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Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas Tribute to Dr. Thomas Lloyd Garrison & Dr. Kenneth "Hutch" Hutcherson

In case you haven't figured it out yet, life is an incredible journey that has little to do with you and me, especially as a Christian. It has left even some of the greatest individuals; God's direct instruments pondering (Luke 2:19,51). He baffles the wise by human terms, and executes His greatest monumental actions through culturally irrelevant individuals. Yet His fingerprints and handiwork are unmistakable. Our effectiveness requires authentic selflessness.

Merry Christmas to all of my friends and supporters of The Firstborn Son, Inc. and non-profit Family Legacy Builders. Your existence is an incredible gift to us, never mistake that fact.

I sit here in the Alaskan frontier on this wonderful Christmas day 2013 in the midst of the whitest Christmas I have seen in a long time. The short Alaskan days barely allow the sun to touch the tops of mountain peaks approximately 7000 feet above our heads, and it quickly dips back into the night shadows. I share this scenery with my family and some wonderful family friends as a warm fire burns, twinkling lights, and Christmas is surely in the air and eyes of  the children. I am amazed by how Christmas has represented diverse defining moments in my life.

At the sovereignty of God I have been allowed to see a vast variety of Christmas settings in my life time. Here are a few...
·         As a boy ('70s & '80s) in Liberia and 100 degree weather, Santa (Old Man Beggar) did not fly his sleigh delivering presents (sorry Westerners). Instead, little boys would dress one as a mask dancer and it was more a "trick or treat" approach, gathering gifts (food and money) and never tricking patrons. Definitely not the jolly old boy.
·         In the early '90s and latter teenage years Christmas bore more of an aroma of death and evil. We sat homeless in the palava hut (gazebo) of a little village, doing our utmost to prayerfully remember the celebratory birth of Jesus Christ. Yet the stench and aroma of death and lawlessness by the existence of a vicious civil war and drug induced rebels ruled the days.
·         My college and early adult years in the USA found me a great distance from my immediate family in Africa, and praying for the funds to make that once a year Christmas phone call. Yet as the commitments of college basketball would allow, I drove through the snow packed roads for hours to spend the time with my guardians Lloyd & Marge Garrison and family.

Humble & Irrelevant Births; Incredible Gifts
Luke 2:7-8 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a [d]manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night.

This Christmas also bears another significant and monumental time of reflection in my life. I find myself forced to reflect upon and honor the lives of (to this date) two of the top three significant men in my life. Both Lloyd Garrison & Ken Hutcherson have gone to be with the Lord (2003 & 2013 respectively); Hutch departed within the last week. Here are excerpts from my book (The Firstborn Son: a Curse, aGift, or a Calling) about these men:

Dr. Thomas Lloyd Garrison
Dr. & Mrs. Thomas Lloyd Garrison in 1944
" I have to interject and tell you how great a man of faith Lloyd Garrison was (he has since passed on). Lloyd was an old Texan that moved his family to the northwestern United States without a whole lot of promise of material gain that man could offer. But he was amazingly influential in the planting of over twenty-five to thirty northwest churches throughout his years because his promise was from God. He would go out daily and knock on the doors of people in his community to genuinely tell them about the love of Christ and his desire to have them come and visit his church."
Marge (wife) & a part of the family at a grandson's wedding

Dr. Kenneth "Hutch" Hutcherson
Dr. Kenneth "Hutch"Hutcherson
"In that time, I have watched Hutch live the Scriptures uncompromisingly literally for the world to see. While other pastors are content to live inside the four walls of their comfortable churches and allow biblical values to be politicized and eroded, I have seen this man stand up and hold firm to the unchanging Word of God. I have seen his vision for no-charge or free adoption take up root against the big business that it is. I have seen the life of my friend and brother effectively producing lives and soldiers for God’s kingdom repeatedly.

Hutch & family at daughter's graduation
Regardless of all those wonderful accolades mentioned above, nothing of Hutch’s has impacted and influenced me more as his life in the last couple of years. I have watched my brother go through a harsh and severe bout with cancer and display truly unwavering faith. He is very much aware to what extent the possible outcomes exist, including death. No man faces those possibilities without the thoughts. However, his countenance stays strong. He made a profound statement that has impacted my life forever. For those of us who have intimate dealings and understand the man that he is, as well as his passion for the Scriptures, we say “Wow!” He once said, “You’ve watched me live for Christ. If that is where the cancer takes me, I’ll show you how to die for Christ.” With Christ indeed all things are possible. I can’t wait to see the new and renewed Hutch as he beats this cancer.

That is a view into the circle of influence that engulfs me..."

These are both men in my life who came from extremely humble beginnings as I too am fortunate to be a product. Lloyd came out of the plains of Texas. Hutch was raised in Alabama, the hub of the racist southern United States in its peak era. He was raised as a child with rage against Caucasians and told "The only good white person is a dead one."

However, as He did in the reality of Christmas, the most significant event in all of world history, only God takes the most humble births and irrelevant characters or constituents in order to submit His most masterful offerings to mankind. God chose that Christ would be born in a filthy manger (regardless of how beautiful our nativity scenes), then He chose to make His initial disclosure on the arrival of such timely event to irrelevant shepherds in the field rather than lofty kings and nobles of that culture.

In my opinion, God has done the same with Drs. Garrison and Hutcherson. He has done incredible work, and made world renowned impact with men very few have had the true pleasure or privilege of knowing, or understood the magnitude of their lives on this earth. I am referring to the fact an athlete like Lebron James has close to 11 million twitter followers thirsting for his superfluous life events compared to the critically important life lessons offered by these great men. Both men deeply understood however while the work was surely their honor, never the glory. That is God's!

Glory to God...Peace among men...He is pleased
            Luke 2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men [g]with           whom He is pleased.”

As I read the scripture and the words uttered by the heavenly host during the proclamation of Christ's birth, I am dumbfounded. It said God the Almighty is pleased with sinful men who He had to send a sacrificial lamb (Jesus) to save. As an emphasis to this proclamation, and with the common intent and expression of His pleasure, in Ephesians 1:9 "He made known to us the mystery of His will...purposed in Christ." In Christ God desires the best for men. We are His prime creation, and with whom he bears a key desire to restore righteous fellowship.

In examining intimately the testimony and lives of each of these men (Lloyd and Hutch), being sure to test it by the word of God, it is no doubt God is pleased. At the time of Lloyd's death, several years ago and similarly in recent days following the departure of Hutch from this life, the words and sentiments expressed by the many whose lives were impacted by them is absolutely phenomenal. It has left an incredible number of us awestruck as we observe the effectiveness of their ministries. Even arch enemies soul search for remarkable words of honor at the impact of losing them to the cold grip of death.

Despite the incredible evidence portrayed by their work on behalf of God and for the good of their fellow man, nothing speaks greater of their work than the legacy of life each man has left his family. That legacy is evident in the love for God, family unity, and more that was surely instituted by the lives each man lived. Yet everything they did, the glory of it all points to and belongs to God.

We ponder in our hearts
            Luke 2:19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

We are all wondering why God will call home such effective instruments for His work on this earth, especially at such a time as this culturally. In my opinion, yes He is raising others to step in and fill the gap, continue the call. More importantly, a great observation in God's relationship and interaction with mankind centers on its disposition. We (humans) often have a need and urging to be the central and focal point of any activity we are engaged with. In far too many cases that sentiment drives us to a position of insecurity and feeling despised, or even rejected by God, or those we serve.

Mary was directly involved with the greatest event we choose to celebrate annually as Christmas. She had a personal conversation with an angel and messenger from God. Many of us would have felt God owed us the entire detail of His plan for mankind if He has chosen to involve us at such a level. Yet at multiple points through the scriptures it is revealed "Mary treasured...pondered them in her heart." A similar response from Mary occurs even as Jesus, her son, is in the midst of actions during His ministry she could not fully understand. 

Is this a question which haunts you at some level in your personal relationship with God? Are you wondering why God isn't providing greater details of His plan for your life, or the road on which He has you walking at the moment? Consider these two thoughts which will greatly enhance your effectiveness for God:
  1. The incredible sovereignty of God and how He works is greatly unlike human logic, temperament, and expectations. Quit fishing for logic.
  2. He does great work through us as individuals, but could choose to allow very few to know about it (as with Drs. Garrison and Hutcherson), because the glory is His, not ours.
It is amazing to see how each of these incredible individuals and critical male figures in my life, as well as the lives of many others understood so appropriately their purposes in God's mighty plan and work. It is my unquestionable prayer for you and I, as we celebrate this amazing Christmas of 2013 and New Year of 2014, would renew our perspectives on the humility God desires (Luke 2:7-8), God's pleasure & desire for man (Luke 2:14), and to Whom (not us) proper glory is due by our view of the story of Jesus' birth (Luke 2:19).

If you aren't already, please consider donating $8.99 per month to our non-profit organization (Family Legacy Builders), and very strategic work for such a time as this.Click Here To Donate!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

In America, Share Your Faith & Family Values; Go To Jail?

There are many families in disarray today simply because someone in that lineage took a slight and seemingly insignificant slant from the truth. The item of focus for that slant might have also seemed undoubtedly minor in the grand scheme of life. The cost paid by the family today (possibly multiple generations later) is downright unbearable. Does this description fit your family? Are you on the cusp of taking a similar slant? How would you know, or avoid such grave error?

A. W. Tozer wrote: "The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him... [The Church] So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it... Though she may continue to cling to a sound nominal creed, her practical working creed has become false. The masses of her adherents come to believe that God is different from what He actually is; and that is heresy of the most insidious and deadly kind."

Although he speaks of the church, Tozer only a couple of paragraphs later invokes a view and similar fate for the family as it pertains to generational parental responsibility. Was he inaccurate? 
  • In recent weeks the United Nation continues to consider the "Defamation of Religion" resolution introduced in 2009 by radical Islam within the OIC, if I recall correctly, aimed primarily at Christians. With regards to free speech and anti-oppression which the UN advocates as a main charter, it is appalling the thought is even considered. Yet a vote on this resolution is pending and the dialog continues.
  • There is a long standing feud in the United States, a nation founded on Christ-like principles by bible believing forefathers, concerning chaplains and the "defamation of religion" within the military.
What is our response to these issues? Why do we allow these conversations to linger? Have we given it any credibility, or is it insignificant? The evidence is in our actions...

In my opinion, the answer is simple (obvious), yet it holds a magnitude of grandeur in its impact. The answer or our proper reaction is propelled by our view of God as depicted by AW Tozer's comments above. However, I wish to add a couple of more thoughts from the Bible (book of Galatians). Why? Because the only thing that is true about God is what He says about Himself. The Apostle Paul is also warning believers who know the truth yet run the risk of embracing the "slant". As such consider this please...
  • We have erroneously created worthless and unworthy (idolatry) views of God the Almighty. - Galatians 4:8 But at that previous time, when you had not come to be acquainted with and understand and know the true God, you [Gentiles] were in bondage to gods who by their very nature could not be gods at all [gods that really did not exist].
  • We must be acutely aware of the danger of the slant in our faith and family values. - Galatians 5:9 A little leaven (a slight inclination to error, or a few false teachers) leavens the whole lump [it perverts the whole conception of faith or misleads the whole church].
  • Christians are to view this issue in light of our submission to the flesh or Spirit. - Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires.
  • We must know the evidences and understand what our adoration of the flesh looks like. - Galatians 5:19-21 Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 
At the end of it all this questions remains and will provide the answer and security we seek if answered correctly. Is our view of God grand enough and proper to ward of our natural (fleshly) invitations of destruction in our midst?

If you aren't already, please consider donating $8.99 per month to our non-profit organization (Family Legacy Builders), and very strategic work for such a time as this. Click Here To Donate!