Nov 30, 2010

The Walk by Shaun Alexander - A Book Review

The Walk: Clear Direction and Spiritual Power for Your LifeI recently was given a copy of a new book by former Alabama and NFL star running back Shaun Alexander called "The Walk: Clear Direction and Spiritual Power for Your Life."  I had the privilege of watching Shaun's career at the University of Alabama and his strong testimony of his faith while a youth pastor in the Birmingham area.  I also had him speak to my students in 2002.  He has always been a solid example for both young people and men of a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

"The Walk" is a good read, especially in the generic "Christian Living" market.  This book is the author's attempt to try and explain a basic concept of discipleship and following Jesus.  Like the title suggests, Alexander utilizes the biblical illustration of "walking" from both the Old and New Testament to define how God intends the Christian life to be lived.  He has tried to write this book to be relevant to people on several places on the Christian journey.  In his words, he defines five stages of this pilgrimage - the Unbeliever, the Believer, the Example, the Teacher, and the Imparter.  Each of these stages shows the need for progressive sanctification.  He also identifies in each stage what he calls the "Trials, Traps, and Victories" of each stage.  This structure helps the reader to easily identify whatever stage he may be in and struggles he may be currently facing.  He also uses the example of Peter in each of the stages to show a biblical example of someone who progressed in his walk with Jesus. 

Don't read this book if you are looking for a theological dialogue on progressive sanctification.  There were some points where I felt like the theological foundations for the author's statements were a little shaky.  I felt at times that passages were used as a proof-text and weren't given careful enough exegesis.  This however is a common trend in most popular Christian living books.  Another concern was possibly an unintended implication that Alexander's athletic success was a result of his obedience to Jesus.  At points the reader might get a taste of a prosperity gospel that suggests that if you "give God all the glory" that God will bless you.  This is indicative of the "Prayer of Jabez" church culture that many times fails to see that sometimes God may bring prosperity and sometimes he may give you a cross.  At times I wish he would have dealt a little more fully with some of the tougher issues of being obedient when God doesn't come through like you suggested.

I don't believe that Alexander is attempting to declare a prosperity gospel - quite the opposite.  I think he has tried to write a very encouraging book to the vast majority of Christians that struggle with everyday obedience to Christ.  For this reason, I think the book is an encouraging read.  I believe that Shaun Alexander has done a great job of leveraging the gifts God has given him to glorify God.  This book is another attempt to do that.  I think many people will be helped and strengthened by reading it.  If you have a football fan in the family, especially in the Southeastern Conference, pick up a copy of this book for him/her.

Nov 27, 2010

Greatest Egg Bowl Ever!

In honor of tonight's game, here was one of the greatest moments in MSU Egg Bowl history.  My wife, brother, dad, and I were at the game.  It was an awesome moment! 

(The quality isn't great, but the energy translates nonetheless)

Nov 25, 2010

Things I Am Thankful For...

Sons That Love Me In Spite of My Flaws

Today, as I spend time with my family, I am especially grateful that my Heavenly Father has blessed me with the honor of bring an earthly father.  I didn't get married until I was 29 years old.  I wondered for many years whether it was part of God's plan that I would be married and have children.  God blessed me with the most beautiful redhead I have ever seen.  In our first year of marriage, we were excited to find out that we were pregnant.  We hoped for a boy and even named him "Noah".  However, Noah never made it into this world because of a miscarriage.  Through the pain and sorrow these questions still remained.

We welcomed Nathan Thomas Haines into this world in October 7, 1999.  From the beginning, Nathan has shown exceptional intelligence, a caring heart for people, and a desire to excel.  He has a very active imagination, usually starting sentences with the words "What if...?"  He has an artistic and creative mind.  He can usually be found drawing something or creating a new ship out of Legos.  He loves to play baseball and go places with his Dad - especially sporting events.

Andrew Scott Haines joined our family on February 2, 2001.  Drew has always marched to his own drumbeat from the beginning.  As a baby, Drew had a horrible case of reflux and would randomly spit-up on you.  He is by far our most emotional child, vacillating between emotions very quickly.  Drew also is an extremely intelligent child.  He usually brings home very good grades from school.  All of his teachers have remarked about his intelligence.  He also loves to read and sometimes likes to create his own stories.

John David Haines became son #3 on April 5, 2004.  He's always been the baby of the family.  He loves to be right in the middle of anything his big brothers are doing.  He is the most physical and touch oriented of our children.  His favorite thing to do is to "wrestle" with his dad.  (I love it too.)  He loves to snuggle at night with mom watching TV.  He's in the first grade and has shown a lot of the academic potential of his brothers. 

We are waiting on son #4, Joshua Lee Haines, to join us.  Anticipated arrival is January 20, 2011.  The announcement of his arrival was quite shocking to say the least.

As I was in the Dominican Republic last week, I had a lot of time to think about how blessed I am to be a dad and how much I take it for granted.  You can imagine that with three boys under 11 that our house is filled with energy and noise.  It can also be filled with a lot of drama -"Dad! They're bothering me!", "Dad! He hit me!", etc.  Many days the tyranny of the moment and the need to bring calm to the situation leads me to forget just how blessed I really am.  I have the unique opportunity to take three guys (soon to be four) and shape them into young men who love the Lord Jesus Christ.  I get to model the gospel in a real and tangible way to my sons.  I don't do a very good job of it.  I am afraid that many days they get an angry tyrant instead of the Lord Jesus Christ.  I sometimes sacrifice relationship for peace and quiet.  I think that sometimes I treat them as burdens rather than blessings.  However, most every day I have at least one moment where God uses them to show me just how blessed I really am.  I am thankful that while I am, like everyone else, an imperfect earthly father that I know (and prayerfully they do too) a Heavenly Father that treats us as sons and not slaves, gives us grace in our failures.

Last week in the DR, I was confronted with two stories about how fragile life is as a dad.  In one case we heard about a 14-year old kid who was fighting a very deadly form of cancer.  In another we heard a pastor tell about losing his 19-year old son in a car accident.  It was a not-so-gentle reprimand from my Heavenly Father about my attitude towards the boys he's blessed me with.  On this day, I am grateful that my sons look past my faults and still love me as dad.  I am blessed more than I deserve.

(Now I have to go. Someone's hitting someone.  Someone's told me for the ninth time they are bored.  Someone's asking when the turkey's going to be ready...)

Nov 23, 2010

Things I Am Thankful For...

This being Thanksgiving week, I thought I would put up a few posts about some things that I am extremely thankful for this year.  First up...

People Who Sacrifice to Obey the Great Commission

Wrapping up my first full year as a pastor, this is one that has been heavy on my heart recently.  In the past year, I have been able to witness God putting a heart for missions into the people of Sixth Street.  This has always been a good SBC church - giving to and promoting missions.  However, in the past 12 months God has given us a heart to go.  I just returned from a baseball outreach to the Dominican Republic with three guys who, to my knowledge, have never been on a mission trip before.  It has been exciting to see the fire in their eyes as they see the great spiritual need both at home and abroad. 

In addition to these guys, in January one of our ladies went to Africa with a local church.  In June we sent a team of 24 to McDowell, Kentucky to do construction and benevolence work.  In August, my wife and a college student from the church spent 2 weeks in Africa ministering and sharing Christ's love with orphans in Swaziland, one of the most destitute countries in the world.  We have a team of four guys that are preparing to go in early 2011 on a vision trip to begin a partnership with the International Mission Board to reach an unengaged people group somewhere in West Africa.  These men are selling cars, boats, and sacrificing greatly to obey God's call on them.  We have another young lady in the church that is preparing to leave in January for "The World Race" - a 12-month journey to 11 countries.  The spreading of this fire for missions has created some great conversations in our church and is helping us to turn our attention away from the struggles of the past. 

By far, though, the greatest sacrifice I have seen this year is my friends Mark and Alyson Clyburn and Steve and Amy McAdams.  These two couples are friends of our from our former church in Birmingham.  Four years ago, these couples were average families who attended church each week and enjoyed good Christian fellowship.  However, they attended a mission trip to Swaziland several years ago and God redirected their lives in a massive way.  I witnessed as they sacrificed jobs, houses, cars, and much more to prepare themselves to pick up their children and their lives and move around the globe to love on and share the gospel with orphans.  The journey was a difficult one.  Many days we wondered how they would get the finances to go.  They are still in need of a lot of prayer and financial support.  If you are looking for a way to bless someone this holiday season, please consider giving them a financial gift.  You can do so here: Steve McAdams or Mark Clyburn

The task before us is great, but the Savior we serve is greater still.  He has promised that the gospel will go into all the world.  He has promised that every people group will have access to hear the gospel.  All he needs from us is open hands and surrendered hearts.  My prayer for my church, my family, and the Southern Baptist Convention is that we - like these families - will sacrifice whatever Christ asks to fulfill the Great Commission.  

Nov 19, 2010

Dominican Republic Mission Trip - Final Update

It's good to be back home on U.S. soil.  Yesterday was a long day of finishing up in the DR and traveling home.  On our last night in the DR, we had a great worship service.  Andy Pettite shared his testimony of coming to faith in Christ as a teenager and his career in MLB as a Christ-follower.  He also shared his regret for the incident where it was discovered that he had taken Human Growth Hormone and the damage it did to his reputation as a player and Christian.  Ken Whitten brought us another strong message from Psalm 37.  He is a gifted communicator and encourager.  After worship, we spent some time with some of the pro players we had become close to and did a video interview with them to show to our church.  We also stayed up late talking until past midnight about our experience and the challenges we had received in our walk with Christ.

Thursday morning began our last day of clinics.  We had the privilege of going to a complex that was built by the Rawlings Foundation to support the work of SCORE International and their vision of reaching children with baseball.  They had three wonderful fields and a housing complex that can house 1000 kids.  We split up and did a clinic.  Our group had to leave before the clinic was over to get to the airport for our flight home.  We left the DR with hearts that were full and broken for the kids of the DR.  All our teams had ministered to about 6,000 kids during the week and saw close to 4,000 indicate some decision for Christ.  We were able to pass our food to many people.  We also developed some great bonds with brothers-in-Christ from around the country. 

When we arrived in the country, the first thing we did after passing through customs...Whoppers from Burger King.

Nov 17, 2010

Dominican Republic Mission Trip - Day 4 (Mid-day Update)

We are on day 4 and our last full day here in the DR.  Last night was an awesome evening.  However, the hotel internet was down after our evening session preventing us from posting updates or calling our families.  That was a bummer.

Our evening session last night first consisted of a testimony time from Yankee great Mariano Rivera.  He shared about growing up in Panama and never imagining being given the chance to play in the major leagues.  He also shared about how he was discovered and how his coming to Major League Baseball opened up the chance for him to find Jesus Christ and lead his whole family to Christ.  SCORE had another group that was in a different part of the DR that joined us last night.  In that group were Kevin Malone, former GM of the LA Dodgers and several former and current Dominican players.  One was Melky Mesa, a current Yankee prospect.  We were also joined in the evening by Nelson Cruz who drove 7 hours from his hometown to join us.  We were challenged from the word by Ken Whitten, pastor at Idlewild Baptist Church in Tampa.  He gave an awesome challenge about having hope and resolve in tough times.  The evening session was closed out by a lady who is here with her husband who did a wonderful painting of Jesus on the cross in front of us.  One of the highlights of the evening was an unexpected update from the dad in NC that we had talked with the day before whose 14-year old son has cancer.  They were told by the doctors last night after the latest scan that the tumors had shrunk and there appeared to be no sign of cancer!  It was an emotional moment for everyone and an affirmation of the healing power of God.

After the evening session, we were given a chance to talk with and get autographs from Andy Pettite, Mariano Rivera, Nelson Cruz, Melky Mesa, Chris Coughlin, and Mark Melancon.  We were also given a chance to shop for some local items being sold by local SCORE missionaries.  It was a late bedtime last night.

This morning's devotional was led by Pastor Steve Berger from Grace Chapel in Franklin, TN.  Fourteen months ago Steve's son Josiah was killed in a one-car accident.  He shared the painful story and how it led he and his wife on a journey to help people better understand what the Bible has to say about heaven.  It was a stirring time.  Steve and his wife have written a book and have a website to help with their story.  The website is  After the devotional, our team loaded for about an hour bus ride to Medina for a clinic.  We were joined in our clinic today by Andy Pettite who led a pitching clinic and Nelson Cruz who worked with hitters.  Because we had some MLB stars, there was a huge crowd and a lot of media.  We kept having to back the media away because they interfered with the clinics.  Andy Pettite shared his testimony, John Zeller shared the gospel.  We had about 115 decisions and got follow-up cards on them afterwards. 

We came back to the hotel for lunch.  I am staying at the hotel to do some sermon work and update the blog.  The other guys from Sixth Street went out today for another clinic and pick-up game.  Thanks for praying for us.  We are seeing God do some awesome things both in the Dominican people at the clinics and in our evening sessions with us. 

Nov 16, 2010

Dominican Republic Mission Trip - Day 3

Greetings (or Hola!) from the DR.  We are wrapping up an extremely busy day three here.  It's been jam-packed today.  Our morning devotional consisted of a very touching testimony by Sam Marcinick.  He played several years in the Rangers and Yankees organizations.  He shared how five years ago he came on this trip to teach baseball and found Christ.  We also had a devotional by Ron Bishop.

Our group headed out for our first clinic of the day.  We were greeted in a village by about 250 kids.  We shared clinics on hitting, outfield, infield, and pitching.  We wrapped the clinic up with a couple of testimonies and a gospel presentation.  Hundreds responded to the gospel invitation and filled out response cards.  After lunch, we headed out to the city of Boca Chica for another clinic.  The locals had heard that Andy Pettite was coming so a large crowd from the city gathered.  We had over 300 kids for the clinics.  After the clinic, Andy Pettite came onto the field and shared his testimony.  Sam Marcinick shared the gospel and another large crowd responded.  After the clinic, we were swarmed by Dominican kids who were trying to get gloves, bats, balls, or anything else they could from us.  We had a hard time getting off the field and onto the bus.  Now, we just got cleaned up and are eating dinner.  We have a long worship session tonight and autograph session with Andy Pettite and Mariano Rivera.  Although I am a Red Sox fan, I am looking forward to meeting these two baseball greats.

More to come tomorrow...

Nov 15, 2010

Dominican Republic Mission Trip - Day 2

Hey everyone!  Quick we had our first day of baseball clinics here in the DR.  After a long day traveling and long night meeting, we got to bed about 11:00 last night and woke at 6:00 this morning. (Actually, my phone went off about 5:00 in my room b/c I forgot to disarm it. So Bryan Riddle and I had a hard wake-up followed by another hard wake-up call an hour later). 

We had a great breakfast followed by a morning devotional time.  During our devotion, we called a guy in High Point, NC who has been on these trips before.  However, his family recently found out that their 14-year old son has an aggressive form of cancer.  He was diagnosed last year, underwent treatment, was declared clean this Spring, but the cancer has come back and is stronger.  Doctors have given him 6-12 months.  For that reason, he couldn't come this year.  We prayed with him and each of us felt the overwhelming weight imagining having to go through that with our sons. 

After devotion, we loaded up in the buses.  All of the guys from Sixth Street are on the same squad.  We went to a field in San Pedro de Marcoris that was at one time the Dominican home of the Houston Astros.  This village once heavily relied on a sugar cane plantation that has been closed for 25 years.  Most of the people are out of work and look around town for work.  San Pedro is the home for many Major League players, most famously Sammy Sosa.  The field was invaded by probably 200 kids.  Baseball is their only way out of poverty and their great passion.  One kid who was out there had only one arm.  He was deformed from birth.  He would field the ball, pop it up in the air, take off his glove, catch the ball and throw.  Most of the kids didn't have gloves and many didn't have shoes.  However, they all were thrilled to be playing baseball and showing off for us "gringos".  After the clinic, one of the guys shared his testimony and John Zeller shared the gospel. Several students indicated a desire to ask Christ to be their Savior.  That's what it's all about!

After coming back to the hotel for lunch, the other guys headed out to another clinic.  I stayed in the hotel trying to shake off a sinus infection.  Thanks for all your prayers.  Each of us have been greatly impacted today and it's only the first day.  More updates to come...

Nov 14, 2010

Hello from the Dominican Republic

It's 10:30 on the close of our first day here in the DR.  Today was mostly a traveling day.  We met at the church this morning at 3:15 AM to head to Atlanta for our flight to Miami and then to Santo Domingo.  The flights went well and we had a great time of laughs and cutting up together.  We are pretty tired and tomorrow starts early at 6:00 AM.

We have a team of 4 guys from Sixth Street here in the DR to do baseball clinics with SCORE International.  We are excited but unsure about what is in store for us during the week.  Most of the kids here in the DR believe that baseball is their ticket to a better life.  We are here to work with them on their passion and also to share with them the love and story of Jesus.  Tonight we had an opening worship service and heard a testimony of a young man playing AA ball and an inspirational message from SCORE's founder, Ron Bishop.  We also broke into our groups to talk about our work tomorrow.  There are several minor and a couple of major league players here in addition to some high school and college coaches.  I am excited to see three of my guys who get to mesh their passion and talent for baseball with the mission of Jesus.

Another highlight tonight was getting to see and talk with one of my baseball heroes, Ron Polk.  As a lifelong MS State fan, I grew up watching Coach Polk in the third base coaches box.  He is a true ambassador of the game.  It was great to see him singing worship songs tonight and sharing with his unique brand of humor.

That's about all for now.  Time to go to bed.  Hope to update tomorrow afternoon or evening.

Nov 11, 2010

Playing this one for Nick!

Getting ready for what I hope will be a great game in Tuscaloosa Saturday.  It's been a tough week in Starkville with the loss of Nick Bell and the media distractions surrounding Cam Newton's recruitment.  However, this video gets me jacked up for Saturday's game.  There are two teams that MSU fans are absolutely rabid about beating - Ole Miss and Alabama. 

This video shows there is definitely a new attitude in Starkville.  Great job Derek Cody!

Nov 4, 2010

R.I.P. Sparky Anderson

I grew up not only a baseball fan, but a huge fan of two teams - the Cincinatti Reds and the Detroit Tigers.  One thing they had in common is that they both won World Series under the same manager, Sparky Anderson.  My earliest memories of baseball are filled with Pete Rose's line drives, Joe Morgan's arm twitch, and Sparky Anderson's white hair and great smile.  Baseball has lost a legend today and one of the greatest managers of all time.