Haiti

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From March 7th – 14th I traveled to Haiti on a mission trip with 32 other students and adults from Bell Shoals. And it was an incredible trip!
 
For the last two weeks I’ve been processing it all and I will continue to do so for a very long time.
 
When you visit a country like Haiti you are impacted in ways that cannot be fully explained. In order to fully understand you have to experience it.
 
Since most people have never visited Haiti, and because I was changed by it, I’ve wanted to post about it. But I’ve been struggling to find the right words. How do you put into a single post what was such an eye-opening, life-changing and kingdom-impacting trip? You can’t perfectly. So I’ll cut myself some slack up front and briefly share some of what I experienced. What I saw.
 
I saw breathtaking views of Haiti’s mountains, lakes and coastline.
 
I saw our students stretched outside of their comfort zone and step up to serve others and share Christ.
 
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I saw children walk miles to get to school and many without shoes.
 
I saw women and children carrying water and other materials on their heads.
 
I saw beautiful smiles, joy and contentment in so many of the Haitian people even though they have so little.
 
I saw poverty. Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Clean drinking water, food, health care and education are just a few of their essential needs that we in America don’t think twice about. To find out more about Haiti click here.
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I saw the necessity of partnering with an organization that has ongoing contact with the community you are serving. We partnered with Greg, Maria and Caleb Shepherd with RTS Missions. They are making a HUGE impact in Haiti. People are being saved from earthly struggles and eternal separation with Christ through their ministry. To learn more about RTS click here.
 
I saw that a mission trip really can make a difference. We fed over 1200 children a hot meal, many of which had not received a hot meal in over a week. We saw the power of holding a child’s hand, giving a hug and tangibly showing love to others. And most importantly, our team led over 100 children to accept Christ! In talking with Greg, he told me of a young girl who had been present for 12 mission team visits to her school in the past. Each team presented the gospel, but she did not accept Christ. The 13th time a team came she decided to give in and accept Him. Each of those first 12 teams had a small part in God working in her heart. And had they not gone, that young girl would not now know Jesus. There are countless other lives with similar stories. Going matters!
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Finally, for the first time in my life I grasped the weight of Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:31-46. Verse 40 sums it up well:
“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’
Jesus cares passionately about reaching the lost. He also cares passionately about loving the least. I needed, and I believe our churches need, a renewed heart for the least. To not love them may lead to dangerous consequences. To love them gets closest to the heart of God. Read all 16 verses and you’ll see what I mean.
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There is certainly a whole lot more I could say and some key things I’m sure I left out. Maybe I’ll write a part 2. In the end, God changed my life in Haiti and I’d go back in a heartbeat. Not to just experience it all again, but to be used by God to make a difference in the lives of others. To love the least. And reach the lost. Until next time, I pray I will live out the change that I’ve experienced here at home in Brandon, FL.
Haiti has my heart.
 
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What is Love?

Today is Valentine’s Day.

It’s the annual day where loved ones profess their love for one another verbally, tangibly and with the rise of social media, publicly. The common gifts are flowers, chocolate and love letters. Some go out for a nice dinner. Others buy jewelry, a stuffed animal or a special custom gift. It’s a “sweet” time of year.

The most profound thing about this day is that the motivation behind it all is this idea of “love.” “I love you” is thrown around more on this day than maybe any other day of the year. There is a feeling of love in the air. And yet, we live in a culture where true love is distorted and misunderstood.

Love cannot be bought.

Love is not cheap.

Love is not easy.

Love is not exemplified by 50 Shades of Grey.

Love cannot be relegated to one day a year.

Love is not a feeling.  

So what is it?

Dr. Tony Evans, defines it like this: “Love is the decision to compassionately seek the well-being of another even when the emotion of liking them is not present.”

I believe he is spot on. But how opposite is this definition of love from the love we see all around us?

In our world today, if someone doesn’t feel like loving, they won’t. If loving gets hard, they stop. If loving takes work, they quit.

So how do we cure this false, pitiful attempt at love we’ve been buying in to? How do we embrace true love? Receive it.

We will always be unable to perfectly show love. However, we can receive perfect love. And by receiving it, we will be transformed in the process and begin loving others the way we were created to.

True, perfect love has a name. Jesus. 

We see what true love is in 1 John 3:16: “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

Jesus embodied true love through dying for you, me and every soul who ever has and ever will live. Even though he may not have felt like loving (Matthew 26:36-39) he followed through.

Through Jesus’ life we see that love is a choice.

Love is unwavering commitment.

Love is sacrificial.

Love is unconditional.

Love is selfless.

So when you say “I Love You” today, is it the kind of love that would lead you to lay down your life for that person? It is unconditional? Is it selfless? Or is it some weak, twisted, “feeling-founded” love that has no basis?

If you’re single, you aren’t a loser. Get to know Jesus so that when you are in a relationship you will know what true love is.

If you’re dating, be careful not to say “I Love You” if you don’t mean it, aren’t willing to follow through on it or have no idea what true love is. Instead, get to know Jesus.

If you’re married, engaged or heading in that direction, get to know Jesus. Learn how to love the way he modeled and commit to it. Your valentine is worth it. Just don’t let today be the only day you show and tell how much you love them.

Beyond romantic relationships, we all are called to love one another (John 13:34). But that’s another conversation for another day.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

4 Things I’ve Learned from 4 Years of Marriage

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January 7, 2011.

To most people this date means very little. You may not remember where you were or what was in the news, what the weather was like or who you were with. But I do. I was in Charlotte, NC at Hawthorne Lane UMC with my closest friends and family. It was cold and rainy. The anticipation and excitement had been building for close to a year. I cried my eyes out as she walked down the aisle. It was the day I married my wife, Rachel.

That was 4 years ago today. 4 years! I can’t believe it’s been that long. I know it’s an overused saying, but it really does seem like it happened yesterday. I can still play every detail of the ceremony and reception over in my mind. It was beautiful. Emotional. Spiritual. Worshipful. Detailed. Fun. I’ll never forget it.

And while our wedding day 4 years ago was fantastic, it pales in comparison to our 4 years of marriage. Why? Because a marriage is better than a wedding.

Think about it.
It’s great that we made a public commitment to each other 4 years ago, but what’s better is that we’ve stayed committed for 4 years.
It’s great that we said “I do” 4 years ago, but what’s better is that we’ve said 1,460 “I do’s” since.
It’s great that we loved each other on our wedding day, but what’s better is that our love has grown each year.

That’s why we’re not just celebrating 4 years since our ceremony. An event. We’re celebrating 4 years of being married. A relationship.

Our marriage is not perfect. It’s not without disagreement at times. We have many areas to work on as a couple. I have a LOT of areas to work on as a husband. But it’s a marriage. A relationship. Something we are committed to. And that’s cool. That’s worth celebrating!

I don’t pretend to be a marriage expert. I’ve only been at this for 4 years. But as I was thinking about this post, I realized there are lots of things that I’ve learned from 4 years of marriage. And some of those greatest lessons have been discovering what strengthens our marriage. Since I couldn’t write about all of those, I narrowed it to 4 things. They are commitments we will continue to strive for as we press on to our 5 year anniversary and beyond. If you are married, thinking about marriage, or think you might one day think about it, take a look at these. I pray they help to make your marriage better than your wedding day.

1. Assume the Best.
Every relationship will have tension at some point or another. How you enter it could make all the difference in the outcome. I don’t know about you, but I am great at making up stories in my head about the intentions of other people. And those intentions are not normally good ones that I imagine. But that’s my bad. That’s assuming the worst. When you have an attitude of assuming the best, tension is easier to work through. Because you go in believing that the other person is on your side. They love you. They want what’s best for you. And they don’t want to hurt you. It makes a world of difference.

2. Talk About the Deep Things.
I’m not necessarily talking about having intellectually deep conversations. Though those are good to have as a couple if you’re into those. I’m talking more about the deep things you wrestle with. The disagreements. The frustrations. The things in your heart. The questions you have. The doubts. The feelings. The ups and the downs. The emotions. Your dreams. Your goals. Your passions. Don’t stuff them. Talk about them. And say “I’m sorry.” Talking leads to growth.

3. Love Jesus.
This might sound cliché to some and counterintuitive to others. I get that. But this is the single most important factor to our marriage growing. Two people striving to love Jesus learn more and more about the love, forgiveness and sacrifice he modeled and called his followers to emulate. Husbands are challenged to love their wives like Christ loved the church…that’s quite a challenge. And most importantly, couples are called to love Jesus more than each other. As they do that, they actually love each other more than if they were trying to love each other without Jesus. Out of their overflow for Jesus they love one another. It’s a lifelong journey. And it grows the relationship. It’s the foundation.

4. Become Best Friends.
I believe a lot of people who are married love one another, but I’m not sure if they like one another. Once the romance of the honeymoon wears off and the kids are born, marriage becomes tough to tolerate. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Thankfully I don’t just love Rachel. I like her. I like hanging out with her. I like laughing with her. I like going on dates with her, and learning more about her. I like surprising her and not taking ourselves too seriously together. We’re friends. The BFF kind. Become best friends. It’s worth it.

I love Rachel. So much. She’s the most beautiful person I’ve ever known. She loves me more than I deserve. She is a mom who cherishes our little girl. She’s a worshipper who loves Jesus most. She’s my best friend. I’m beyond blessed to call her my wife. I wouldn’t want to spend my life with anyone else. Here’s to another year.

Happy 4 Year Anniversary, Rachel!