Monthly Archives: November 2015

Perspective.

 A sincere heart note from our friend @JohnR1977


This weekend, I had a rather emotional experience. Actually, it was more of a series of divine appointments that could have only been orchestrated by The Almighty. I apologize in advance if I ramble and change directions during the following, but this isn’t a thought-out attempt to appear witty or introspective. It’s an admission of guilt and a testimony of grace. Away we go.

I have a problem. Well, I have several problems, but one in particular which I cannot seem to pin to submission. My ego gets the best of me more than I care to admit, and I cannot stop it. And it’s completely undeserved. I am by far the best looking guy in the world, I never graduated high school, I’m a recovering alcoholic and addict, and I have I destroyed more relationships in my life than I can count. I try to be better, every single day, but I still catch myself looking down my nose at those around me and shaking my head in derision. I scoff at people who have no idea why I’m being such a jackass, and the reality is, I have no idea either. I’d imagine it’s some sort of deeply wired defense mechanism that’s operating on some subconscious level that only a professional could navigate, but I believe God can fix it faster. So that’s what He and I talk about. A lot.

Let me tell you a story. Once, there was a wayward young man who followed his beautiful girlfriend into a converted school on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. The school had become a church, and the church had become a beacon of hope for those in the surrounding neighborhoods. The people inside were caring and wonderful, and the love was palpable. It was an amazing experience.

Or, it would have been, but it was all lost on the young man. See, he didn’t care about being there. He was only present out of some duty and obligation to his significant other. He would have much rather been at home. But he went nonetheless,and tried to appear interested.

This charade lasted for a few years. He would go, she would be happy. They would leave, he would be happy. And so they danced, the beautiful girl and the wayward young man, even though truth be told she somehow knew him to be disingenuous.

The men of the church cared for the young man as their own. Reached out, pulled in, and the young man pushed back. Love doesn’t come easy for one who has spent a life time either in passionate pursuit of it or fleeing from the sharpened tip of it. Brotherly love wasn’t a concept that rang familiar to one who was an only son, and to his father, a forgotten son. But this isn’t a step into the bog of self-pity, for those who keep their eyes on those behind them never have the chance to see the smile in those in front of them. So the young man extended cursory pleasantries and hurried handshakes and made haste for the exit. Every Sunday. For years.

His duplicitous behavior transcended church attendance, however, and one day, the young man found himself in the midst of a rather precarious predicament. Down one road lay the beautiful and lifetime of happiness and love, and down the other lay selfish pleasures of the flesh and a mistake that would destroy the beautiful girl.

Which path do you think he took?

Sufficed to say, the young man chose the path of least resistance, as he was wont to do. Love and respect were commitments, and one doesn’t have the time for such things when self-gratification is so much easier.

Away! Away the young man rode, straight into the arms of the enemy who had been waiting for him for sometime. As darkness wrapped it’s tendrils around the young man, he heard the words of God speaking from somewhere above, as if God was up in a tree shouting down with hands cupped over mouth.

“Make haste, young man!” the voice would cry. “Take one step back, just one, and I will reach down and pull you up into this tree with me. Up here, you and I can speak freely, and I can tell you my plans for you.”

The young man stopped being a young man in that moment. In a single action triggered by a lone thought, every cog in the mechanism that ran the young man’s heart popped out of its housing and shot off in a hundred directions. As the light left his eyes, the last thing the young man remembered before he submitted to the dark was the face of God reflected in the eyes of the beautiful girl.

There he lay. No longer young, and no longer a man. A husk that held a brain with more knowledge than wisdom, and a heart with missing pieces. It was all he could do to simply pick himself up off of the floor and stumble towards reality. And as he cried softly to himself, he noticed he wasn’t alone. A presence had filled every inch of space around him. It enveloped him but didn’t stifle. It encompassed him. It warmed him. As he opened his eyes and wiped away the tears, two hands reached out. In one lay the pieces of his heart, and the other rest upon his shoulder. He cautiously picked the pieces from the palm of the hand and in an instant, the young man felt love. In the next, he knew love. In a moment, he was whole again. Not a better version of his old self, but a completely new entity. Then the voice came again.

“I will never leave you. I will never stop loving you. I will never be apart from you. I am here always.”

“But I didn’t reach up my hand so you could pull me up, and look what I did. Look what I destroyed. Look who I hurt.”

“It’s all fixable. I will fix it all. I will renew it and rebuild it and revive it. Look at me.”

“I can’t.”

“No tears, my son. Look at me. Look in my eyes.”

“I hurt her so much. I can’t”

“You can. Through me, you can.”

The young man dried his eyes and looked straight into the face of forgiveness. All at once, the pain was gone.

“Now, remember this. You have to put into action a few things. Show me you believe what I’ve said and I will not stop working until what I’ve told you has been made true. Can you do that?”

“I don’t know. I have nothing. I have no job, no money, no one trusts me. I’ve destroyed my life.”

“You’ve looked me in the eye and known that I am for you. That’s all you need to know. From this moment, you walk forward. Follow my son. He will take care of you while I work. As for her and the others, you will see that they’ve never stopped loving you either.”

“How can I be sure?”

“Because you will see me in their faces. Just as you did with the beautiful girl.”

I told you that story to tell you this one. The young man did see the love in the faces of the men of that church. And they accepted him despite the mess he had brought upon himself. They never judged, they never condemned, and they never made him feel unworthy. And for awhile, a brotherhood was formed that was set to take on the enemy with a ferocity that could only be fueled by a bond forged by God. But, again, the young man felt himself to be too close to pure love, and he ran for the railing and vaulted over. Right back into the darkness.

God’s word says that there is nothing we can do that will keep us from His grace, love, and mercy. I believe that. I’ve apologized to God a lot lately. And I know He forgives me. And He and I are still hard at work on the whole ego thing. We’re getting there.

This weekend, two groups of people did two totally different things, and both groups did them in the name of God. One group joined together yesterday and praised Him for all of the good He has brought to the world. The other destroyed lives because they believed it’s what God wanted them to do. I took a piece from both events, and they fit together. Hear me out.

Muhammad isn’t real. He isn’t a prophet. Allah is not God. It’s so unfortunate that some people believe the opposite, but one day they will know the truth. The lives lost in Paris were not in vain, however, because when things like this happen, God uses the devastation to mold greatness as only He can. People will come to Christ from this. I feel it. I know it.

I spoke to a security guard yesterday at Spirit Fest. We talked for an hour or so, and he was a very interesting man. He wasn’t there to praise or worship, however, he was just there to complete an obligation. Exactly what I used to do. He said something very profound to me that I haven’t been able to shake in the past twenty four hours.

“I think it’s great that people believe in God and all that. For me, I’m not ready. I just can’t see myself being that nice to everybody, everyday. I couldn’t do it.”

That’s his perception of being a Christian. And he’s so close to the mark that I’ll call it a bullseye. We are to love everyone, and how better can that love be perceived by others than when genuine kindness is reflected in every action. I gave him a very quick lesson in how accepting Jesus as your savior is first and foremost, and how all of the other stuff comes together through that acceptance. He didn’t become a believer yesterday, but the seed is there.

Here’s my point, for those that haven’t bailed on me yet. I am a messy, imperfect horrible person. I am an egotistical jackwagon (thanks Pastor Scott :)) and when I feel myself getting too close to someone or something, I purposely set it on fire. Not literally, of course, but I burn bridges so I don’t have to walked back over them only to find the other person has given up and left. I ruin things. That is who I am.

At least, it’s who I am sometimes. We all have the incredible hulk to our Bruce Banner’s, and mine just happens to be the monster who thinks he’s too good for everyone else because deep down he feels he isn’t good enough at all. And I am trying so hard to change that. And I will. Rather, God will, and I will let him.

It comes down to how you view yourself, and how you view your God. Is the God you serve one that speaks mercy and love, so that everyone sees how “you are nice to everybody, everyday,” or is the God you serve one who instructs you to murder? It isn’t that difficult to see which one we ought to be pursuing. And do you view yourself as worthy of being rebuilt? You should. I do, finally. And even though God has just started, I can’t wait to see the finished product not only in the reflection in the mirror, but in the reflection in the people I come across.

Hold on to those who love you. Hold on to The One who loves you. Cast your pride aside and accept mercy and forgiveness, because we are so blessed to have it.

Thank you, my brothers. And I know you’re just as sick of me saying sorry as I am of saying it. Know this, though. The young man owes his life to you. God used you men to speak into me and hold me up when I wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out. I never stopped loving you guys, even if I let myself believe I didn’t like you very much. And I respect you all for everything you’ve become. The lives you’ve changed are a testament to your faith, and you should be proud of that.

Oh! I forgot to mention. The beautiful girl still captivates the young man, and they are closer now than they ever were, even if they aren’t where they used to be. But that’s a good thing. Where they used to be wasn’t leading either of them anywhere.

This young man is off to bed. God bless you all.

Capture

Discipline.

One of the things I love to do is workout consistently. I try to get up every morning before work and hit the gym. I’ve been doing this for about 7 years now. It makes my day feel better and I don’t have to worry about missing the gym because of other engagements later in the day. It’s been hard to master, I don’t always get up, but I’ve disciplined myself over time so it’s not a big deal anymore. Discipline has been a major factor in what I look like now as opposed to what I looked like when I wasn’t in shape. When I started attending Church Unlimited and became a believer, I saw how discipline plays a major part in your spiritual walk as well. The way I see it, I figure I can compare my physical and spiritual well-being quite easily because I know discipline is required to achieve greatness. In 1 Timothy 4:8 it says,

“Physical training is good, but godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.”

For a long time now, I have been training physically to be stronger and to have a healthier lifestyle, but now as I follow Christ and realize that I get my strength from Him, I strive to become spiritually stronger. My brothers and I have made it a point to keep accountability on each other to not only be spiritually stronger, but healthier as well. As leaders of our homes, we want to be around for many family memories. It’s not easy, but nothing worth something great is ever easy. Our faith has got to be in Christ our savior in order for us to do greater things. If He says we are to do great things, our faith must prove it!

Prostitution.

Prostitute: a man or a woman who sells themselves for money or material items or pleasure.

Reading in the book of Ezekiel and throughout most of the old testament God compares His people to prostitutes. He does this because over and over we see them selling themselves out to idols. They have become unfaithful to God who has always been faithful to them. They  turn their backs on Him and forget about all the things He did for them. God has given them freedom from Egypt only for them to be enslaved by something or someone else. In Romans 6 Paul talks about the freedom from sin. Think about this, are we not the bride of Christ, yet we cheat on Him every day when we sell ourselves out to lust or addictions or material things. You see, like it or not, anything placed before God becomes your God or your pimp. Things or people you put before God will inevitably control you and cause you to do whatever you have to do to get more. But remember, God is a good God and He will wait for you.

He says,  “I will not leave you or forsake because I love you so much that I came to earth in the form of man to rescue you from all this!” There is only one control factor involved with God, it’s love. It’s His constant love and the free will love we can choose to reciprocate to Him and to one another. God humbled Himself and came down to our level to rescue you and me, to prove His love! That’s how much He loves us, He became flesh to die for us!

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”
John 1:14 NLT

 

Worship is not a slow song….

The word, “worship” is probably the most misunderstood word among believers and nonbelievers alike. To some it means to bow before an item, person, or deity; to others it means to lift your hands during a slow song at church, and yet to others, worship is the actual slow song itself. All these answers are in some degree wrong but are also right!

In the dictionary, worship is defined as:

Noun: “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”

Verb: show reverence and adoration for (a deity); honor with religious rites.

So is bowing before an altar, or to the Lord considered worship? Sure it is, but how about lifting your hand during a song? Why not? How about playing the slow song itself? Sure, that can be worship. All of these actions can be called worship. But it only truly becomes worship when the actions (bowing, lifting of hands, etc.) are a reflection and a result of what is happening in the hearts of people. Believe me, people can lift their hands up high and sing along to a song while having impure thoughts. For example, the man or woman who practicing premarital sex can bow before the altar too. The unsettling fact is that the actions can be faked.

“These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.”
‭‭                                                                           Matthew‬ ‭15:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬

As worship director in the church I’m privileged to serve, I am in constant prayer to protect the integrity of His stage.  The fact that we get to stand on that stage and usher in His presence to His people is an honor. Relying completely on prayer to decide who sings or plays on the stage and even what songs are sung is a process of completely removing me, my thoughts, my wants, and my intentions from the equation. Recently, the experience of praise and worship has hit an all time high. With the Holy Spirit making the calls, how can we expect anything less? The people He chooses have the right heart-set to be emptied of themselves and filled with The Spirit. Again, the key to true worship is the posture of heart behind the actions.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”
‭‭                                                                        Jeremiah‬ ‭29:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬‬‬

Now don’t fool yourself into thinking that worship is only related to things that happen within the four walls of a church building. In fact, more true worship can and should occur during the week, from Sunday to Sunday. If your heart is in constant pursuit of fulfilling His will, you can be in constant worship of the Lord. Your outward expression will reflect the love that you have in your heart. It will overflow to you family, friends, and coworkers. Even those family members, friends, and coworkers that may not be so pleasant in the world’s eyes. Your demeanor can have the potential to bring people to salvation. The world might see your joy or how you handle a tough situation, and be inspired. They will want to know what you have that makes you different, to which you get the privilege to answer, “I have Jesus!”

I used to think that, “Worship” is a slow song we sing on Sunday morning.  Worship isn’t a slow song at all, it’s the heart behind that slow song, the heart behind the person bowing or lifting their hands. Most importantly it’s Jesus and all the love, peace, and comfort that comes only with Him.

The Problem is the Filter

What if there’s a filter that keeps your kid from hearing the words you are actually saying?

What if that filter is so fixed in place that it catches every single word you say and changes it to something else?

What if neither you nor your kid knows the filter exists?

“These grades aren’t your best effort, you can do better,” becomes “you’re lazy and a disappointment.”

“Look at all we do for you, and I ask you to do one thing and you can’t do it,” sounds more like, “I don’t think you’re a very good person because I do more for you than what you do for me.”

Instead of hearing…

“I love you,” your kid hears, “I put up with you because I have to.”

What if you created the filter without even realizing you were doing it?

It might have been words you used when you were angry that you didn’t mean to say. It could have been a moment your child noticed when your actions didn’t align with your words.

The problem isn’t the message you’re trying to communicate. The problem isn’t your son or daughter. The problem is that the filter exists at all.

What if you could take the filter apart piece by piece, but it would take a year to completely dismantle it?

What if you started today?

Soul Mate

I think it’s safe to say that many are trying to find that special someone, their soul mate. Some find that person earlier than others, some later, and some may be called to a singles life. Society tends to put out so many worldly standards that many people either settle for someone that’s not right for them or they simply just give up. God gives us so much wisdom in His word on the matter, for instance, the verse that many have heard from
1 Corinthians 13:4-7:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude…”

True love comes from God and we have to be able to wait on Him. Seek Him first and He will provide.

Before I came to know Christ, I focused on  worldly standards of love, and it got me into the wrong place really fast. I jumped into a relationship because truthfully, I didn’t think I could find better. Out of that three-year relationship, I spent about a year and a half unhappy; but I thought to myself, I will never find someone better. I was wrong! Years later after seeking love or lust in all the wrong places; I started to devote more time to Christ and asking Him to send me a woman, the one for me. I was specific in what I was looking for and asked precisely for those things. The Lord surely did bless me with a woman who had ALL the things I had prayed on. She is a wonderful woman and this coming January we will embark on our new journey together as husband and wife. I owe all this to my Lord and savior! For seeking Him and His love, He sent my soul mate.

Living in His standard rather than the world’s offers so much more, but it takes that patience and seeking His heart, and also knowing that you are worth so much more that what the world tells you. Don’t ever just settle, KNOW YOUR WORTH!

Quicksand

Has any of you ever stepped in quicksand? Not much of that here in South Texas but we do have the beach and when you stand where water meets sand you kind of start to sink. That’s as close as I have gotten to quicksand. Every time I think of quicksand I think of the Indiana Jones movie where Indy falls into quicksand and as he is in there he is trying not to struggle but you can tell the weight of the sand is slowly crushing him and pulling him under. The more he struggled the faster he started sinking until finally he goes under, but it doesn’t stop there. You see, you start to get desperate, you can’t breathe, you can’t touch bottom, and the weight of the sand is squeezing the life right out of you. You start to lose hope and just when you’re ready to give up you realize, “I can reach out”. So you reach up through the sand hoping and praying that someone will grab your hand and someone does. Hope starts to come back into your spirit. You think I am going to make it and you break thru the sand and gasp for air as you spit sand out of your mouth. You’re saved! You get a second chance to live life.

Life can be like quicksand. Life can be overwhelming at times, financial debt or maybe drugs or alcohol? The more we try to get out of it the deeper we sink. I was that way and I struggled and I sank deeper into drugs alcohol and into debt. I was losing hope, but I realized I couldn’t do it on my own. So, I reached out to the only One that could save me. I put my hand up and cried out, “God I need you, I can’t do this on my own”. He reached back and pulled me out of my quicksand. We have to realize, we can’t do this life on our own. The Apostle Paul realized he couldn’t do it on his own either. In Roman 7:14-25 Paul describes his struggle with sin and how he kept falling back deeper into it and he realizes he can’t do it on his own. In verse 25 Paul gives us the answer. He says:

” Thank God! The answer is on Jesus Christ our Lord! Jesus is our rescuer, He reaches out His hand to pull us out of our quicksand (struggle) and sets us on solid ground.”

Jesus did this for me and can do it for you too. Paul recaps in the rest of verse and says:

” So you see how it is : In my mind I really want to obey God’s law but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin and in so now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.” Romans 8:1-2 NLT

We are free from the quicksand of life. Thank God!

That Second Wind…

We’ve all been there, that point where we reach absolute exhaustion then all of the sudden it happens; we catch our “second wind”. This is something that has happened time and time again in many of our lives as we do everyday routine things. It’s probably one of the most refreshing surprises we experience as adults. Being given this strength from out of nowhere to complete whatever task is at hand, is a pretty cool feeling. The majority of us can relate to this second wind in regards to doing something physical, although it happens in all aspects of our life, even our spiritual walk. In fact, those of us who accepted Jesus in adulthood can think of that time as receiving our second wind.

I remember I was going to church and playing on the praise team yet I was still living for myself and all of my own desires. My wife would confront me about this dual lifestyle often and it was during one of these confrontations that the Holy Spirit spoke to me through her. “You cannot serve two gods Fernando!” Now she had told me this before, but by this time my body was so exhausted from a lifetime of my self-destructive ways that it couldn’t fight back and I felt my spirit agree with the words that left her mouth. I froze as the words left her lip. I knew, I knew it was time to either be all in or all out. I was all too aware of what the world had to offer me, but I had had enough. The only thing I could clearly think about in that moment was how badly I not only needed, but wanted Jesus in my life. That was the moment the white flag of surrender flew. That was the moment I caught my “second wind”. Immediately I was re-energized, fresh, and ready to take on this crazy world. As I came to this one story in the scriptures it hit me. This wasn’t just about me catching my breath so to speak, but it was me receiving HIS breath. Ezekiel 37:4-5 reads:

“Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life.”

This was exactly what had happened. I was dead, dried up, nothing more than bones. Bones in a valley of bones! He, my father, my sovereign King, breathed new life into me. It was not only an example of His grace and mercy but an example of how we can speak new life into our own children.

This world eats up strong men and women on a daily basis now try to imagine what our kids have to endure. I have three stepsons ages 13, 14, and 19, and some of the things I’ve heard from them have left me shocked and appalled. I think back to when I was their age and, to be honest, I would’ve buckled under all these stresses and temptations. This world leaves them just as exhausted and in just as bad shape as us, if not worse as I was. Check out this powerful illustration; back to Ezekiel 37:13-14

“Then you, my people, will know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and bring you up from them. I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, and I will settle you in your own land. Then you will know that I the Lord have spoken, and I have done it, declares the Lord.'”

Not only does God give us new life but He helps us reclaim what was intended to be ours (“Your own land”). Our words can do the same for our kids. Lift them up from the valley of bones, breath (speak) new life into them, and see them to their calling (Their Own Land). Our kids are exhausted, tired, some are broken, tattered, some are torn. Let’s not be another voice among a sea of faces adding to the chorus of negativity. Let’s be a breath of fresh air for our kids. I challenge you to be that “Second Wind”.