No other name

no other name

 

Several weeks ago, our student ministry was going thru this series called the: “Jesus Dilemma.” The whole series was surrounded around this idea that every person who has ever lived, is living, and will live will have to come to a conclusion about who Jesus will be for them. Everyone will have to decide how to deal with this Jesus dilemma in this life or face an eternity of darkness and separation. We spent three weeks looking at a conversation between Jesus and his disciples all centered around Jesus going to a place in which he would prepare for his followers. In this conversation, Jesus makes a profound statement that has lead to a movement never before seen in this world. Jesus makes this claim to all who would listen that only a certain way, truth, and life would lead someone to the father.
 
His way…
His truth…
His life…
 
 
There would be no other way for anyone to get to the father. No matter how much they prayed, no matter how good they were, no matter how much money they gave, no matter how many gods they served…Jesus’ way, truth, and life would be the only way by which anyone would see and get to spend the rest of forever with the father. 
 
You have to understand that for Jesus to make a claim this big, this monumental, this outlandish was for in his day a death sentence. He was going against the cultural normalcy at that time. No one before him and no one after him would ever claim to have such profound, earth shattering power and authority like that again. And the disciples…
 
They got it…
They believed it…
They taught it…
They lived it…
 
 
I mention that moment to tell you about another moment…
 
I have the honor of serving at my current church as the student pastor. I get to live my passion of pointing middle & high school students to the relentless unending love of Jesus. I also have the privilege of serving on the teaching rotation and speaking about this particular way, truth, and life that Jesus proclaimed to hundreds of people each week. With this honor comes the responsibility to not only live in the way, truth, and life of Jesus, but to also speak, share, teach this way, truth, and life of Jesus to all who would listen. With this responsibility to teach the ways of Jesus, is the call to teach it in all of it’s fullness. There is no half or thirds to the Jesus way, there is only the whole way of Jesus. 
 
You can’t follow Jesus half the time…
You can’t love Jesus a third of the time…
You can’t teach a quarter of His truth…
 
So in telling you about a previous series that our student ministry was in with the Jesus Dilemma, and telling you about a conversation between Jesus and his disciples about him going to a place to prepare a spot for them if they will follow his way, believe in his truth, and live his life, I must tell you about a recent development within a certain religious organization…
 
Recently, the powers that be within this religious organization gathered together to debate, wrestle, and vote on this idea of changing some of the language in their organizational confessions (the statement of faith in which this organization believes in). This idea involved several controversial topics which is at the forefront of the national church body as a whole. This meeting centered around the idea that in order to become more welcoming to all people no matter race, nationality, and sexual orientation, the organizations confessional language needed to be changed so that when two people, regardless of gender wanted to get married in one of the churches that belonged to this organization, the confessions would not hinder or forbid it. This also lead to a change in the confessional language to allow someone who participates in same-sex relationships to serve as a pastor within the church. 
 
There is a small amount of joy in knowing that the church I currently serve at has decided to not follow the new change in the language. However, my joy is only small in nature, because I know that others will not follow suit. For many others, this is a great thing, the church is finally becoming open-minded and non-judgmental. Many see this as a victory for the equality movement.
 
This development leads me to another moment…
 
Several years ago, one of my favorite speakers and lead pastor, Dr. Hayes Wicker of First Baptist Church Naples, FL said to a room full of people during his message…”You will need to believe in something, you will need to have faith in something. Because if you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” That statement has always resonated with me thru-out the years since…
 
We will all gravitate to something…
We all need to have faith in something…
We all need to believe in something…
 
Without our gravitation to something whole, without our faith in something sustainable, without our belief in something thats withstood the test of time, we will undoubtedly succumb to the darkness and separation this world creates. We can not be backed into a corner and be forced to accept a cultural change to this way, truth, and life of Jesus in order to please the masses. We must take a stand for what Jesus stood for. We must take a stand for what Jesus cared about. We must take a stand for what Jesus died for…our lives. 
 
These moments have lead me to take a fresh look at what I stand for. Being a follower of Jesus calls us to wrestle with and mediate on his words. Being a follower of Jesus calls us to seek fresh new ways to convey his love to others without compromising his divine truth.
 
We wrestle…
We meditate…
We seek…
We love…
We stand…
We believe…
 
My journey to looking and finding fresh new ways to the truths I believe in has lead me back to the beginning. It has lead me back to the basics. It has lead me back to what I’ve always believed…
 
I believe in God our Father:
The creator of the universe who doesn’t have a beginning or an end. I believe that He is the first entity of the triune Godhead. The sacred scriptures tell us that He was there in the beginning of all things and that only thru him, did all things come into existence. I believe that God our Father is with us, for us, and ahead of us. I believe that God our Father is an onward God, always moving us forward, always resonating within us and radiating from us. I believe that God our Father is perfect, holy, without any blemish or brokenness. I believe that He is glorious, He is grace, He is truth, He is love. I believe that in his love, He created humanity for His enjoyment. I believe that God our Father created man and then created women for the enjoyment and life long partnership with each other. I believe that God our Father provided a guide for humanity to draw closer to him thru Christ the son which is found in the sacred, inerrant scriptures. 
 
 
I believe in Christ the Son:
The savior of the world by which there is no other name the world can be saved by. I believe he is the second entity of the triune Godhead. I believe he was present with God our Father at the creation of all things. The follower John describes Christ the Son in this way: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. In him, all things were created through him, and nothing was made without him.” I believe he was God in the flesh, born of a virgin birth, sent to be the savior of the world. I believe he was the light of men and his light was the only light that could shine in the darkness of this world and not be overcome by it. I believe in the resurrected Christ. I believe that after being nailed to a wooden cross-like pole, Christ the Son was placed in a guarded tomb only to be risen to life in three days. I believe that Christ the Son has the power and authority that God our Father has given him and that all nations and every tongue will confess him as LORD and every knee will bow in his presence. I believe Christ the Son is love, grace, & truth. I believe he desired that all would come to know him and follow him. I believe that there is no other way then thru Christ the Son that our salvation comes from.  
 
 
I believe in the Holy Spirit:
The helper whom God our Father sent after Christ the Son to teach us all things and brings remembrance to all things Christ the Son taught us. I believe the spirit is the third entity of the triune Godhead. I believe the spirit is God our Father and Christ the Son within us as we place our hope, trust, and faith in Christ the Son. I believe the spirit guides us in the ways of Christ the Son to love, have compassion, feel convicted, show grace, extend hope, and speak truth in this world. I believe the spirit gives us abilities to aid in the process of pointing others to Christ the Son in all things and in all ways with exception to speaking in tongues and the gift of healing which was used to show the power and authority of Christ the Son in the age of the apostles. 
 
 
I believe in the Resurrection:
On the third day, the stone was rolled away and there inside the tomb was no one to be found. I believe that in the Garden of Eden, God our Father unveiled the redemptive means by which He would rescue His creation from darkness and separation. I believe that Christ the Son left his perfect union with God our Father and the Holy Spirit to be the payment of brokenness and to take the wrath owed to this world by descending to us and resided among us. I believe that all of humanity participated in the crucifixion of Christ the Son, in the process of nailing him to the cross, in the mocking of him. I believe that he was placed in a tomb to be left to rot, but after three day, had risen from the dead and appeared over 500 times to the disciples and other believers. I believe that this resurrection created the bridge humanity needed in order to reconnect to the creator. This monumental event ended the age of separation thereby connecting what once was lost and now is found. I believe that it is only thru this resurrection do we have redemption and restoration in Christ the Son. 
 
 
I believe in humanity’s rise & salvation
God our Father’s perfect creation separated from its creator in an act of defiance will again be found perfect in the eyes of its creator. I believe in humanity’s rise in Christ. It is only thru the blood, death, burial, resurrection, and life of Jesus in which humanity can again be connected to its creator, God our Father. The writer of the book Acts states, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which me must be saved.” I believe that salvation equates to spending the rest of forever in the presence of God our Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit. I believe that when a person repents of their former life, confesses Christ the Son as Lord, and commits to a new life in Christ, he/she is thereby united with God our Father thru the blood of Christ the Son. I believe that salvation is assured in a believer of Christ and that nothing can change the eternal destination of a person who is in Christ. 
 
 
I believe in life eternal
Salvation in Christ is forever and the connection to the creator is everlasting. I believe that followers of Christ the Son will live an eternal life in the presence of the creator. I believe that there will be no end to this state of living regardless of our destination (with Christ or separated). 
 
 
 
This and much more can be summed up in one everlasting, unending, enduring phrase: I believe in the name of Jesus!
 
May you believe in God our Father…
May you believe in Christ the Son…
May you believe in the Holy Spirit…
May you believe in a God who is three in one…
May you believe in the Resurrection…
May you believe in the rise of humanity…
May you believe in salvation…
May you believe in life eternal…
 

And may you know deep down that you serve a God who is with us, for us, and ahead of us. 
 

Embers

embers

 

Several weeks ago, I was outside on my patio getting ready to grill up some steaks for the family. One of my absolute favorite way to cook a steak is on a good charcoaled grill. As I was waiting for the grill and the charcoal to get hot enough to put the steaks on, I notice these little particles escaping from the charcoal pit. They looked like little fire flies flowing all around the surface of the grill. I was fascinated by what I was seeing. I couldn’t take my eyes off of them and I wanted to so desperately catch them and put them in a jar as a keep sake. I proceeded to call my wife to the patio to ask her what the heck were these beautifully flowing pieces of fire. You see, I’ve always had this fascination with fire and, or things that light up by fire. To be quite honest, I was in major part as a kid and in a minor part as an adult, a little pyromanic (I’ve been able to suppressed that desire since entering adulthood). Looking at the charcoal and the subsequent pieces of little fire floating in the air, I asked my wife what in the world was these pieces called? I couldn’t for the life of me remember the name and I knew it was something to do with flame or something of that nature. My wife told me the word I was struggling to remember and the name for the floating pieces of fire were called…embers
 
An ember…
A burning piece of wood…
A hot coal…
 
An ember is a glowing, hot coal made of greatly heated wood, coal, or other carbon-based material that remain after, or sometimes precede a fire. Embers can glow very hot, sometimes as hot as the fire which created them. They radiate a substantial amount of heat long after the fire has been extinguished. You can see embers after any sort of fire regardless of the size of it (i.e. forest fire, friendly bon fire, grilling, coal burning…etc). Embers are the byproduct of fire and as the definition states, can sometimes radiate as much heat as the fire itself. One of the more amazing facts about embers is how they glow and seem to never be extinguishable. Have you ever watch embers just burn and burn and burn and burn…etc? Without the help of dirt, water, or some other dry, oxygen depriving substance, embers can go on burning for a very long time. 
 
Never stop burning…
Never stop glowing…
Never stop radiating…
 
Besides the fact that embers stirs up the old and suppressed pyromaniac in me, It also moves within me in my thinking about who Jesus is and how he does, can, and will resonate within us. When I think about embers and how it can be compared to who Jesus is, what he stood for, and how he loves, my mind is filled with images of a God who is…
 
Glowing…
Alive & well…
Forward & Onwards…
Radiates & Resonates…
Inextinguishable…
 
Jesus is the God of yesterday, today, and tomorrow and there is nothing in this world or the next that can change that! Jesus has resonated before the beginning of time and will continue to after time ceases to exist. If this then is the God we know, why not let him resonate and radiate within us? Why not let him become an ember in our heart, mind and soul? It gives me an amazing feeling of being surrounded in the presence of Jesus at all times being a follower of Him. I want nothing more than for you to know the same feeling. 
 
Feeling of resonating…
Feeling of radiating…
Feeling of reverberating…
 
When we live in the present-glow of Jesus, our lives take on new meaning. Our old lives loses it value and the bondage of brokenness loses it hold on us. As Paul writes in the scriptures…”In Christ Jesus, we are a new creation…” Its no wonder that in the wilderness at the bottom of a mountain, Moses was in awe when a bush surrounded in fire wasn’t burning up! Moses took of his sandals because he could feel that this place was filled with awe and wonder. The God and creator of the world was resonating within and around Moses. I love how Moses says when looking at the burning bush…”I will turn aside to see this great light…” Moses understood that these embers were so beautiful, so creatively wonderful, masterfully made. Moses understood that around and within him, the God of the universe was radiating his presence in that cave. 
 
Because God is always presence…
Because God is always near…
Because God is always Immersed…
 
Can God be that in your life? Will you allow God to be alive within your heart, the life in your bones? Will you allow God to live within you, resonate around you, radiate in you? 
One more thing about embers and Jesus. When embers catch the wind, it’s such a beautiful thing to watch and witness before your eyes. They’re in constant motion, never ceasing to stop, always moving forward. Jesus is a forward moving God, always pursuing us onwards. Never looking back, reminding you of your past. Jesus knows you’re broken, he knows you’re weak, he knows you’re gonna fail from time to time. But if you will let this fire, these embers burn within your soul, Jesus moves you beyond your brokenness to a life lived in the fullness of Him. He is always with you…to the end the of ages. 
 
As Moses writes in the book of Exodus…”The LORD said…I have surely seen the affliction of my people…I have heard their cry…I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them out…”
 
May you know Jesus…
May you know embers…
May Jesus resonate with and around you…
May you know the love of a forward and onwards God…

And may you know that He is ALWAYS with you…even to the end of the age. 
 

Shot at the night

shot at the night

In 2011, a Canadian rapper by the name of Drake coined the term “Yolo” which means “You Only Live Once.” This term is similar to “carpe diem” or “memento mori.” It implies that one should enjoy life, even if it entails taking risks. Its a term used in all situations in which someone has a chance at something great or fun or desirable but also comes with an enormous amount of risk. Many subset of culture have either rejected or embrace this thinking in their lives. The premise is that you only get one chance to live this life, you might as well make the most of which is limited and short on time.
In 2004, I was presented with an opportunity to travel to Mexico City, Mexico on mission with our high school & college ministry. I had never been out of the country nor had I ever flown. While the opportunity to do such seemed so cool and desirable, the fear associated with this potential adventure outweighed any positives. I promptly declined the invitation to take part in that trip. To me, the risks outweighed the rewards, the fear outweighed the fun. I had never been adventurous in my life and I didn’t feel like that would be the best time to start with only being removed from “9/11” three years before.
Isn’t that like us sometimes…
We run from fear…
We run from failure…
A few days later, my student pastor came to me and asked why I didn’t accepted the chance to do something amazing. He said, “Michael, you only get one chance at this life in Christ, you need to make the most of it. Don’t be afraid to take chances when you know Christ is guiding you. You never know what He has in store for you.” After that conversation, I spent a few more day ignoring this pressing thought in my mind that I needed to be apart of this trip. You see, for me, it wasn’t about flying or traveling to a foreign country, or anything like that. It was more about the fear of failure, the fear of not being adequately prepared to tell someone in a whole different country what it means to follow Jesus. I had this thought that God wouldn’t want to use me to change the world. I didn’t think I was the best person for the job. I didn’t have some amazing testimony, nor was I some biblical scholar who could articulate the wonderful truths located in scripture.
However, this thought would not leave,
it kept pressing,
kept reminding,
kept invading my thoughts,
“You only get one chance at this life…”
“One chance to be on the right side of history…”
“One chance to make an impact in this world…”
In this life with Christ, we are giving the grandest of opportunity to live a life called by God in the fullest of ways. You see, when we become followers of Christ, we see the world in a different way. We see that broken, the depraved, the weak, the needy. We see that world as if we are looking thru the eyes of Christ. However, it we put limits on how God can use us, or blinders on what we see, then we limit our potential in effecting change in this world. God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
Once I realized this, I started to see that I didn’t need to be the most talented, the most spiritual, the most articulated person. God was calling me on the grandest of adventure and I only needed to say yes for my whole life to change in the process. While there in Mexico, I got the opportunity to talk to students about a life in Christ. I spoke about my life coming from a poor family and being homeless and how God, even thru those moments, was always there for me. When the summer was over, we had been witness to over 16 students become followers of Jesus. God gave me a shot at making a difference.  After that trip to Mexico, I decided that I would attend bible college in a state 16 hrs away from home. The seven years I spent in Kentucky were some of the best, worst times and yet thru it all, I knew and believed that God had a great plan for my life. Seven years later, God called my family and I to move to California to become a Student Pastor.
Thousands of years ago, Jesus approached 12 men and told them that if they followed Him, they would be apart of a movement that would change the world one person at a time. This same Jesus could be calling you to become apart of a movement that is intended on changing the world. This same Jesus could be calling you to step out on faith and go on a mission trip, He could be calling you to full time ministry. It doesn’t matter your age or your gender, God could be calling you to lead worship, be a teacher of his word, bring his love & grace, & truth to foreign places. He could be calling you to love your next door neighbor, be nice to your co-worker, go after that promotion, take a trip, visit a friend, forgive your enemies…
You only get one shot at the night to make a difference. You get only one shot at the night to effect change for future generations. Our lives are described in the bible as a vapor…here today, gone the next. We are not promised tomorrow or the night. We need to live as if tomorrow is no guarantee. We are not promised to live a great life, or a life of luxury, however we are promised to live a full life if we are in Christ!
It doesn’t matter if you 10 yrs of age or 80 yrs of age. God can use you to make a difference. Your dreams are still alive and God believes in you!
You only get one shot at this life and to be on the right side of history and to effect change in this world. Regardless if your dreams are unlikely or improbable…God can make them come true!
May you risk…
May you live…
May you take a leap of faith…
May you live as if tomorrow isn’t promised…
May you take a shot at the night…

I will not fear

I will not fear

 

Moving to California has been one of the best decisions my wife and I have ever made. We couldn’t have asked for a better situation, church home, staff, and friends we’ve made along the way. The job I have here is to point students to a savior and redeemer who can love them, save them, and restore them. I get to point students and people to Jesus and I get paid to do it!! Never in my dreams, did I picture myself here in this place, doing this life, and loving it. 
 
Now, that’s not to say that the move didn’t come without worry or fear. As a matter of fact, I can recall a moment along the journey where I almost gave up. It was a moment in which all of my fears, all of my worries, all of my brokenness was put on display and it almost won. The key word being…Almost. 
 
I almost let my past win, 
I almost let my fears run over me, 
I almost allowed the world to tell me I’m finished. 
Like I said, Almost…
 
I remember it all as if it just happen yesterday. Sunday morning driving thru Oklahoma and wishing I could have gotten a venti carmel mocha at Starbuck on our previous stop. I decided to put on some music in the moving truck. My wife was following close behind in our SUV with the girls and I was driving the moving truck and towing my car on a trailer behind. We were reaching the outskirts of Oklahoma when I came across a sign along the road that read… “You were designed to live a life of purpose…” I thought to myself that the sign made absolute sense. Of course we were design to live a life of purpose…purpose in Christ. Our lives as followers of Christ are to be a reflection of who Jesus is. Our purpose is to live a life that leads others to Jesus, Our life mission is to do all things that in the end will shine His light on this world, to glorify God in heaven. 
 
In the midst of that thought, another thought appeared in my mind…”Michael, do you think you have lived a purposeful life?” It was a simple question that I hadn’t dared to ask myself ever. It’s a question that if I truly evaluated it, would open up old wounds and push me into the realm of past regrets. It was a question that came with a lot of expectations I knew I didn’t succeed at nor could I ever dream to reach. It was a question riddled with regret, sadness, despair, anxiety, and at the very core…fear. 
 
In that moment, everything I had ever done wrong, everything I had ever failed at, everything I had never accomplished came rushing in. It was such an overwhelming moment that all I could do was cry…
 
and cry…
and cry… 
 
Have you ever tried driving and crying at the same time? Have you ever tried driving a big moving truck towing a car behind it and crying? If not, then don’t…It’s no fun. Every emotion the human body could conjure up with the exception of happiness was present in that moment. And then another thought came flooding in…
 
”You could turn around…”
“You could run…”
“You could retreat like you’ve always done…”
It seems so easy at the time to do just that…
 
run…
hide…
retreat…
turn around…
 
I kept thinking I was making a mistake moving to California. Why was I moving my family 
2,187.4 miles across the country? Couldn’t God continue to use me in Owensboro where I knew everyone, was most comfortable, in a safe zone protected by the people who knew me best? I could run and hide, retreat back to what i knew best, and… 
 
not worry about unfulfilled purpose…
not fret about failing expectations…
not lose sleep over disappointment…
 
And then God does what he does best when we start to fear and doubt his plans…
 
He slapped me in the face…Literally
 
While I was crying, I must have closed my eye for like a millisecond. It was long enough for me to vier off the road and hit a pot hole and slammed my head against the steering wheel. It snapped me out of my crying phase long enough to hear that coming thru the radio was a faint but clear Christian station. The DJ was reading a excerpt of Psalms 46…
 
WE WILL NOT FEAR
THOUGH THE EARTH
GIVE WAY AND THE
MOUNTAINS FALL
 
No matter what has happened in my life…
No matter all the mistakes I’ve made…
No matter all the failures…
No matter all the disappointments…
No matter all the regrets…
 
I will not fear even if the whole earth is crashing down before me. My strength and comfort comes from the creator of the universe. I need not worry about how I will do, or will I fail like last time. I need only to rest…
 
In his comfort…
In his plan…
In his embrace…
 
Kristian Stanfill in his song, “Always” writes: 
 
“My foes are many, they rise against me. But I will hold my ground. I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm. My help is on the way.”
 
The beauty of Jesus is that he has conquered all of it. He has defeated all fears, all worries, all regrets, all failures, all disappointments. The Jesus that we know and serve, and love has gone to the depths of our depravity and wiped our brokeness clean. We serve the God of 2nd chances, 3rd chances, 4th chances, 5th chances and so on. So do not fear what you can’t see. Do not fear what is in front of you, nor what is behind you for HE is with you always!
 
May you know Jesus fully…
May you know Jesus has conquered it all…
May you know Jesus looks pass your failures…
May you know Jesus looks pass your regrets…
May you know Jesus looks pass your fears…

Fear is a liar

fear is a liar

 

I’ve come to the conclusion…
This is my finale…
The end has come…
 
This is been my thought process for the last month or so. I’ve known that this day would come for some time now; however, now that the end is near, I’m finding that my once confident self is slowly dissolving away. What’s replacing it is a more stressed out, fearful, can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel individual.  I’ve allowed personal doubt and insecurities to take the place of the glorious grace that fills me up each and every day. It’s not that I am regretting the decision to leave, BY NO MEANS!!! However, it’s the fact that I will no longer be under the cocoon of shelter, surrounded by those whom I am most comfortable with. As much as I knew that this was God’s designed will for me, something inside of me wanted to fight the tide and run for the hills. 
 
It’s called fear…
 
Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. Fear can sometimes be healthy as it may prevent us from doing things likely to get us in trouble, debt, or even preventing the loss of life. However, for the most part, fear is the preventive emotion that restricts us in our walk with God. What fear does in our journey with Christ is prevents us from allowing God to move within us, thru us, and for us in his perfect design for our lives. Fear constricts our movements, stunts our growth, and hinders our ability to see God’s design for our lives. Here’s what else fear does:
 
Fear doesn’t allow you to learn from past mistakes…
Fear doesn’t allow you to see you were meant for much more in life…
Fear doesn’t allow you to see redemption winning on your behalf…
 
In this life, fear is believed to be the emotional and chemical presence within us that protects us from danger and harm. Fear was instilled in humanity in order to prevent it from allowing the rest of creation to have dominion and rule over itself. Fear has become the identity of so many people who create fear, hide out of fear, or run from fear. 
 
Fear allows terror…
Fear creates emotional bondage…
Fear disconnects you from the creator…
 
Someone asked me what I’ve learned about myself spiritually in the last two years of my life. What has God shown in my own life that has allowed for spiritual growth in this journey with Christ? Here is how I responded:
 
FEAR IS A LIAR…
 
I was, often as normal, guilty of submitting to fear. Too often, my decisions were dictated by the fear of failure, fear of disapproval, fear of losing, and the fear of not succeeding. If I thought there was a chance that I could fail, or someone would shun me for an idea or thought, I wouldn’t even consider making another move. Fear ruled my life, and I welcomed it with open arms. 
That all changed two years ago…
 
When I realized that the way I lived, effected the people I met or the students I led. I could no longer allow fear to order my life. I needed to put fear in its place. I came to the understanding that a person must have a healthy view of fear, yet not allow fear to ruining their life. It is within this thought that I’ve come to the conclusion that fear is a liar.
 
It tells you you’re not good enough…
It tells you this life isn’t for you…
It tells you, you should run while you can…
 
If you fall into fear’s lies, if you allow fear to dictate your life, if you allow fear to rule, you are not living a life designed by God. Coming to this realization was eye opening, heart breaking, and life changing. I had finally gotten to a point where I was sick and tired of fear being what stood between me and the life designed for my good. Whatever it may be, wherever God was leading, I decided that I would be faithful and fearless. With a relentless pursuit of God’s designed planned, I would run to him instead of running from him. 
 
Upon this determination…I decided that I was going to do four things in order to keep fear in its place and live the life designed for me.
 
Be in RELENTLESS pursuit of God’s designed life for me:
 
No matter where it may lead…
No matter the cost I have to incur…
No matter how uncomfortable it may get…
 
To look at the creation story and see how disappointed the creator must have been when his creation turned its back on him and yet thru it all, the creator began a relentless pursuit to restore his creation back in connection with him. I am apart of that story. This is my story. God has been chasing me since the day I was born. He desired to love me, comfort me, remind me over and over again that I am his son thru Christ. Over and Over again, without fail, God pursued me and continues to pursue his perfect design for my life. I owe it to him to be in relentless pursuit of that. I’ve counted the cost and decided that Jesus was worth it. Life spent in connection to my creator was worth the trials, struggles, and fears that I would have to face.
 
He relentlessly loves and pursues me…
I owe it to him to do the same…
 
Be a LOVING SERVANT to my family:
 
Love my wife as Christ loves the church…
Love my daughters as God the Father loves his daughters…
Lead them to a life of community with Jesus…
 
When Adam looked at Eve, there were no words, there was no breathing. Adam saw for the first time in the history of humanity something he could deem…
 
Beautiful…
Radiant…
Alluring…
 
Every male who finds that women who God desired life to be created with knows the feelings Adam experienced that moment in the garden. You’re left speechless, your heart beats a million beats per nano second, you can’t think straight, words come out as if you were speaking in tongues. It’s that moment when you’re looking at the creator’s grandest creation for your life: Your wife. I am still amazed every moment I get to fall asleep and wake up next to Erica. She is absolutely prefect for me in every way. I know no one is perfect and we all have our flaws, However, I fully believe that within God’s designed plan for your life, he has a perfect person who will fit with you in life. My job is to love her whole heartedly, to serve her unconditionally, and to care for her until death do us part. In the same light, one of the many joys and blessings in marriage is parenting. God graciously and wonderfully designed two amazing girls for Erica and I to love, serve, and lead. Keira and Ashlyn are truly a gift and I will be a loving father to them.
 
Be PASSIONATE about loving & leading students to Jesus:
 
Build meaningful relationships…
Build a solid foundation in God’s word…
Build a devotion to Christ & one another…
 
I look back on my life and see so many people who have in some form or another made a major difference in my life. I think of Mrs. Roberts from elementary school, Mrs. Rainwaters, Mrs Betancourt, Mrs. Bobbit from choir (yes, I attempted choir), Pastor Peggy Benson and  her husband Joe Benson, Ms. Ligas, Mr. Detjen, Mr. Hamburg, Mrs. Dora, The Davenports, The Bethea’s, The Cartwrights, Gary Holloway, The Perez’s, Susan Mays, Donna Sage, William McCleod, Serena Robinson, John Stamper, Jeff Jackson. These people and I am sure many more, made a profound impact in my life as a student. Without God putting those people in my life, I can say for sure that I wouldn’t be the man I am today. These people were never afraid to get real with me, to remind me of my place in life, to encourage me to live a life worthy of Christ. It is because of them, that I have such a passion for students. I want to give back what was given to me. I realized this on mission in Mexico City in 2004, God tugging at my heart, telling me to take his love, grace, and truth to the next generation. I will passionately love and lead students to Jesus and in community with others.
 
Be an EXTENSION of love & grace to others:
 
Be the hands and feet of Jesus…
Displaying hope to the hopeless
Being the light in the darkness…
 
No many people know my entire story. Its not a story I like to share very much. There are details I wish I couldn’t remember. But, how could you forget, they are engrained in my mind forever to call upon. I remember like it was yesterday. My father walking out on us and my mom. We were homeless twice, living in shelters, not knowing if we would ever find a place to live. My mom working jobs after jobs in order to provide for 3 kids and two other family members living with us when we finally found a home. Being made fun of for wearing the same clothes all the time. It’s apart of my story and I embrace it, yet it’s still painful to recall. What isn’t painful, what made me find the love of Christ, was his faithful followers who reach down with not just a hand out, but a hand up.
 
People who graciously provided the means for us to have place to live, food to eat, clothes to wear. People who invested in me to prepare me for college. I owe it to them, I owe it to Jesus, who gracious loved me, died for me, pursued me, and continues to love and prepare me for glory. We are called as followers of Christ to love and serve the hopeless, the helpless, the broken, those in need, those in want, the mute, the defenseless, the widows, the elderly. We are to extend love in Christ to them, we are to extend grace freely as it was given to us freely. We are to extend not just a hand out, but also a hand up in Christ. I will be an extension of love and grace to others. 
 
Fear…
 
Fear is the emotional roadblock that prevents us from living the life God perfectly designed for us. There is nothing wrong with a healthy view of fear. Fear, put in its right place can lead us to drawing closer to Christ and his plan for our lives. However, fear, if left unchecked, can cripple life as we know it. You were designed for much more in this life. Do not allow fear to take you away from the creator’s created plan for his creation, for you. 
 
Fear is a Liar…
Fear is a Cheat…
Fear is a Thief…
 
Refuse to Fear in Christ, Dare to live in Christ.
 
May you relentlessly pursue your creator…
May you sacrificially love and serve your family and friends…
May you passionately pursue the next generation for Christ…
May you be an extension of love and grace to others…
And may you know in the depth of your heart that the creator want you, his creation, to live without fear!

From glory to glory in Christ alone

Like all stories, there is a beginning, middle, and an end. Every story has its hero and villain. Every story has its damsel in distress who needs saving at the last possible second with impossible odds to beat in order to save her. Most of these stories end as happily ever after, while others, a tragic end. Nevertheless, stories have always captivated us by their uniqueness and the ability to paint a picture of a story worthy of our attention. Upon this contemplation, one could look at every single story ever written or told and draw one single conclusion: Stories in and of itself, draws from the same organic body of the bible. While the stories don’t resemble the bible completely, however, the stories carry the same ideological makeup of the bible. However, no matter how many attempts authors have made to re-created one of the bible’s most prominent story lines, authors have fail to create a story line as compelling, heart-wrenching, heart-warming, glory filled, as the story of Christ.

When we peel back the curtains at creation, we see the creation of man and woman to whom would belong in direct relationship with the creator. This relationship was comparable to that of a father and his children. The creator loved his creation and his creation loved their creator. However, as we learn later on in the creation story, creation allowed doubt and deceit to influence its fall from grace and the subsequent banishment from the garden of grace and beauty (also known as Eden). Creation had lost its creator, and the creator could not be in direct relationship with his creation. Yet, in this tragic fall from grace, in disconnect from its creator, creation’s redemption would soon be revealed by a strongly worded statement and a kind gesture from its creator.

I believe there is no other story in the world that can resonate with the human heart then the story of the Creator loving his creation so much that he would be willing to leave glory, and allow himself to subjected to the burden, weight, and pain of the sins of the world, in order that his creation might be reconnected to its creator. It is a story that for centuries, authors, storytellers, and songwriters have tried to capture in a small ounce. What have resulted have been some of the most beautiful, yet tragic retelling of this story. As a follower of Christ, I am forever and always drawn to the beauty of this story. When the depth of my depravity, the undeniable need of a savior, and the gracious call to life in Jesus come my way, this story took on a whole new meaning. Just as all stories have them, there’s a beginning, middle, and end.

Life…

Death…

Resurrection…

The life of Christ is keenly important to followers of Christ. For the sake of his creation, the creator left glory to dwell in the sinful, disconnect flesh of man in order to live out the law (Mosaic Law) perfectly in order to take the wrath in which we (creation) deserved in order that the creator could redeem and reconnect to himself, his creation. So Christ, who was fully divine and fully man, live life to the fullest in display of every human being. In this life, Christ displayed grace, compassion, love, mercy, and truth in his daily life. He was the perfect example of what creation’s original purpose of living was suppose to be.

He was filled with grace…

He was filled with truth…

He was filled with love…

Because of the fallen state of creation, the creator could not reconnect to his creation without displaying his wrath for the disobedience. Sin demands death, and death demands bloodshed. However, the creator’s righteousness also coincided with his love for his creation. This was, is, and has always been the purpose of Christ.

He is our redeemer…

He is our sustainer…

He is our savior…

In Christ alone, the creation has it way to reconnect to its creator. In Christ alone, the creator has his way of redeeming his creation to himself and reconnecting. What’s more beautiful is the fact that there is absolutely nothing in this world or the world to come that could now separate the creator love from his creation. As Paul writes to the Roman Church, “…nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Our ability to continue to live in this fallen state, our ability to love our enemies, our ability to lead a life filled with grace, truth, and love is only able to be accomplished thru the redeeming power of Christ who lives in us. As Paul tells the church in Galatia, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

May you know the story that resonates with the human heart…

May you know the depth of your disconnect from your creator…

May you know the unrelenting love of your creator…

May you know the depth to which Christ went to, to save you…

May you know that In Christ Alone, all your hopes are found…

When the tempest roar, you are with me

God was done! He had had enough with creation and its corruption, its depravity, its sinful ways. This isn’t what he created the world to become. When he viewed his creation, a disgusted, sick feeling arose in him. It wasn’t that he regretted creating the world; it was more that he was disgusted with the results as an artist is disgusted with his painting when it doesn’t turn out the way he desired.

His creation saddens him…

His creation pained him…

His creation appalled him…

Through the mist of his anger and impending wrath for his creation, the ancient text tells us that one man and his family had found favor in the eyes of God. When the creator of the universe look out over his creation, he saw evil, corruption, deceit, and destruction everywhere except in one man, one person…Noah.

The text tells us that God instructed Noah to build this boast referred to as the “Ark.” God commanded Noah to build the ark a certain length, certain width, and at a certain depth and height. God commanded Noah to take in the ark with him two of every kind of animal, male and female. God then commanded Noah to take with him in the ark his family and then himself. Because in the end, God’s favor was upon Noah. After everything and everyone was in place…. God shut the door.

That seems to be the theme of life sometimes…

God shutting the door…

God closing a window…

God changing direction…

We wait and wait and wait for another door to open, another opportunity to arise. All the while, God seems silent and distant. God asked Noah to build this ark and then he shuts the door and nothing happens. Noah waits and waits and waits. Noah has faith that God has put him here for a reason, but I’m sure in that time of waiting, Noah begins to wonder if God had forgotten about him.

Waiting can be lonely…

Waiting can be frustrating…

Waiting can be enlightened…

Without fail, the very thing that was waiting on wasn’t something good, wasn’t a blessing in a sense, wasn’t a great opportunity. No, what Noah was waiting on was a storm that would be the storms to end all storms. A storm that would level creation back to its voided state. This storm continued for 40 days & 40 nights. The rain kept coming over and over again until the whole earth was covered in water. When Noah finally looked out the window, all he saw was blue earth.

This storm is referred to as “The Flood Story” or “The Tempest.” The tempest is a violent windy storm that can produce unrelenting rain. The tempest storm in the days of Noah destroyed all of creation except those whom God chose to save in the ark. Those in the ark had to be fearful of what had just happen to their friends, home, and livelihood. They probably assumed that life as they knew it was over, that they would probably never see land again.

However, in the ancient text, the writer makes a subtle yet profound statement. The writer says in chapter 8, “But God remembered Noah and all who were in the ark with him…”

God hadn’t forgotten…

God doesn’t forget…

God remembers forever…

Even in the storms of our lives, when the problems mount up and we feel like we can’t go on, even when we can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, we must be aware that God is continually with us. Even when God shuts the door, and nothing else has become available, God is with us. In the storms of our lives, we seek to find shelter any & everywhere. However, the one place we forget to seek is in the arms of Christ. We must be aware of the fact that God never left us in the dark alone. He is ever presence, walking right thru the fire, the calm, and the storm with us.

May your soul find refuge in the shadow of his wings…

May your heart find strength in his presence…

May you find that when everything around you folds, that you will rise above it on his wings of mercy

And may you know in the depth of your soul, that when the tempest roars, He is with you!

Tossed to and fro

Tossed to and fro

 

 

Tossed To And Fro…

 

As a child, I thought like a child…

As a teenager, I had moments like a child…

As an adult, I desire to return to be child-like…

When we are children, we desire to grow up so that we can do grown up things. It’s a desire that seeps in our minds, heart, and soul though-out our childhood. As children, we see the things we cannot reach, cannot hear, cannot touch, cannot do, and we plot, imagine the day when we are able to do those things. It’s the way of life for a child, to look forward to the future, when we are old enough, grown enough, and smart enough to accomplish things on our own.

As limited as it looks for a child growing up in life, the beauty of the whole situation is that a child is free from responsibility. A child has no worry or concern except in extreme case such as third world countries, abusive families, or orphaned children.  Children have the freedom of imagination, their mind wonder to amazing adventures in the comfort of their own home. The desires of a child are far less than the desires of an adult. Like the wind, children change their minds about likes, dislikes, favorites, and fewer favorites. To live as a child lives in the life of an adult is dangerous in the sense that we need structure, discipline, and defined boundaries.

Living as a child allows freedom…

As appealing as it is to have the ability to live as a child, we must stay clear of looking at the Christian journey as a child. As children once, we were told what to believe, who to believe and how to believe. As a child, we were guided in the process to discovering Jesus, loving Jesus, and trying to be like Jesus. If our parents told us that a certain show was bad to watch, then we didn’t watch it. If we were told that a certain word was not nice to say, we didn’t say it. Our emotions swung as wild as the wind does on a breezy day. The danger in that as a child is that we are never settled on solid foundation until we discover for ourselves what it means to live this life in reflection of Christ.

The writer of many of the books of scriptures had a keen understanding of this war of natures within us. Paul understood that unless we were rooted in a solid understanding of how God wanted us to live this life in accord with Christ, we too could be moved by the “winds of doctrine” as children are. Paul writes in the book of Ephesians, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.”

We were given a solid foundation in Christ alone so that we may build up the kingdom in service, understanding of our journey, and the biblical truths that are found through-out scripture. When we allow the “what’s true for you may not be true for me” cultural thought process in our lives, we are allowing the “wind” to sway our beliefs and foundations. We must fight the urge to make scripture say what we want it to say and hold true to the original meaning of God’s word. We must stand firm against verses being taken out of context which allow for personal interpretation of   the word to accomplish our own desires and personal agendas.

To live as a child allows freedom…

To live as a child allows no worries…

To live as a child allows no foundation…

As Paul writes, we must not allow the cultural, parental, influential thought-processes that lead us away from the solid truth of God’s word. We must not be allowed to be “tossed to and fro” like waves in the ocean. We must not allow our hearts and minds to be swayed as easily as children are. We are called to wrestle with the ancient text, meditate on it, and discover for ourselves the true nature of what God is trying to reveal to us.

May you live your life free in Christ…

May you live your life on His solid foundation…

May you wrestle and mediate on his word daily…

May you remain solid in reflection of Christ…