“People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
I didn’t realize it until much later that it was actually Teddy Roosevelt who first said that, but this idea has carried with me ever since.
Really, it’s what I love most about Jesus. He is comfortable with sinners. He is comfortable with me. He hates the sin but He so loves the sinner.
He can always relate to us. Wherever we are, in any circumstance. He is there.
Always, He is there.
Some time later, I found myself working in the corporate world for Wells Fargo, with a little startup photography business that was every day growing and taking up more and more of my time. 90 hours a week, and I was burning out.
Once again I found myself with that same wise friend. We were unloading chairs for the church at the elementary school, and there I was unloading much more than chairs and I rambled on about what I should and shouldn’t do, should I leave Wells Fargo, should I give up the benefits, the security, the money, the comfort…
"I don't think God really cares what you do, so long as you bring glory to Him.”
That word from my friend invested in my life. It made a difference. The next day I put in my resignation at the bank and started to work full time at my photography.
We built a studio, then added on our house, and were living our dream.
Kari went on a mission trip to Mexico and came back broken for missions, and I didn’t understand it at all. “Why do you think you need to cross some manmade border or an ocean before you can serve. There’s people right next door that don’t know the Lord. Go make them some spaghetti or something.” I said.
For almost a year we were on different pages, until one morning during prayer when I yielded and prayed to God, “Here I am. If you want me to go, I’ll go.”
Immediately after that I got a phone call from a missionary in Haiti, who asked since I was a photographer if I would come and photograph kids for school sponsorship.
Just before we were due to fly out, Port-au-Prince was struck by the earthquake, and since the airport was badly damaged, it was another month before we could fly in.
When we finally did touch down in the country, it was pure chaos. Everyone’s luggage was stacked in a giant pile, and then they were herding us out the gates, into a mob of thousands of desperate souls.
On a mountain in a packed palm-tree church, I heard a missionary ask the people who there knew of the Christmas story, and the entire church fell silent, save one old man who raised his hand and said, “I think it has something to do with a shepherd.”
I realized a different kind of hunger existed that I knew very little about. It was a hunger for the Word of God. I noticed that almost no one there had a Bible in their hand.
That’s God called us to Haiti, and over a series of strategic events He confirmed over and over to us that we were to get Bibles distributed in Haiti, and that we were to go.
I sat down with a Pastor from our church, and he tried to encourage me to go into missionary training.
It would have been a year and a half of school, with only the possibility of being placed in the field we felt called. I loved the man but I had no patience. I felt God had called us to go, and go we would, so that sweet Pastor chose to just love us through it.
God began to wipe away all of our dependency on things. He was opening our hands and releasing everything we were holding onto.
We had no training.
When we reached the point of desperation with finding a house for my family, I resolved to just buy 4 hammocks and planned to string them up between the palms. I was so confident that God would handle it.
And God did show up. A man in the same village where we moving had built a home and needed to rent it, and so our family moved to Haiti.
We entered into a time of great humbling, crumbling, and schooling as we learned the language and sifted through the discernment of relationships.
Because we were just there as a family with no missional organization, we began to see the missions model from the outside looking in.
We learned that we don't have all the answers.
Our ways are not better by default, just because we come from a country that has been blessed by the hand of God.
I learned through my own failures that whatever I did had to be done in the strength of God. God humbled me greatly. My own ideas and theories went out the window, and I began to seek out my identity in Him. Jesus related to me. He took me down a several notches, and I began to see that I needed humility to serve and relate to the Haitian people.
Paul said, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them…. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
This was the view that we knew we had to adopt.
So we moved to a village of farmers, and I became a farmer. The color of my skin was enough of a barrier. In some way we had to relate.
Mudboots, tattered jeans and a hat. This became my daily attire.
We grew peppers, tomatoes, cabbage, eggplant, and we hauled them to market with the men in my village, haggling with the Haitian momma’s over the selling price.
Friendships formed. Real relationships.
We met in the mornings for devotions and taught the parables of the weeds, the seeds and the sower.
I preached in the churches.
My wife taught English and Bible in the village.
We ran kids to the hospital, to church. Our church was a hut, yet a room filled with some of the best worship I’ve heard in my life.
We rushed people to the doctors to deliver babies by c-section and I
had the honor of naming the baby boy who survived as a result. Nathaniel is his name.
My kids made friends. A Haitian girl named Oberline came to live with us,
We did life and invested in the people around us.
Discipleship began to take root as we planted the seeds of faith.
And the harvest has been a bumper crop.
We have seen real change.
I watched as God began to hammer away at my neighbor, Jean Wilbert, who was a drummer at the nightclub across the street from our house. His Word drilled away at the walls, until one day he came to plant corn in a field. All of the village men told him he’d be a fool to plant, because it hadn’t rained in a month and it wouldn’t raing for a month more. He prayed and asked God if He loved him, to please bring the rain, and after he planted that last kernel of corn in the ground, the rain drops began to fall. He ran to my house, pounding on the door, and said, “He is Undeniable. I cannot deny Him any more. That day he accepted Christ and was baptized in the village river.
Edain, a shady character that I told my kids to stay away from, came to work with me in the field. He’d had terrible ulcers that would bend him over and take him to the ground. We prayed for him, and the ulcers left him. That man is now on fire for the Lord with a gift of evangelism, and has brought 4 other men to the Lord.
Men, who have nothing to gain from me, but have awakened to an eternity with Christ, are realizing God’s purpose for their lives.
I’ve seen the sick healed.
I’ve seen demon possession, driven out by prayer.
I’ve seen provision at the most desperate hour.
I’ve seen peace that passes understanding.
I’ve seen an angry mob immediately silenced by the Word of God.
I’ve prayed for my enemies, and I’ve seen them either leave, or be transformed.
I’ve seen the power of God confuse, interrupt, contort the plans of my enemies.
I’ve seen real forgiveness.
All these things as I stand before you today I bear witness to.
I was born blind in one eye, and I became a photographer, and I have seen the hand of God.
Does anyone here want some of that today?
People come to Haiti and they are stricken by the hunger, the poverty, the hard living, to the point they jam their fists down into their pockets and pull out their money.
The #1 response I get from foreigners to our mission in giving Bibles in Haiti:
“I’m sure that Bible looks delicous. I wonder how many bags of rice you might be able to get for the same amount.”
The #1 response I get from Haitians:
“Thank you so much. This is my family’s first Bible. We are so happy to have a copy of our own.”
We don’t understand that this is the only life they know, that they are survivors. This is because we live in a bubble, where we are in the top 6% of the wealthy in the world.
Yet some of the happiest people I’ve seen in the world live in Haiti. They have nothing, and yet they are filled with joy.
Our knee-jerk response to the struggling world is relief, when what the people really desire is development, and the impact can hurt them.
We then get frustrated when we don’t see the change, when we see no progress.
We get angry when they fall into a welfare state, when we see them sitting around waiting for a hand-out, no longer looking for a hand up.
What we don't realize is that we are doing the same thing to ourselves in America, self-medicating as if we had the morphine button, trying to kill or fill a yearning.
Dependency, I’m convinced, is the single greatest obstacle that faces the Church and America today.
Dependency… A word we that disgusts us. Yet we are some of the most dependent people on the face of the earth.
That word hits every one of us differently.
To be Chosen
What are you dependent on in your life?
Isaiah reveals to us God’s desire, and that is for us to be dependent on Him.
Turn to me, Turn to me, Return to me. Over and over we find these words.
He doesn’t desire our prayers, our worship, our celebrations or our festivals if our hearts aren’t in it, if we aren’t totally dependent on Him.
Without that, our prayers and our songs become noise, our sacrifices meaningless, our silver becomes dross, our princes become rebels and companions of thieves.
We find ourselves in contempt of court as God says, “I will not listen.”
And yet, though are sins be as scarlet, He tells us that His desire is to make them white as snow.
"Come and let us reason together", He says. Can you hear His heart?
When we open the door to that idea,
the door opens for healing.
That's just the beginning, reconciliation, redemption,
Addictions are broken, broken marriages are restored,
In that darkness there begins to break forth a new dawn.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Boldness replaces fear and timidity.
Your desires become a reflection of Gods desires
And your entire worldview awakens to something you never even knew was there.
You realize that what you have is treasure that so many are looking for, but so few have found.
The news you have is so good that you are bursting to share it.
Some of you here today, you don’t yet know. I’m here to tell you!
We are all sinners. We’ve broken God’s laws. The punishment and the wages for our work is death. But Jesus came, and because it’s the heart for which God is most concerned, He amplified God’s laws. No longer is adultery just the physical act, but even to look at a woman in lust is the same in the heart. No longer is murder just by the sword. No, if you even harbor that bitterness and anger you are guilty. Because to God if you have wished it then it may as well have been committed.
We think we can circumnavigate God’s laws, and we miss the point altogether. So Jesus became the curse, your curse. He hung on a cross and suffered the most terroristic death imaginable, for you. And if you believe, if you repent, He is Yours and You are His. In John 17, just before they arrested Him for the last time, Jesus prayed for all of you, long before you were ever born:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.
Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them."
You’ll fail sometimes, you’ll flounder and screw up, but you’ll have Jesus in your corner, so you’ll continue to grow as you begin to let go of your own weakness and grow stronger in the power of The Lord.
And then you’ll find yourself walking in a brand new life as Paul's words become your own, “I know the secret to being to content in all circumstances.
I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.”
Teddy Roosevelt said, “The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living, and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”
Let go of all of that tail-chasing! It’s smoke and mirrors. A fairy-tale spun by the Chief of Liars. Some say Christians are weak. That’s not what I’ve seen in my days.
I see courage under fire. I see determination, commitment, charity, encouragement, boldness to stand up for what is right. I see a people who want to be part of something better, bigger. I see a people who want to make the world a better place. I see the very fabric and tapestry of what our country was founded on, what made America great to begin with.
I challenge us all to a higher road.
Attempt something so impossible that without God it’s doomed to failure.
“Who is this Christ of whom I speak?” says John Haggai.
“To the artist he is the Altogether Lovely
to the architect he is the Chief Cornerstone
to the atronomer he is the Bright and Morning Star
to the baker he is the Living Bread
to the biologist he is the Life
to the builder he is the Sure Foundation
to the carpenter he is the Door
to the doctor he is the Great Physician
to the educator he is the Great Teacher
to the engineer he is the New and Living Way
to the geologist he is the Rock of Ages
to the author he is the Living word
to the farmer he is the Sower and Lord of the Harvest
to the florist he is the Rose of Sharon, the Lilly of the Valley
to the horticulturist he is the True Vine
to the judge he is the Righteous Judge of All Men
to the journalist he is the Good Tiding of Great Joy
to the philosopher he is the Wisdom of God
to the preacher he is the Word of God
to the statesman he is the Desire of All Nations
to the toiler he is the Giver of Rest
to the sinner he is the Lamb of God who takes away the Sin of the World
to the Christian he is the Son of the Living God, the Savior, the Redeemer
to the Disciple He is the commander in Chief who gives us our orders with unmistakable and unconditional clarity, He is Christ the incomparable.”
The only thing I would add to that is that to me, a photographer, he is the Light.
Have you ever tried to take a picture in the dark?
Who is He to you? To your community? To your country?
Did He rescue you from the fire?
When He calls you, will you answer? Will you stand up for Him the way He stands up for you?
Maybe you haven’t been called to Haiti or some far away field, but you are certainly called.
Matthew 28 calls us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
David Livingstone said that these were the words of a gentleman. To me, they are the words of my Savior.
Do you feel ill-equipped, unprepared, uneducated, unfit
Anymore than I? Really?
“I turn to Hope and dig for Strength
Where in ancient words I see,
'Sufficient for you, in your weak place,
is the perfect grace of Me’.” ~ D.C. Elliott
The honesty of Paul as he vulnerably shares his own personal weakness.
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Your weakness is good. Use it, because it’s there that His glory will be made known, and everyone will know it was not borne of your own desires. God uses what you give Him and He wastes nothing.
What God is asking of you will not be found
in your ability but in your availability.
You will not stand on your righteousness but His alone.
Do you want to see that kind of change in your life, in the lives of your family and those that are dear to you?
Then let’s seek His face with prayer and thanksgiving and make our requests to God, so that today the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.