down the hillside hand in hand with the local children who followed us up. As we approached the gates to the orphanage, Epoli opened them to us with a smile on his face. The girls went to the girls house and the boys went to the boys house. We looked through the rooms and began playing with the kids. It didn’t take long for most of these newly orphaned children to put down their defenses and to allow this team of American students to embrace them. Laughter begs to fill the air. Games of chase started up. Kids were being kids.

We brought the kids into the cafeteria and sat them on benches. Courtney, one of our students, had prepared Vacation Bible School for the kids. When she finished, a pastor from Port au Prince came and shared a message with the kids too. We’ll repeat that each day as part of giving our students the opportunity to minister and so we can plant the seeds of God’s love in the hearts of children. They will know what true love is by the time they’re grown up because we believe in loving them unconditionally and because they will know their Father in Heaven loves them as well.

After the lessons, we broke into three teams. One team set up the medical cabinets at the orphanage and prepared it to have a pharmacy in the future. Another team went room to room on the boy’s side and stained the newly installed bed rails. The third team painted the cafeteria a pastel green. We had someone use a paint gun, some used rollers and some cut the edges where rollers and paint guns can’t get. It took all afternoon and we only got about half way done.

As I helped paint the baseboards, ceiling crease and corners, I couldn’t help but think that God is in the details. We like to try to find him in the broad strokes of a roller. Those are quick, easy and cover a lot of ground. While He is there too, I found that He does His work in our lives in the creases and in the slow, tedious details. He is patient and kind with us. He takes His time and does the work the right way because He knows it’s when you take care of the details, the larger things are possible.

We capped off our day with a soccer game at the Gonaives orphanage. Many of our team members were among the crowd of kids running back and forth on the dirt field. The rest were loving on orphans and kids from the community. There is great ministry in just loving on people. When you give love, you give more than just your time and talents. You give a piece of your heart and that’s what changes lives.

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Haiti Makes Me Happy

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This week I’m in Haiti with students from Lifestyle Christian School and will be sharing what we are doing and learning. Our first two days have been full of travel, but also full of rewards. After two flights, we arrived in Port au Prince Saturday evening. When we got in the back of the coreluv.org trucks and headed through the city, I took a deep breath to breathe in the Haitian air. The noise of motorcycles whizzing by, the smell of burning trash, the blaring horns of semi trucks, the music coming from stores and people walking everywhere reminded me of the times I’ve come before.

I looked at the group of mostly first timers and exclaimed, “Haiti makes me happy!” They’re learning first hand this week how it makes them happy. When we walked through the door of our guest house, we were greeted with the smell of fried chicken. We sat down, ate and then retreated to the balcony for our first service. We sang worship songs accapella. We shared about our first impressions of Haiti. Then the missionary here told the group to be thinking of three questions this week:

Where did you see Jesus today?
What makes you sad? Mad? Glad?
What do you see that you are not OK with

On Sunday morning, we went to a Haitian church service. We didn’t recognize any of the songs. We didn’t understand any of the language either. There was no air conditioning on a 90+ degree day in that building. Even though it wasn’t like a church any of us were used to, we experienced the same God we would have at home. I noticed several times when our group had their hands raised in worship, had their head bowed in prayer joined in the corporate worship. It was amazing to see and experience. There are many nations, many languages, many denominations that serve the same God.

They asked if one of us would like to preach. Jeremiah threw his hand up without hesitation. He later said, “I don’t know why I did that!” I know it was because the Holy Spirit was upon him. He preached through an interpreter a convicting message about Jesus overturning the tables in the temple. He pointed out that Paul referred to our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit. He asked, “Since when did we start thinking it was ok to put thing into our lives, our temples, that God is not ok with?” I pray that we give God permission to come overturn the tables of our hearts and turn our lives into houses of prayer.

We left church and went to visit a woman whose husband and father to her children is a witch doctor. They are very poor and can’t care for their children. They are considering giving up the children to the orphanage. If they are able to come, imagine the course change for that family. Children who were born to a witch doctor would typically become witch doctors themselves. Children who live in these orphanages grow up to follow Christ. Before leaving, our group joined in prayer for that neighborhood. We prayed that God would liberate them from idolatry and shine His light in such a dark place.

From there, we went to “Faith, Hope, Love”, an infant rescue center. In this orphanage are children with HIV, AIDS, lymphoma, HPV, brittle bone disease and so many other life threatening things. Their parents can’t afford the medical care they need so they drop them off here. We went in and began loving on these children, playing with them, putting them on our shoulders and marching around. Laughter filled the air as these kids without hope had students who weren’t afraid of their disease and touched their hearts.

We left Port au Prince and took the slow drive to Gonaives. We stopped at the mass grave site where over 100,000 bodies are buried in a field. Survivors of the earthquake shared their horrific first hand accounts of what happened and what life was like. We drove through tent city where so many in Port au Prince still live since that fateful day in 2010. We followed the coast northwest and stopped at a resort to let the team cool down in the Caribbean waters. They learned to catch jellyfish without getting stung. After leaving there, we drove through the farm land of Haiti to make our way to the guest house in Gonaives.

After an amazing dinner, we joined together on a balcony and began to worship God. We talked about what it means to give up everything you have for God. We also talked about the widow in II Kings 4 whose husband had died and she couldn’t afford his debts. Elisha asked her what she had in her house. All she had left was a jar of oil. He told her to get jars from everyone she knew, fill them with oil and sell them. When she did, she didn’t just have enough to pay the debt. She had enough for the rest of her life. God always goes above and beyond what we ask. He simply requires us to use what’s in our house.

Today, we’re going to work at one orphanage most of the day and visit another one later to play with kids. I’ll update you tomorrow.

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How To Be A Better Spouse

It’s Free Friday! Today is the day you let go of the things in your life that keep you down or hold you back. To celebrate, I’m giving away a copy of “The Power of a Praying Husband” by Stormie Omartian. Keep reading to find out how to enter.

“If I ever get the chance again, I’m going to put my wife first. I’m going to be the spiritual head of my household. I’m not going to take her for granted. I’m going to be the husband she needs me to be. I’m not going to fight her over things that don’t matter. I’m going to put her needs above my own. I’m going to pray for her daily.” These were promises I made to myself over ten years ago after my ex-wife walked out. I knew the mistakes I had made as a husband and the fruit that it bore was more than I could handle.

I learned a painful lesson in 2003. Afterwards, I had a lot of time to think about how the previous four years had gone, where our relationship turned, things I could have done to avoid where we ended up and what I should have done. I can tell you that could haves and should haves don’t repair broken relationships. As I laid there in that empty bed each night, I replaced the could haves and should haves with promises of what I would do in the future. I mapped out what I needed to do to be a better husband next time. I spent time learning what Paul meant when he said, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church.”

Ultimately, it boils down to putting your spouse’s needs above your own. You have to sacrifice yourself (what you want) for what’s best for the relationship. Christ could have stayed in Heaven and left us in a broken relationship. He could have divorced us, gone to another planet and started over. He didn’t. He wasn’t content with the way things were. If He had it to do over, He would come down to us, show us the love He’s always wanted to show us and do what was necessary to mend the relationship.

He put aside His pride of being the King of Kings. He laid aside the fact that He was Lord of Lords. He became a helpless human, walked in our shoes, humbled Himself and sacrificed everything for us. He did what’s required of us in any relationship that’s going to work. He put the needs of the relationship above His own needs. He became our advocate and our intercessor. He prays daily to the Father for you and me. In the same way, we have to humble ourselves enough to honor the other person in the relationship. We have to lift them up in prayer daily.

I used to pray that God would change my wife to fit my needs. Now, my prayer is, “Lord, change me and help me to be the husband she needs.” I’ve discovered that when I’m the person my wife needs me to be, she wants to be the wife I need her to be. If the two are ever to become one, they both have to move into the person that the other needs. They have to make decisions based on what’s best for the couple, not the individual. Otherwise, they will always be just two separate individuals who are stick together trying to go in different directions. That won’t work. Trust me, I know.

If you would like to win “The Power of a Praying Husband” by Stormie Omartian, all you have to do is go to my Facebook page here and “like” it. I will randomly pick one person tomorrow (March 22, 2014) who has liked my page. If you have already liked my page and enjoy reading these daily devotionals, you are already entered. Please invite your friends to like my page so they can receive encouragement from God’s Word too.

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