My Life Verse – A Useful Sacrifice

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

If my wife was to go out of town for a week, I could perform a lot of meaningless sacrifices for her while she was gone.

When my wife comes home if I tell her, “Honey, I sacrificed a lot for you while you were gone. I didn’t watch sports while you were gone, I didn’t eat my favorite foods while you were gone and I didn’t listen to my favorite music while you were gone. I did all of that for you.”

Her response would be, “Who cares! Those sacrifices don’t mean anything to me. Those sacrifices were useless.”

But if while my wife was gone, I deep cleaned the house, mowed the lawn and finished some house projects that needed to be done (This is all theory by the way), then my wife’s response would be, “Wow! You are an amazing husband. Those sacrifices mean everything to me. Those sacrifices were so useful.”

There are a lot of useless sacrifices in our world.

Even more so, there are a lot of useless sacrifices in the religious world.

My life verse is Isaiah 58 because it reminds me of what a useless sacrifice is and what a useful one is.

The people of Israel were busy going through the religious motions of the day. They were attending church, fasting from food, giving their alms and wearing clothes that showed everyone how spiritual they really were, yet God was not impressed, in fact He told them that all the religious hoops they were jumping through were useless sacrifices.

They were useless, not because going to church or fasting is wrong. They were useless because while they were doing those things they were oppressing workers, fighting and quarreling, forgetting the hungry and homeless and ignoring their own relatives who were in need.

So God reminded them what useful sacrifices look like:

“No, this is the kind of fasting [useful sacrifice] I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.”

Isaiah 58 shows us that useless sacrifices lead to our prayers falling on deaf ears, and God’s blessings seem fleeting.

Isaiah 58 also shows us that useful sacrifices lead to God not only listening to our prayers, but our useful sacrifices lead to healing, protection and answered prayer.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.”

Ultimately, our useful sacrifices lead to our lives being a light of hope, our lives being guarded and guided, our strength being renewed and we will be known as people who care and help our communities and families become strong.

“Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.”

Mother Teresa’s words challenge us, “Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely and the unwanted according to the graces we have received and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

These are the useful sacrifices that those of us who say we are followers of Christ should be involved in.

Contentment: The Elusive American Virtue

Most of our lack of contentment has to do with COMPARING.

When we compare what we have to what those around us have, we will never be content.

Living a life of discontentment affects our own personal happiness, our relationships, our finances and many times our moral choices.

Your life is unique.

You are one of a kind.

God made you and picked you and gave you a purpose that is like no other.

Your looks, skills and resources are original.

God does not want you to be like someone else.

He wants you to be YOU!

Your unique purpose is needed in our world.

You cannot be you while you are trying to be like someone else.

C.S Lewis very wisely wrote in Mere Christianity, “We say that people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others. Nearly all those evils which people put down to greed or selfishness are really far more the result of pride.”

Our obsession with riches really is an obsession of what I have compared to what others have.

The apostle Paul said some encouraging and powerful words when he said, “Actually, I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”

Finding contentment in America is like fitting a camel through the eye of a needle. Hmm? Someone much smarter than I said that once.

Most of our problem with comparing ourselves to others is that we don’t really know who we are. We feel lost. We feel like we need to attach ourselves to what the world says is important in order to feel valuable.

Once a human finds out WHO THEY REALLY ARE, they then begin to find the real contentment that they have been searching for.

Our perspectives, hopes, dreams, priorities change when we realize WHO WE ARE!

Fred Craddick tells this story about the time he was vacationing in Tennessee.

Fred and his wife were seated at a table in a restaurant when an old man came up to them and asked, “Are you folks on vacation?” “Yes,” said Fred, “and we’re having a good time.”

“What do you do for a living?” the old man said. Fred was trying to get rid of the guy and he said, “I’m a preacher.”

“Oh,” the old man said. “Then let me tell you a preacher story.”

He pulled up a chair and sat down.

“I was born an illegitimate child. I never knew who my father was. That was very hard for me. The kids at school made fun of me and they called me names. When I walked around our little town I always felt that people were staring at me and asking that terrible question, ‘I wonder who the father of that little boy is?’”

“I spent a lot of time by myself and growing up I didn’t have any friends.”

“One day a new pastor came to town and everybody was talking about how good he was. I’d never gone to church but one Sunday I decided I’d go hear him speak.”

“He was good. So I kept coming back. But each time I went to church I’d come in late and I’d leave early so I wouldn’t have to talk to anybody.”

“Then one Sunday I got so caught up in listening to the sermon I forgot to leave early. The service ended, people stood up and I couldn’t get out the door. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder.”

“When I turned that big tall pastor was looking down at me. He asked, ‘What’s your name boy? Whose son are you?’”

“When I heard that question I just shook. But before I could say anything the preacher said, ‘I know who your family is. There’s a distinct family resemblance. Why, you’re the child of God.’”

“You know, mister, those words changed my life,” he said. The old man got up and left.

The waitress came over and asked me, “Do you know who that was?”

“No,” said Fred. She said, “That’s Ben Hooper, two term governor of Tennessee.”

A man learned he was the child of God and it changed his life.

All the depression and all the cuts and hurts and rejection he’d had through his life were eliminated by the power of God’s love.

And no longer could people diminish his sense of dignity because he was a child of God.

David wrote in the psalms “God is the Father of orphans, champion of widows, He makes homes for the homeless, and leads prisoners to freedom”

Paul wrote to the Romans, “So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, ‘Abba, Father.’ For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are his children, we are his heirs.”

That elusive virtue called contentment happens when we realize who and whose we are and that we have been called to a greater purpose and calling than just acquiring things.

We have been called to represent our Heavenly Father to a world that desperately needs to know about His love.

Mother Teresa said these beautiful words about our highest calling of representing God here on earth, “Hungry for love, He looks at you. Thirsty for kindness, He begs of you. Naked for loyalty, He hopes in you. Homeless for shelter in your heart, He asks of you. Will you be that one to Him?”

My son’s girlfriend, Pauline Hassan is a hero in my life. Her mother was born in Sudan, and Pauline was a young girl when they moved to San Diego to escape the persecution and danger of her war torn country.

I believe we can learn from her and her family about how right priorities and hard work can lead to a contentment in America that is greater than just how much money we can make.

They remind me to always make my life purpose greater than just about myself.

The news organization Al Jazeera interviewed Pauline and her mother Agnes talking about “Living the Modern ‘American Dream’”.

It is a very inspiring interview.

I am proud to know Agnes. I am proud to know Pauline.

Check out the link below

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Hope for Haiti

My wife and I recently went to Haiti and were able to spend a day with our child Ruth that we have sponsored through Compassion International.

What a beautiful day. What a beautiful Girl.

In a country that has seen so much pain and loss, Ruth is a face of hope and a face of the future.

Sponsoring her through Compassion assists her in educational, physical, nutritional, social and spiritual development.

Because of Compassion she has advantages that many children in Haiti do not have.

After meeting Ruth, I left Haiti with much more hope for their future.

Ruth told me she loved to write poems. I told her that I to love to write poems.

I told her that I would write a poem for her if she would write a poem for me.

She said that it was a deal.

I would like to share with you the poem I wrote and will send to Ruth.

When Ruth sends the poem she wrote for me, I will share it with you also.

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RUTH: meaning “compassionate friend”

There is a girl down in Haiti, her name is Ruth
She is 10 years old, and she knows the truth
There is a God who loves her, He is living inside
She loves Psalm 100, she has it memorized

She loves to write poems, she loves to sing songs
She loves to dance to music, her faith is so strong
God has made her beauty, He has made her mind
He has made her with dreams and a smile so kind

She lives in Port-au-Prince, the earthquake was scary
The ground shook, but God’s strength was there to carry
Ruth’s eyes gleam with joy, her words full of charm
Her love for life comes from living safe in God’s arms

Her personality is charming, maybe even mischievous
I love to hear her laugh, it is a sound quite contagious
Her heart is full, overflowing with energy
Her heart is full of Jesus, He is strength for her journey

I pray for Ruth daily, I pray this gift she will get
That God has great plans for her, and how He will not forget
He has given her talents, dreams and salvation
And a hope and a future that cannot be taken

Meeting Ruth was one of the best days of my life
It was a day we will always remember, just ask my wife
I heard a voice of an angel, a dancer full of grace
She prayed with deep reverence, such a beautiful face

Our visit was too short, though I am blessed for the chance
Next time I will sing with her, maybe even join in the dance
Can’t wait to see your future, can’t wait to see what you’ll do
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper and not to harm you”

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Psalm 100
1 Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
2 Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
3 Know that the LORD is God.
It is He who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
5 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Releasing Children From Poverty, In Jesus Name

I am taking a team from my church to Haiti this week.

Please pray for us.

We will be joining Compassion International as we look at the work they are doing through child sponsorship, early child and mother development, leadership development, safe water and the rebuilding of schools and hospitals after the devastating 2010 earthquake.

For those of us who have sponsored children in Haiti, we will be able to meet them and give them gifts. Our sponsored daughter in Haiti is named Ruth.

Our church sponsors hundreds of children through Compassion, many of them in Haiti, and we have invested in a Child Survival Program where mothers get prenatal care and education and new mothers and babies get the medicines and nutrition they need to develop healthy young bodies and minds.

Check out my blog daily, as I will try to write some new posts about our trip while we are there, but if time or the internet do not cooperate, I will definitely be writing about the trip once we get home.

Here are some sobering Haiti statistics:

*Gross national income per capita is US$660, about half the total for Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Americas.

*78% of Haitians are poor (less than US$2 a day), and more than half (54%) live in extreme poverty (less than US$1 a day).

*Over two-thirds of the labor force do not have formal jobs.

*Half of children under 5 are malnourished.

*80 out of 1,000 Haitian children never see their first birthday.

*50% of primary school age children are not enrolled in school.

*One-third of girls over six never go to school.

Pray for Haiti and the work our church and Compassion are doing there.

I will write as often as I can. God Bless.

When the Church is at its Best

dig•ni•ty/ˈdignitē/ Noun: The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

What do a single senior veteran, a senior widow, a senior widower living alone suffering from Parkinson’s, a seniors mobile home park, another senior widow, a single woman who is trying to care for her quadriplegic father, a disabled senior man, another single senior woman, a transition house for girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking, another single senior woman, and 65 year old woman who is terminally ill with cancer that has metastasized throughout her body have in common?

They were all served by my church on a Saturday morning by about 120 volunteers.

Racking, mowing and weeding of yards and property, painting of homes, repairing of roofs, building of fences, replacing of trim from dry rot, building and staining of decks, the pouring of concrete to fit walkers and wheelchairs, cleaning and repairing inside of homes, repairing of retaining walls, installing of gutters and so much more were involved on this Saturday.

What else do these precious people have in common? Most of them have never attended any of our church services.

They are the forgotten people that our culture so easily throws away.

Jesus told us to take care of the forgotten, seemingly unimportant people in our neighborhoods.

I am thankful that my churches philosophy is to take care of “the least of these.”

I am also thankful that my churches philosophy is that we consider everyone who lives in our community part of our church, whether they attend our services or not.

I am grateful for these days of service, not just because we get to bless someone who needs help.

I am grateful for these days, selfishly, because I think we are the ones most blessed.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While these service projects were going on all around our community on this beautiful fall Saturday morning, there were some beautiful things happening on our church campus as well, that happen every Saturday morning, 52 weeks a year.

Around three hundred people were fed a warm breakfast, while waiting to pick up a bag of groceries and a bag of vegetables grown from our churches organic garden, to help them get through the week.

Around 1500 articles of clothing were given away from our clothing ministry.

These precious people consist of senior citizens, single parents, families going through difficult financial times and a portion who are homeless.

Every Saturday morning, people come through our doors and experience not only physical food but they also experience spiritual and emotional and relational food as they experience words of encouragement and hope, and are treated with God’s grace.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While this is happening inside our church, every Saturday our garden team shows up to help produce hundreds of pounds of potatoes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, cucumbers and so much more.

While this is happening at our garden, there is another ministry happening not far, cutting and splitting wood so that people will have warm homes during the cold winters.

Over the last few years, we have averaged giving away around 150 truck loads of wood to the elderly, single moms and to those who cannot afford to heat their homes.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

On any given Saturday, over 100 volunteers make this happen. They would tell you it’s the best day of their week.

On Monday and Tuesday nights we have an auto ministry where men and women come and fix cars so they can be given to single parents, families and seniors who are in need of reliable transportation to get them to work, to school, to the doctor and even to church.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

I love my church.

We are not perfect, but I see so many volunteers using their time, strengths and resources to bring dignity to those that are overlooked and marginalized.

I see how loving people in tangible, practical ways, in Jesus name (dignity) is transforming lives and changing our community.

I see homeless people getting back on their feet and finding jobs and being able to afford shelter. (Dignity)

I see addicted people being set free from the burden of addictions. (Dignity)

I see lonely, forgotten senior citizens finding new hope and new friendships. (Dignity)

I see single moms, overwhelmed by the pace of life, being offered resources to keep them going, allowing them to not give up, but to finish their race. (Dignity)

I see people who were far from God, entering into a new eternal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. (Dignity)

I see people who came to our church to get help, resources and hope (Dignity), now offering that same help, resources and hope (Dignity) to others.

I see the impact my church has in our community through the selfless acts of hundreds of volunteers and I often ask this one question.

With around 450,000 churches in the United States, I wonder what our country would look like if every church would get involved in a volunteer revolution offering in Jesus name, dignity.

In the words of Bill Wilson, “We want God to touch our country, but God is asking us to touch our country.”

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

And I think our country and world is at its best when the church is at its best.

Just a few thoughts, let me know what you think?

A Leader’s Lament

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!