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Archive for March, 2009

Our new site is    www.howcantheyhear.org 

Please go to our new site and bookmark the  page.  We don’t want to lose you.  We really really like you, whoever you are:)  Yeah, speaking of that, why don’t you leave a comment on our new site and tell us who you are…we’d like to say hello.  Thanks.  See you over at www.howcantheyhear.org

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The more my wife and I prepare ourselves to move to Haiti,  learn about Haiti through our own experiences there, other missionaries that we know there, books we read, blogs we surf, and articles we come across, the more I begin to understand the Haitian proverb that states, “Dye mon, gen mon”, which translated means “Beyond mountains, there are mountains.”  This quote has become famous since it is the title of the best selling book by Tracy Kidder “Mountains Beyond Mountains” (a great book to read, by the way) which details the amazing life of Dr. Paul Farmer, who has dedicated most of his life to working in medicine in one of the poorest parts of Haiti.

The proverb is actually used in both a positive and negative manner.  For instance, it could be used to describe the number of opportunities that there are for a specific situation.  but more often, it is used to describe the frustration one feels when they get over one problem only to get a view of several more problems facing them.

The more I get involved with Haiti, the more mountains I see and sometimes it can be rather overwhelming.  I might start out searching for some information about orphaned children in Haiti, and next thing I know I am engrossed (and grossed) by the information that discusses all the child slavery that still exists in Haiti today.  There are almost 500,000 child slaves in this tiny little country that is no bigger than the state of Maryland.  This blows my mind away…and soon my thoughts that were once focused on the orphaned children (there are about 1 million orphaned children in Haiti today) are now set on the whole problem of child slaves. (restaveks)  And then as I start thinking through and researching more about the restaveks, I get led to information that details the horrible plight of lack of education, or lack of healthcare.  You see…mountains beyond mountains.  The country lives up to that proverb physically as the terrain is truly mountains beyond mountains (beautiful) and metaphorically as there are so many problems on top of so many other problems (ugly)

This leads to my post here.  I got these links from another missionary’s blog called The Livesay Haiti Weblog (very cool blog, by the way).  Anyway, I want to give an example of the different mountains that the Haitian people face on a daily basis.  We will be focusing on the mountains that deal mainly with orphaned children and poor children, but there are so many other mountains that need to be addressed, and this one deals with pregnant women who are at great risk of death because they are delivering their babies without professional medical staff and without the proper needed facilities and equipment. 

Please read this article first that gives horrifying statistics that will make your stomach hurt, and then click on these pictures here  and see exactly what really goes on in the poorest country in the western hemisphere (which is only a few hundred miles away from one of the richest nations of the world. Then, after you have regained your composure (and hopefully you don’t fully regain it), please pray.  Pray that the Lord will raise up more people that will give up the comforts of America to spend their lives making a difference in the lives of many Haitian women and children. Pray that people that have been blessed by God would use those resources to be a blessing to others who are in such great need.  And in all of this we shall see our great God glorified above all.

He who is kind to the poor lends to the LORD,
       and he will reward him for what he has done.–Proverbs 19:17

 I can’t wait to get to Haiti…

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Wow!!!!  What an amazing weekend I had with the great people of Lifebridge Church in Madison, MS.   I was invited down there to speak and share with them about our missions work in Haiti and how we might partner together with them since they too have just begun getting involved in the ministry in Haiti.  What a blessing it was to spend a few days with such a great group of people that are passionate about making the name of Jesus known throughout the world.

It is so amazing to see how the hand of God moves in such sovereign ways to bring resources together for the furthering of His kingdom.  Two months ago, I didn’t even know where Madison Mississippi was, let alone who Lifebridge Church was.  Yet, by the way we connected and hung out over the weekend, you’d think we had known each other for years.  I’m so thankful that God brought us to partner together for the work in Haiti.  They are truly a blessing and I look forward to working with them for many years as the Lord allows.  They have already planned a trip in July and are planning another trip in November to bring a team down to do some construction and building for the addition to the orphanage.  We are blessed and privileged to work with them.

Here are some pictures from our weekend together…

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Good ol’ southern folk from Mississippi…

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which of course means…good ol’ southern cookin’

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From left to Right…Jim Fries – the leader of the Haiti Missions Team at Lifebridge Church, Philip Thurman – the conservative, no frills, by the book pastor…haha…no way.  This guy is radical for Jesus and not afraid to shake things up, and then myself – the conservative, no frills, by the book missionary…haha…I don’t think so.

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Me sharing at Sunday morning service…

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The missions tables after the service – many people are starting to get more involved in the missions of the church…I love seeing that happen.  This church has a great mission strategy and the Lord is blessing their faithfulness.

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My two new friends, Horatio and Montel.  They are kids from the ministry that the church has in Canton reaching out to underprivileged kids through tutoring and mentoring every Monday night.  This was their first time visiting the church.  They are very special guys and I pray God’s blessings on their lives.  The only problem is that they just would never stop talking…haha…I don’t think so

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Awwww…..  of course Daddy wouldn’t forget to bring home something for his two little girls…

All in all…a terrific weekend with a terrific group of people worshiping a terrific God. I am so excited to see what God is going to do with all of this terrific-ness

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Ok, ok.  It is finally time to talk about this really cool dude named Melchizedek.  This post will be a bit long because there is a lot to say about this, but please read it through because I’m telling you…this is the kind of stuff that makes you sound really smart when you’re having coffee with your friends and want to impress them:)  That’s just a joke…I hope you’re all not like that.  Seriously…this is about gaining better and deeper knowledge of God so that you’re faith grows stronger and stronger each and every day.  Through my own personal study on this fascinating book called “Hebrews”, God has really increased my faith in seeing just how all sufficient Jesus really is.  I hope that the Lord leads you to your own personal study of Hebrews so that you also can uncover the all-sufficiency of Christ that is displayed in this book.  So…let’s talk about Melchizedek…this is really cool.

The scene is set…it’s the Old Testament times…Abraham has just come back from defeating these kings that had taken his nephew lot captive.  On his way back from routing these armies, Abraham is encountered by the King of Sodom.  Then, all of a sudden and out of absolutely nowhere, this “guy” named Melchizedek shows up who is said to be the king of Salem.  Genesis 14:17-20 tells the account where Melchizedek greets Abraham (still called Abram at that point) and brings out bread and wine.  The account tells us that this king of Salem was also priest of God most high. That’s strange…He’s a king and a priest…there’s no other king and priest mentioned in the whole bible except Jesus…Hmmm.   So he brings out bread and wine and blesses Abram…and then Abram offers him a tenth of everything that he has.  And that’s it!  No more mention of this guy Melchizedek.  This guy, who must have been so great to be a king and a priest, shows up on the scene without any mention of his birth or genealogy or life or death…just this one encounter, and then he’s gone.

We don’t hear the name Melchizedek mentioned again until the psalms when God is speaking of Christ to come says in Psalm 110:4 “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind.  You (referring to Jesus) are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  And again,Melchizedek is completely off the scene until we come to the Book of Hebrews.  Just about every single important person in the Old Testament has some sort of reference to that person’s genealogy, yet here is this Melchizedek guy who comes from nowhere and disappears just as fast, yet God says that Jesus is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek…WHAT?????

That is why Hebrews is such an awesome book.  Without Hebrews, we would be left scratching our head about this whole Melchizedek thing, but thanks to Hebrews we have a great commentary and explanation as to what this Melchizedek thing is all about.  This is found in Hebrews Chapters two through seven.

Ok…bear with me here…let’s first remember what I mentioned on my last post about the role of the high priest (offering gifts and sacrifices to God on behalf of the people of God so that their sins can be forgiven and their consciences cleansed…a mediator between God and people) and the qualifications of a high priest (had to be from the tribe of Levi just as God appointed…Joe the Israelite plumber could not be a priest…unless, of course, he was from the tribe of levi.)  Also, the levite priests were the ones who collected the tithe (tenth) from all the other tribes.  The tenth was given to them (tribe of levi) because that is how they survived since they were the only tribe that did not receive any land inheritance (the Lord said that He would be their inheritance)  Ok, so God had this whole deal set up where the priests were from the Levite tribe, they were the ones who would serve as mediators between God and the people so that sacrifices could be made on their behalf so that the people could be forgiven of their sin.  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me…but the Bible tells us in Hebrews that it wasn’t that good of a deal.  First of all, the priest had to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as the sins of the people…so this mediator who is supposed to represent me so that my sins can be forgiven is himself a sinner???  Strike one.  This mediator was only able to enter the most holy place (the place where God’s presence dwelled) one time a year to make sacrifices on behalf of my sin???  That’s not good…I know I sin a whole lot more than once a year…I need somebody who has more access to God than once a year.  Strike two. This mediator was offering sacrifices that really could not cleanse my heart and provide true forgiveness???(Hebrews tells us in 9:9-10 “the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.  They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings – external regulations…”)  But I need to be cleansed on the inside…that is where I am really dirty. Strike three. You’re Out! Hebrews 10:4 also says “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”  So, all these blood sacrifices day after day, week after week, and year after year…and yet I still cannot get cleansed on the inside where I need it most???  I’m beginning to see that this whole Levitical priesthood isn’t really as good as I thought it would be.  I need a change.  What about you?

Enter Jesus.  Hebrews 4:14-16 tells us that in Jesus we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, was tempted in every way, yet was without sin. This is unlike the levite priest who had sin. Redemption one Already he is a better high priest.  Hebrews 6:20 tells us that Jesus entered the most holy place on our behalf, and Hebrews 9:12 tells us that He entered the most holy place once and for all.  This is unlike the levite priest who only entered once a year.  Redemption two. Hebrews 9:12 also tells us that when Christ entered the most holy place, He entered with the sacrifice of His own blood, which obtained eternal redemtion.  This is unlike the levite priest who offered bulls and goats which could not even take away sins.  Hebrews 9:14 also says that the blood of Christ will “cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death”, unlike the levite priest whose sacrifices were only a matter of external regulations.  Redemption three. You’re In!!!!

This is amazing isn’t it?  But, you may be asking, what in the world does this have to do with this Melchizedek dude and how does this help me impress my friends around the coffee table?  Well, check this out…  Melchizedek was said to be a priest, right?  But I thought the priest had to be from the tribe of Levi.  Melchizedek is not said to be from the tribe of Levi.  In fact, Melchizedek shows up on the scene long before any levite is even born.  Yet Abram gives him a tenth and then is blessed by him. Melchizedek is said to mean “King of Salem” and “King of Righteousness”.  Jesus, of course, is called our “King of Righteousness” and wasn’t He the true “King of Jeru-Salem?”  Melchizedek had no genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life, just like Jesus…an eternal priest forever.  Melchizedek was a priest before the levite priests were around…he came before their order, just like Jesus.  Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi, therefore by human standards of the levitical law, He could not be a levitical priest.  And thanks be to God that He wasn’t a levitical priest, for we just saw how incomplete the levitical priesthood was all about.  Therefore Melchizedek showing up for a split second in Old Testament history is paramount because it introduces us to a better priesthood…one that Jesus could enter into…one that is complete and eternal.

Hebrews 7:11 says, “If perfection could have been attained through the levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given), why was there still a need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron (a levite)?  That is why Hebrews tells us that God spoke in Psalm 110:4 saying, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind…You (Jesus) are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.  In saying this, God is laying aside the levitical priesthood (from which the law was given) and is orchestrating a better covenant through Jesus.  Hebrews 7:18 states that “the former regulation (law, levitical priesthood) is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect) and a better hope (Jesus, priest in the order of Melchizedek) is introduced by which we draw near to God.”

Thank God for Melchizedek (perhaps Melchizedek was God incarnate when he met with Abram)  Anyway, I am so thankful that Jesus is my high priest forever in an order that supercedes the law and offers me grace, that He was completely sinless yet understands and sympathizes we me a sinner, that He entered the most holy place once and for all by shedding His own blood  and then sat down at the right hand, signifying that the work is complete and that there is nothing that I have to do to earn salvation because He did it all for me, that He is a priest forever and always makes intercession on my behalf, and that He will one day come again , not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him…I am waiting!!

Can anybody share with me in my excitement???  I just think that the Book of Hebrews tells us so much about the all sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and reading and meditating about that just gives me such great joy, comfort, and hope, that I am compelled to share it with others.  What about you?

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So, we recently left Delaware and made our move back down to Asheville, NC (actually, we’re in Black Mountain, which is about 20 minutes from Asheville)  This is an absolutely beautiful part of the country (I will post some pictures when the weather warms up and I get myself out in the great outdoors.  But I will not get comfortable here, nor do I want to, for this is not our final destination.  We are Haiti bound and that is why we are so excited to be back in Asheville…because it signifies that we are one step closer to answering God’s call to Haiti.  Our excitement for Haiti grows more and more every day.  I miss the people there…the children at the orphanage…the people in the village of Cam Coq…the pastors and leaders of the church, etc.  I cannot wait until we board that plane with our 3 children and our dog and make our move to this beautiful, yet impoverished country.

God continues to open doors and give us favor regarding the work in Haiti and connecting us with people and resources that we can partner with.  Next weekend, I am flying to Jackson,Mississippi to speak at Lifebridge Church.  They have recently begun partnering with the ministry in Haiti.  I met some of the leaders when I was in Miami last month for a time of casting vision for the work in Haiti.  We really connected well and they asked me to come to their church and speak about the missions work that we will soon be doing in Haiti.  I am very excited for the opportunity to partner with such a great group of people.

I plan on going to Haiti at the end of July to do some missions work with the ministry that we will be partnering with (we are in the process of coming up with an official name for this ministry…and then they will seek to become an official 501C3 non-profit mission agency)  Anyway, while I am there in July, I will also get things ready over there regarding our place where we will be living at the mission house.

We are in the process now of applying with a missions agency that we have been in contact with and feel very good about it.  We will get our application in within the next few weeks.  If all goes well, we will be invited down there for an interview and a week long missions orientation training in the first week of June.  From that point, we will be official missionaries with this agency and we will then start raising our support that we need.  If all goes as “planned” (of course, according to the Lord’s timing) we would love to be in Haiti by the Fall.  But we trust in His perfect provision and in His providential leading.

And so…here we are in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina…but my thoughts are on other mountains…

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…pics from the inner city after-school program that I volunteered at…

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…one of the staff interns…

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…the other staff intern…representin’ from Malawi Africa

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and of course…our fearless leader…

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Go Camp Promise!!!!!  CP…CP…Get up off of your seat!!!!  You guys rock!!!  It has been such a blessing to be a part of your lives.  You have touched my heart in a special way and I will not forget about you.  Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and see what amazing things He will do in your lives…Peace

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So, if somebody is casually skimming through the Book of Hebrews in the Bible, it might lead them to ask questions such as:  “Melchize – who??”,  or “God, what’s with the preoccupation with all the blood?”, or “High Priest – is this some sort of Dungeons and Dragons Lord of the Rings type thing?”  But, as you really read and meditate and study this fascinating book in the bible, you are sure to come away with a whole lot more…and that is some of what I want to share.  As I mentioned in my previous post, a great theme that I have found in the Book of Hebrews is best summed up to say that “Jesus is better than _________ .  You can fill in that blank with anything, but you have to be able to back it up with the reason “why”?  So…here goes with one of them…

Jesus is better than the Old Testament High Priest: Hebrews 5 tells us a little about the qualifications that a High Priest needed to have and the purpose for which they served:  (v.1) They had to be selected from among men (sounds crazy…but a High Priest had to be a flesh and blood human being, it could not be an angel or other spirit entity.  This is very important because of the purpose of the high priest in (v.2) in that they were appointed to represent the people in matters related to God, offering both gifts and sacrifices for sins.  The high priest, because he was a flesh and blood human being, was able to deal gently with the people who were ignorant and going astray, since the high priest himself was subject to weakness because of his own human frailty and propensity towards sin.  And (v.3) tells us that because of this propensity and weakness, he had to offer sacrifices for his own sins as well as for the sins of the people.  (v.4) tells us that the office of high priest is not something that a person takes upon himself, but must be called by God.  Therefore, Joe the plumber in the Israelite camp could not wake up one day and decide to trade in his plunger for the priestly robes.  Unless of course, Joe was from the tribe of Levi, because it was only the Levites whom God ordained to serve as priests in the tabernacle…that is, the earthly tabernacle

So…summing it up, the high priest was called by God through the tribe of Levi to represent the people in their relationship with God.  They were like the mediator between God and the people of God.  If Joe the Israelite plumber sinned, he would bring the offering that the law of God required for that sin (most likely an animal would have to be slain) to the tabernacle where the high priest served and the high priest would take care of the “atonement offering” on behalf of Joe.  Joe walks away with the knowledge of being cleansed and forgiven, and the high priest carries on in his role. And this is the life of the high priest…day after day…year after year…bull after bull.   And the high priest also, when he sinned, would have to bring his own sacrifice to be slain for his own sins.  Hebrews 10:11 tells us that the priest would stand day after day (which would lead to year after year, and priest after priest) performing his religious duties and offering the same sacrifices…and on and on that went for the longest time until…..Enter Jesus

Let’s take it from the top –  Jesus becomes man and walks among us…why?  Why couldn’t He be just fully God and walk among us?  Why did He have to clothe Himself in the stench of human flesh with all the weakness and suffering that accompanies it?  The answer is found in Hebrews 4:14-16  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are, yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so that we might receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  That is amazing love that Jesus has shown us!!  He left the glories of heaven and clothed himself with human flesh so that He could fully relate to us…with our weaknesses, with our struggles and doubts, with our temptations to sin, yet He (unlike all the other high priests) never sinned and did not have to offer sacrifices for Himself.  But the Bible tells us in 1Tim.2:5 that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men…”  You see, through Jesus we no longer need to have a high priest to represent us in matters related to God…we have Jesus who has done it for us.  And that is why Hebrews 4:16 calls us to approach the throne of grace with confidence to receive mercy and find grace to help in our time of need.  we can come to Jesus with confidence, and not with fear.  We come to Jesus with certainty, and not with doubt.  Because He himself has become our high priest.  He became a man of flesh and blood so that He could sympathize with the weaknesses of all those that are too clothed with human frailty.  But He overcame human frailty…and so He is one who I fully believe can deliver me from my own human weaknesses.

As I said, the Bible tells us that the high priest stands day after day offering the same sacrifices, which can never really even take away sins.  BUT Jesus the great high priest offered himself once and for all to take away all sins and then He sat down. This sitting down signifies that the job is done…there is no longer a need for the priestly role to represent men before God.  There is no longer the need for repeated animal sacrifices.  And then Hebrews 7:25 says something beautiful…He (Jesus) always lives to intercede for us who have been called by His grace.  My Jesus, my mediator,…my God

And so I will close with Hebrews 7:25-28

25Therefore he is able to save completely[a] those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.

26Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. 28For the law appoints as high priests men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever.

Why does this mean so much to me????  Because I am just like Joe the Israelite plumber…  I sin, I struggle with sin, I suffer from the effects of sin (guilt, condemnation, etc) and I am ever so grateful that Jesus has become my great high priest who always lives to make intercession for me.  In other words, He is my mediator between myself and this holy and perfect God who is an all consuming fire.  I sin…confess it to God, and Jesus says something to the effect of…”Father, I come to you on Cody’s behalf.  I understand Cody’s weakness and struggle.  I love him so much that I gave my very blood as the only sacrifice that would take away his sins forever.  His sin is covered by my blood.  He can come to you.”  And God the Father replies to me, “Cody, come to me…come with confidence and let me offer you my grace and my mercy through my son Jesus.”  And so I come…

I don’t want to offend any catholics out there, but after studying the Book of Hebrews, I find it very difficult to agree with the continued practice of people going to a catholic priest to confess their sins and the priest telling them what to do or say in order to be forgiven…basically acting as a mediator between the person and God.  And so, the average catholic continues to believe that in order to be forgiven by God of their sins, they have to go to a priest who can best represent them before God.  But, according to Hebrews, Jesus is the only true and great high priest who can best represent us before God…why would we settle for somebody less.  Through Jesus Christ, we have been given direct access to God…we do not need another mediator…especially one who is clothed in human frailty just like us. We have Christ Jesus Himself who is our mediator…the One who loves us, sympathizes with us, understands us, and will one day return for us…

Comments always welcome…

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