December 30, 2011

"Does The Argument Really Need A Winner? - Pt. 2"

One of the major things that I had to learn is that men & woman are extremely different! It seems obvious right? But the closer you grow in relationship the more the differences tend to surface. Not only do they look different & sound different, they hear different, feel different, listen different, share different & communicate different. Yet, one of the biggest mistakes I grew from was thinking my different was better. BIG mistake!

It's funny how so many times simple conversations can lead to blow out arguments. It happens when each person in the relationship is trying to prove that he or she is right, that his or her feelings are more valid, or that his or her way of handling the situation is better! It wasn't 'til recently that I heard something that totally revolutionized the way I handle 'discussions'.

Well known author & relationship specialist, John Gottman, shares that most arguments that take place in a relationship have & need no real 'winner.' 

And, just because a couple argues a lot does not mean that they won't make it. I hope this gives some encouragement to those who are out there thinking, 'we're doooooooomed!' It's not about why you argue, it's about how you argue & how you grow through it. The question is, "Are you learning how to hear one another's heart?"

Women, let me help you understand something about men, we're slow... plain & simple. We need stuff to be broken down for us in bite size pieces when it comes to hearing your heart (but there are definitely exceptions to the rule so don't go telling your friend, coworker or husband, 'you're just slow'). It usually takes most of us men longer to process our emotions, empathize & hear your heart because we think & speak in ways that are different than yours. It doesn't mean that we can't or are not trying, it just takes some work.

This Is Usually What Happens When
 We Try To Just 'Fix' The 'Issue'...
We got this weird 'fix it' mentality that pervades every facet of our being... That's why many times when my amazing wife is trying to share her heart with me the Mission Impossible theme song pops on in my head & my brain immediately starts devising a solution for the problem. Then I blurt out how she could 'fix' her 'issue' without hearing her heart. Next, kabooooom! Mission failed... A normal, loving & innocent conversation turns into World War III. 

I often need to realize I don't 'need' to 'fix' anything & just because she is sharing her heart does not mean there is an 'issue' (help us men Jesus!).

Most men try to rationalize & fix pretty much everything... If the shoes fits, why do you need new ones? If the dress is wearable then it's still good, who cares if you wore it to 3 other parties with the same group of people? If  your friends are hurting your feelings then confront them on it. If you want to feel better then sleep more, eat better & exercise, don't just talk about it. We often don't 'think' about or allow ourselves to 'feel' all the background stuff that goes into these things.

It's not that we don't feel, but it's often that we need to learn how to feel. And fellas, we don't have an excuse just because we think we're more 'logical.' Your logic isn't always right & many women out there are a lot more logical than you!

The sooner you both realize that it's not about always being right, the sooner you'll learn how to connect with
& appreciate each others hearts.

Again, this applies to your co-worker, friend, mom/dad, ministry team member, etc. Stop writing off what she is sharing as, "She is just being emotional..." & stop writing him off as just trying to 'fix' everything. Maybe the man needs to learn how to be a little more emotional & realize the way he thinks is not always right. And, maybe the woman needs to hear a different perspective & realize that her feelings are valid, but that doesn't mean they're right.

Either way, the goals of the conversation, discussion, argument or sharing time (whatever you want to call it) should not be to see whose opinions, ideas, feelings & perspectives are best. The goals should be growing in heart together, respecting one another more, loving one another more, appreciating one another more, coming to a solution together if necessary & maturing as one (remember you're on the SAME team!). Are you fighting well or are you just fighting? Do you walk away with a greater love & respect for one another or do you need to call an emotional ambulance for help? God created us different for a reason, both of us reveal who He is. I used to ask God, "Why does my wife think & feel so different?" But now I thank Him for the gifts of her differences.

When it comes down to it you need to ask yourself three questions,

1. How can we grow in greater love & understanding of one another through this?
2. What does God want to speak to us through this?
3. Does the argument really need a winner?

December 28, 2011

"Does the Argument Really Need A Winner? - Pt. 1"

It Gets More Awesome Every Day!
Marriage is one of the most amazing phenomenons in the history of the universe. This is especially true when you have a man & woman with two completely different personalities, backgrounds, family upbringings, conflict resolution styles, relational cultures, races & communication styles. Yet, God loves to bring these types of people together. Why? Besides the fact that He wants to reveal more of Himself to them & through them, I think He just really likes to sit back & laugh... But serious, I think God cracks up when He sees couples growing together, especially when they try to grow in communication!

When I first got married I thought something was seriously wrong with how me & my wife communicated. Don't get me wrong, we had a really great 1st year of marriage, without all the crazy horror stories people shared with me (thank you Jesus!!!). But, WE definitely had a lot of intentional work to put in if we wanted to grow in learning how to communicate in a healthy way (and we are STILL learning).

For those of you who are freaking out
 because of how much you argue
in your 1st year of marriage
here's a little secret,
it's pretty darn normal.

It May Feel Like This,
But It Doesn't Have To Be Like This...
My pastors gave me some super amazing advice that helped a lot, "It's not about how much you fight, it's about fighting well..." Trust me, I told myself this over & over & over.

This is not just true of marriage however, this is true of relationships in many areas such as: work, dating, friendships, sports teams, church, etc. The question is how well do you fight? I'm not talking about how good your arguments are, how hard your verbal punches are (and there should never be physical blows, mercy!), how many good points you can make or how loud you do or don't get... 

When the argument is over, do you love one another more? Do you understand one another better? Do you have a greater appreciation for the heart, values & thoughts of the other person? Or, when the argument is over, do you need some Divine intervention, time to lick your wounds or time apart because you are so angry or frustrated with each other? Do you have to beg for forgiveness because of how loud, hostile & mean you became? Does the "winner" get to hold his or her hands high in victory as the defeated 'opponent' hangs his or her head in shame & emotional defeat?

I mean, someone is supposed to win
the argument right?

December 24, 2011

"Why I Celebrate Christmas"

Tons of amazing food (especially brownies, cookies & hot cocoa), beautiful lights, the smell of a fresh Christmas tree, wonderful music playing in the background, piles of presents under the tree longing to be unwrapped, hecka cool lights on "Christmas Lane" & a hecka big Mexican family are no doubt some of the amazing things I love about Christmas.

And There Is Still Missing Some.... I Love My Family!
As I get older I realize more & more that Christmas is so stinking amazing, but not because of the debt that millions of people rack up trying to buy presents, not because of the super awesome food that tantilizes my tastebuds & not even because I get to spend some quality time with my super sexy & crazy Mexican family... Christmas has become more & more amazing to me each year because as I mature I gain a deeper understanding of how truly amazing God's gift of His Son Jesus was to humanity...

It's silly to me how Christians try to fight for why Americans should be celebrating Christmas. You can't expect a culture & people to celebrate what they do not know.

You can't expect a culture & people
to celebrate Someone they do not know...

I've learned that people around me will do whatever they want to do during this season because of what they believe & value, not because of what others say they should do. Some will max out credit cards & get into tons of debt, some will seek to have a good time with family, some will do nothing... But as for me, I'll celebrate Christmas to honor, remember & reflect on the moment heaven invaded earth in the flesh, grace was revealed to humanity like never before & the promise of God to bring salvation to earth was fulfilled.

Don't get me wrong, I'm gonna eat hecka food (don’t worry though, I'm for sure gonna get back on my Captain America work out, but for real, not for fake), I'm gonna hecka enjoy my family, I can't wait to see some more amazing lights & I do loooooooooove presents.

But, I'm gonna let my life & love demonstrate that
"Jesus Is The Reason For The Season."

I refuse to let some flashy sign display it for me. I will not allow a catchy phase burn in the hearts & minds of my culture what my life & words should be conveying. Rather than trying to force people to celebrate according to what we believe, our lives & our celebration of Jesus should be so extravagantly captivating that the world can not help but want to join the party.

With every gift I give I will give as a reflection of God giving the gift of His Son. With every song I sing I will sing to the glory of my King. And with every tasty morsel I devour, I will consume with thanksgiving in my heart for the Bread of Life who broke His body on my behalf…

The more I mature the more I understand why
I celebrate Christmas, how about you?

December 21, 2011

"My Heart Is Stirred..."

The Day
She Was Leaving...

Left: The Grump...
Right: The Skump...
My heart is a bit heavy today... Part of it is due to the fact that my super amazing wife is in Texas right now & I miss her like crazy! I knew I would miss her when she was gone, but it's a whole new level when you actually feel the void of her presence. I mean no matter how much you love your stuffed penguin Skumpy & your stuffed horse Grumpy, they could never compare to wifey!

But, another part of my heart being heavy is that it has become very apparent to me how many of our children in the inner-city are struggling in school. It is said that in inner-city high schools there is about a 40%-60% graduation rate! But, it is not just an academic thing. They're struggle in school impacts their lives in every area. They're self-esteem, self-worth, hopes for their future & so many other areas of their lives are affected by what goes on in their schools (grades, socializing, learning, etc.). So many of our kids are so far behind with so little people to help!  
Home Visit. They Wanted A Snack,
You Know How Kids Roll..

 I have been doing home visits with the kids from The Ville, our Satruday kids outreach, & my life has been drastically changed. I'm seeing their joys, hearing their hopes & entering into their struggles. I think about them, pray for them, talk with my wife & friends about them & ask God to give me His heart for them. They are becoming family. And, I'm realizing more & more that if you want to see transformation take place in the lives of people you can't avoid getting dirty, you can't avoid your schedule being changed & you can't avoid entering into their hurts, struggles & weaknesses, as well as have all of your exposed!

"You lead in your strengths, but you connect in your weakness."

Yet, along with my heart being heavy, my heart is stirred. When I went to visit one family the single mother shared with me that one of her sons is struggling really bad in school. He has failing grades in every area on his report card except for one! My heart was heavy & stirred all at the same time. If I truly believe that God has called me to impact the lives of these kids & families then there is no way I could hear this news & not be stirred to action. This young boy has become like a little brother to me. I can't just hear this & do nothing about it. If Jesus came to bring life to the fullest then how can I just hear this & not want to see change happen? If Jesus came to redeem the whole person doesn't that entail every area of our lives, including our ability to learn? I believe so.
Tutoring @ The Ville On A Saturday...

Please join me in prayer because I am stirred to take our tutoring at The Ville to a whole new level (on Saturdays we do games, recreation, crafts, Bible adventures, music, tutoring have lunch, field trips & fun stuff like that). I'm stirred to start a tutorting program at our church during the week. It may start small, two days a week, but I believe that God has called our church, Living Hope Christian Center, to impact the cities & the nations in a wholistic way. But, not our only church, I believe God has called the Church to be the hands & feet of Jesus to the world... It's like Casting Crowns says,

"But if we are the body, why aren't His arms reaching?
Why aren't His hands healing?
Why aren't His words teaching?
And if we are the body, why aren't His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way? There is a way..."

My heart is stirred and the love of God cannot but compel me to action... Will you allow your heart to be stirred with me in prayer & through any other way that you can be the hands & feet of Jesus where you are? I can't sit around and watch the kids & families struggle, especially when they are yearning for help... We can't just hear what's happening in our inner-cities, schools & neighborhoods & do nothing about it, can we? My heart is stirred, will you allow yours to be too?

December 19, 2011

"I'm Not Weird, I'm An Extrovert"

You Know It Was Amazing

Why Was Pops Hecka Crazy?
I have always been the sociable kind of guy, even when I was little. I remember going to school like 1 hour before school started to hangout with friends on the playground. Just to get this straight right now, I was the champ at tetherball! After school it would be sports, hanging out at someone's house to watch Boy Meets World or the Waynes Bros., chillin' at the park, wrestling in the front yard or in my friend's parents room (hope they don't read this because I still don't think they know we used their dresser as the top ropes), or whatever else we could figure out.

As I got older it didn't seem to wear off, the older I grew the more I loved spending time with people, the more I loved being around crowds & the more I liked to do spontaneous things. Whether it was staying up super late to just talk, pulling group pranks on others in our college, having shaving cream wars or breaking windows & walls in the dorms by wrestling (after already being scolded for doing it 2 times before... I repent Lord...). Then, after taking those revelatory personality tests, you know the ones that say you are some weird thing like a ESFP, ESFJ, ENFP or ENFJ?? Shoot, you can't put me in four letters. Maybe 8 letters... GROWNMAN! You know what I'm saying? But for real, after taking those tests I realized that I was extrovert to the extreme!!!

Suddenly, the heavens opened & buckets of revelation poured over my amazing Mexican mind & I embraced the truth that I wasn't just some freak who didn't like too much quiet time to myself, but there were actually others out there like me. Not only that, but there were reasons why I seemed to light up when I was around others, talk to strangers I was standing next to in line who I never me in my life or sacrifice sleep to spend a little extra time with friends. I actually gained energy from being around people... WOW!!! So deep, so so deep!
I & E Having Hecka Fun Together!

As I have gotten a little older, a little wiser (and just to say, if gray hairs are any sign of wisdom then I must be getting wiser) and especially since I have married my super duper amazing wife I have realized that being introvert OR extrovert does not make one more weird than the other. I'll have to share how much God has used me & my wife to compliment one another in these areas in another blog... Just be ready cause that may be a long one, but it will definitely be amazing! lol... But really, I have learned to see my personality, especially the extroverted part, as a major gift from God!

A Few of My New, Awesome
Friends in South Korea... I Love You ALL!
I've learned that God has made me uniquely me. Of course there are areas where I need to grow, need to balance, need to develop & need to allow Him to refine me through His word & the awesome work of the Holy Spirit, but I also need to learn to embrace the personality He's given me so that I may be the gift to the world & the Body of Christ that He has destined me to be. Because of my zany extrovertedness I'll often reached out to people that maybe others wouldn't, I'll build friendships with people in different parts of the world that may otherwise never take place or I'll stay up late with people talking for hours because rather than being drained by it I'm actually getting energy from it! It's crazy, I know....
Did I Say ZANY?
Yea, I may be too loud sometimes, miss the cues & not know when it's time to go home or make people feel uncomfortable because I'm all up in their grill. But, the more I grow in God's love for people & the more I allow Him to use my personality for His glory the more my personality becomes a tool in His hands for love, relationships, friendships, connection & even trailblazing. I've learned that I don't need to try to have the personality traits of another, but I need to allow God to show me more & more of who I am in Jesus. He made me unique, zany, outgoing, silly, adventerous & spontaneous for a reason. I'm still learning, discovering & growing. But, one thing that I know for sure is that I'm not weird, I'm an extrovert...

December 17, 2011

"Something Small, Something Miraculous"

One night, when Andrea & I were still dating & working together at Texas Roadhouse, I used my break time to go across the street to Borders. I wanted to encourage her & give her some kind of fun, zany or silly postcard. You see, one of her primary Love Languages (Check out the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman) was words of affirmation so I figured it would be cool if I could write something on a postcard & put it in her car so that when she got off it would surprise her. Brownie points, you know what I'm saying'?

Oh, The Glory!!!
So I found this card that I thought was super amazing. It had a picture of a huge slice of swiss cheese, but instead of round shaped holes in the cheese it was heart-shaped holes. Isn't that hecka amazing? Well, I thought so. I mean, she is like a cheese head. Okay, we're like cheese heads... We buy one of those big o' 2 pound bags of the 4-cheese mix (you know the 'Mexican-Mix'? it's heaven in bag!) and we finish it in like a week! Needless to say her & I both looooove cheese. Anyhoo, I bought this super awesome post card & on the back I wrote, "Two of my favorite things in the world, Cheese & Your Love..." and then I put some other encouraging words on it. I also drew some super amazing stick figures of me & her on the back so that I could demonstrate my spectacular art skills and whoooo her even more. Isn't that sweet? Well, I thought so... And so did she!

I put the card in her car without her knowing & then when she got off work she saw it sitting there on her seat. She felt so loved & encouraged. She immediately called me & encouraged me, telling me how thankful she was. I don't know if you realize, some nights working as a server at a restaurant could pull every once of joy & encouragement out of you if you let it... I mean, you could have ungrateful guests, spill drinks & give your best service possible with no tip left for you all on the same night... But honestly, I didn't realize how something so small would bring so much encouragement to her. She took that card placed it in her car where she could see it everyday (I think it was the drawings that did it, spectular art skills).

Still There To This Day...
Matter of fact, I could walk out to the car right now, over 2 years later, & see it there. The card is a reminder of love, thoughtfulness, encouragement, care & even healing. I didn't realize that to be thought-of, to have me go out of my way or use my break time to get something for her would cause Andrea to come into a deeper understanding of love, apprecition, significance, encouragement, hope & value. What I deemed as something small, something that would be fun & zany or something cute, she deemed as great value, greatly necessary & even miraculous. Miraculous, you ask? Yes, miraculous. That someone would choose to take time out of his day, take his thoughts off himself & intentionally make a sincere effort to display loving affection in a heart-felt & tangible way can move a seeming common act into the miraculous.

Many times we don't realize how God could use something small to bring about something miraculous. God was usuing me that night, using a silly picture & silly drawings to bring about a greater understanding of value, love, significance & worth. 'But it was a dumb post card,' you may think... Yea, but that night, that 'dumb post card' became an instrument for the divine love of God that overwhelmed Andrea's heart. Behind the dumb card was a man who was madly in love with a woman & behind the man was God, who was madly in love with them both! Now everytime Andrea looks at the card it is a reminder not only of my love for her, but the love of Jesus, who has overwhelmed me with His love for Andrea.

The miraculous takes place when the supernatural, or divine, invades our present reality & displays it's power.

When Moses stood before God I don't think he realized how much miraculous power his staff possessed. "This is just a staff," he may have thought. Yea, but the power of God working through Moses & that staff was nothing less than miraculous. What Moses deemed as something small God deemed as something miraculous. When Jesus told the disciples to feed the five thousand they said, "All we have are these 5 loves and 2 fish..." Some of us are saying, "All I have is this job, this education or lack of... All I have is $5 dollars or my summer vaction... All I have is influence with friends... All I have is my home or a little bit of time... All I have is this hug, smile, phone or postcard..." But what did Jesus do, he took what they had in their hands and used it to demonstrate the miraculous power of God. He took the little & multiplied it! He took something small & turned it into something miraculous!

"The Ville" kids & team at the Pumpkin Patch
When we started our Saturday kids outreach, The Ville, to reach out to children & families in our community I told the Lord, "You could have my Saturdays..." I was a little scared of the unknown, wasn't sure if people would receive us, wasn't sure how we would get funds, wasn't sure if others would commit to help, but God took my small step of faith & turned it into something miraculous. Children are being powerfully loved through our 10 person team & the church. Homevisits have began to happen where we spend quality time with the children & families, as well as pray with them and do Bible studies. Some of the boys who don't have fathers now have godly men who love them, are investing in their lives, are praying for them & are modeling the Father's love to them. 
Ummmm... yea, we're a little crazy...
Just last night we had a sleep over at the church and about 10 kids from The Ville came, it was so much fun! Their lives are truly being transformed by the love of God that is working through the team. But the awesome thing is, our lives are being transformed too. God is using these kids & families to do the miraculous in our hearts as well. What we saw as something small God has used to bring about something miraculous... And it is just begining!  

What do you have in your hand? What is the thing that you see as something small and God is saying I want to use that as something miraculous? Some of you are at your church saying, "God I don't have what the pastor has. I don't have what those leaders have." God has called you there for a reason, don't what about what others are offering, you give your small to God & let Him do His thing. It's time that we give our 'small things', surrender them to God & allow Him to use them for the miraculous. You never know how God wants to move in your family, marriage, community, school, circle of friends, job, neighborhood, church, nation & world. It starts with the small... Many times it is the small things that bring about the greatest transformations. The small plus God equals divine greatness! The small surrender to God equals divine mulitiplication! The small used by God equals divine transformation...

December 13, 2011

"The $5 Million Question"

Huddled around a table with a group of men from Living Hope last Saturday Kent Turner posed a pretty deep question & he was not about to let anyone answer with some gerneral, surfaced level answer. He asked, "If I gave you $5 Million today how would you spend it?"

At first I was reminded of how I answered such questions in the the past. Thinking I was super spiritual I would say something like, "I would just give it all to God" or "I would use it all for missions." But the very next moment the wheels in my brain began to turn & I felt the Spirit of God jump start my heart with the questions, "Joseph, if I give this money into your trust what would you do with it? My vision is big, have you laid hold of it? The vision that I have given Living Hope is big, how would you use this to contribute to the vision of the house I called you too?" Just then I pulled out my phone to take notes & I began to sincerely think through the question as I was waited for my turn to answer...

A couple of the guys began to answer with real vague ideas or say something like, "I would just give it to the church." But when someone answered in that manner Kent would challenge them & say, "So you would just turn over all the stewardship of what God gave you to somebody else? You sure that is what God would want you to do? How much would you give to God & how much would you keep for other things? Give me numbers? Why would you give, save or invest in those way? Give me details..." He clarified that he was not saying don't tithe or give to God, but if God gave you the money you better know why & where you're giving, saving & investing.

Pastor Benjamin has often said that if someone were to come up to him and give him $1 million, $5 million or $10 million he would know exactly what to do with it. He would sit me down & share his plan in great detail. In the past I would think,  "That's coo, but I don't see someone giving me $5 million so I don't really need to think through this now. When somone gives me the money then I will think & pray about it..." How foolish is that way of thinking???!!! Why would someone put something into my trust if they didn't think me worthy of stewarding it? Why would someone put something into my trust if I would just squander it? Sometimes things seem so far out of our reach that we don't dream of them or prepare for them. Not this time, not anymore! I serve a big God & I'm going to believe, think, dream, speak, live & prepare like it. Let's just say that by the end of the night I had a pretty detailed plan of how to spend the $5 million...

The way we handle the material, physical or finanicial is a mere reflection of how we handle the spiritual.... How do you steward what God has given you? How do you steward His love, grace, faith, patience, mercy or His Spirit? How do you steward your time, finances, relationships, homework or house? If someone gave you $5 million would you have a plan for it? If God gave you deeper mysteries of the kingdom would you be ready to steward them? It is not a question of if you have been given a trust or not, the question is do you know what it is & are you stewarding it... Jesus said, "He who is faithful with little will be made rulers over cities..." You can't expect God to give you cities if you won't show up to class or work on time. You can't expect to become the boss of your job if you're not willing to wipe the water mess on the sink in the bathroom.... The $5 million dollar question really isn't, "what would you do if you were given $5 million dollars?" The question is, "what are you doing with what God has already given you?"

December 10, 2011

"What About Him?"

Growing up in a house with 8 siblings is no joke, especially when you only have one bathroom! You have someone brushing their teeth, on the toilet & in the shower at the same time. Private space, what's that? You had to be quick on the draw. If you wanted extra fried chicken, you had to practically swallow whole the piece mamma put on your plate within 10 seconds to make sure you got another piece because your older brothers had bigger mouths & bigger stomachs! Or, if by some supernatural work of God there was any left over (praise God for those days of abundance!) then you would have to 'accidently' wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom & 'accidently' pass by the refrigerator so you could 'accidently' sneak a midnight fried chicken snack... The joys of a hecka big family.

Wrestling was a normal part of our daily routine. Competition many times fueled the performance fire. Who would get the most hits when we played baseball? Who would win the belt in wrestling? Who would finish their food first so they could eat the most? And then breaking windows from playing baseball in the front yard after mamma already said, "You have a huge school across the street play over there!" was always pretty, ummmm, scarily exciting? It was always pretty humorous to get in trouble together because you didn't quite know what was going to happen. It was kinda like an adventure, an adventure with a giant leather snake (belt) rying to attack you while you tried to fight (more like smoothe talk) your way out of it... But, one thing was pretty normal. When we would get in trouble or when it came time to do chores & obey one of our parents commnds we would ask, "What about him? What about them? Are you going to do something to them too? I wasn't the only one... Do they have to do it too? Am I the only one?"

I was taken back to this when reading John 21. Jesus asked Peter three times if Peter loved (agapeo) Him. And three times Peter responded, "Yes Lord, you know I love (phileo) you." After this Jesus explains to Peter the type of love that He was speaking about, the agapeo love, the God-kind of love that lays down its life for another. Up until this time the love that Peter knew, understood & demonstrated was an affection love, brotherly love, a love that is strongly conditional... Jesus tells Peter that when Peter gets older he was going to lay down his life for Jesus. Jesus speaks to Peter's seemingly blantant area of lack & declares that it will lack no more. This is so powerful because just days before Peter, out of fear - which is rooted in self-preservation, denied Jesus three times. Peter knew that to follow Jesus would ensure his fate to be like the One he followed, a life of sacrifice, death to self, losing control of one's future, full submission... But now, Jesus declared that Peter would live that type of life, motivated by the same thing Jesus was motivated by, love - unconditional love, the God-kind of love.

You see, many of us don't think we could love the way God loves. We think to live a life that is fully surrendered, fully yielded & fully sacrificial is reserved only for a select few of God's super 'saints.' "Send the pastor to love the broken God, he/she is more qualified & spiritual..." The truth is that we have believed a lie. We have been deceived into believing that our ability to love is based on something that we can conjure up. We have bought into the lie that we are personally responsible for protecting our life, dreams & future, but in reality we have subitted to fear, self-preservation! The truth is that, "your life is not your own, you been bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6). The truth is that you have been "crucificed with Christ" (Gal. 2:20), your life is not your own & the life you live you live by faith in the Son of God who love you & gave Himself for you. The truth is that the God-kind of love has been graciously & powerfully given to you. "But hope does not disappoint us because God has pour out His love into our hearts through the Holy Spirit whom He has given to us" (Romans 5:5). The truth is you have His love in your heart in ever increasing measure. The questions are, "Have you allowed it to lay hold of you? Have you embraced it? Are you going to steward that love & give it away to others?" It's not a matter of having it or not, it's a matter of stewarding it...

Jesus gave Peter the Holy Spirit & knew that when the time came for Peter to lay down his life that Peter had what was in him to do it...Yet Peter asks a question about John, a question that me & my brother's used to ask about each other, "What about him?" Jesus simply responds by saying, "What is that you? You must follow me..."

So often we compare ourselves with our brothers. We read & hear the commands that Jesus is giving us, but we are constantly questioning, "What about him? What about her? What about that leader or that church?" We are asking Jesus why certain people are getting away with things & others are not. We are asking why certain people are getting blessed & we are not. We are comparing how powerful some people's or churches' ministries are & how ours or others are not. While all the time Jesus is saying to us and our churches, "What is that to you? You must follow me."

We have our eyes fixed on the "What about him & her?" and we lose sight of following Jesus. He moves to the left or the right & we don't see it because we are looking back or to the side asking, "What about him?" I'm not speaking of a self-centered, individualistic walk with Jesus, but I'm taking about 'fixing our eyes on Jesus the author & finisher of our faith,' not fixing our eyes on what others are or are not doing. When your eyes are fixed on the Groom, you cannot help but gain His heart & love for His Bride.

Competativeness may help enhance performance at times, but it is never the means of approval or acceptance. We are so busy comparing ourselves & competing, weighing ourselves by the standards of others that we lost sight of the true standard for love, sonship & discipleship. The true standard is Jesus...

When I would ask my dad, "What about them?" he would look at me with all the love in his heart & say, "Son, you must do what I tell you,don't worry about what I have for them. You need to do what I'm telling you to do..." It's time to stop comparing & stop competing. Comparing & competing keep us from moving forward together. You are not to weigh how spiritual you are by how long you pray in comparison to someone else, or how much you read in comparison to someone else. Your level of spirituality is not determined by your title, position, gifts or lack of. Your level of spiritual is not determined by how big your ministry is, how many gifts of the Spirit you possess or by how fruitful you think you are. You are who God's word says you are, you have what God's word says you have & you are commanded to follow how Jesus commands you to follow. Jesus is the standard & He has given you all He has through His Spirit. How are you stewarding it?

It's time to fix our eyes on Jesus. It's time for the Church to move forward with a heart that is motivated by the God-kind of love that is ours through the Holy Spirit... You see, when my dad would give us tasks to steward he would many times give them to us individually, but they would all tie in together. He would often tell one to clean the bathroom, one the living room, one the kitchen, & one the hallways. We may not have known exactly what the others were doing, but we had to trust that our father saw the big picture & knew what he was doing. Each position was just as necessary for the house to be cared for, each son & responsibility had just as much value to the father... We had to move away from, "What about him or her?" to following with a heart filled with a determinatin to steward with the God-kind of love...

December 7, 2011

"If We Know..."

When I was younger and I first heard the quote "Knowledge is Power." I felt so empowered. It was as if I just swallowed a mental super pill and I could intellectually lift a 5 billion ton mountain. All I got to do is read hecka books, learn tons of things, watch hecka movies (b/c I learn a lot from movies, especially about leadership stuff from Brave Heart, Lean On Me & Remember The Titans), and take a lot of classes in college so that I have all the power I need to succeed. But the more I have grow and seen how much information our world has, I have thought, "If we 'know' so much about relationships, especially in the West, how come our relationships are still so jacked up? If we 'know' so much about changing oursevles and changing the world, then why do we still seem so powerfuless?"

Could I keep it real? Since being married I have thought, "If we have all these books on women, why do guys still not seem to know & understand them?" One thing that marriage has taught me, along with all the realities that my wife is super amazing, compassionate, loving & SUPER FORGIVING (praise Jesus for an awesome wifey), is that just because I may  think I 'know' something or someone doesn't mean that my knowledge is true or intimate...

Me & my wife were once window shopping (yea guys, if you got something to say come say it to my face) and I saw a book titled, "All That Men Know About Women." At the time we were dating & preparing for marriage so I was like, "Oh thank you Jesus, I hecka need to read this!" I excitedly picked up the book, turned to the title page and began to flip through the pages expecting some deep revelation into the mystery of this amazingly wonderful being the Lord has blessed me with. "Hold up, there's got to be some kind of mistake," I thought. All the pages were BLANK!!! "Wow," I thought, "I just got played..."

The more I have grown in my relationship with my wife I have realized that I can read all the books in the world on women, those that are blank & those that are filled with billions of words, but just because I may have a working knowledge of what a woman is, what she does, how she thinks, what she wants, what makes her feel good or what hurt her feelings, doesn't mean that I know my wife. And the more that we have grown in relationship I have realized that even the things that I thought I knew about her pale in comparison to the ever increasing knowledge I am growing in of who she is.

I have began to realize that just having knowledge about something does not make me powerful in that field to bring transformation. Just knowing how to make some bomb Chile Verde doesn't mean that I can make it & just knowing how to communicate in a healthy way with my wife doesn't mean I will choose to do it. Knowledge is not powerful unless it is true knowledge, believed in & intentionally acted upon.

The longer I have been married the more my wife longs for me to know her. But, not just from an objective knowledge. She desires me to understand her, gain a true knowledge of who she is from sitting & talking with her, touching her, taking her to the movies, cuddling with her, looking into her eyes, feeling her joy, feeling her pain & all those other amazing ways a husband gets to know his wife experientially, glory! In growing in my knowledge of her, experiential knowledge of her, I am being empowered to love her greater! In the same way, God's desire is not that we just know facts about him, have perceptions about him or read books about him, but to grow in a deep, intimate, experiential knowledge of him through his Son Jesus. He desires that I would reach out to him & and find him.

Many times in our relationships with God we have these facts about who He is, perceptions that we hold too & assumptions that we have always believed, but we don't have an intimate knowledge of who He. God has revealed Himself in the world & His word & desires for us to know Him. Paul says in Acts 17:27 that God has 'determined the times set for them (us) and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.'

Surface level relationships are never satisfying. How deep would my love grow for my wife if we got married, but never talked, never spent time together or never revealed anything else about ourselves except what we revealed during our dating period? That would be horrible! I'm not satisfied with a 'dating' relationship with God. I'm not interested in just going out on a few 'excursions,' having a couple 'spontaneous experiences,' or go to 'services' where I can just hear good things about God. I don't just want to have a 'working' knowledge of God, I want to know his heart. I want to experience him! I want to reach out for him, lay hold of all that he has for me & allow my knowledge of him to bring transformation in my life & world. I want to do what Paul did & say as Paul said, "But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:13-14).

A surface level knowledge of God won't do anything... I want my knowledge of God to lead to the power of God working in & through my life. I want to know God & make him known... what about you?

December 4, 2011

I Hate Goodbyes... Let's Just Say See You Later

Heading back to Cali tomorrow & can't wait to see my wifey! But, I must say that I am hecka sad to say 'goodbye' to my Korean family... I have felt so loved, encouraged, inspired, honored & challenged over the last week. Despite my eyes feeling like they are going to roll right out of their sockets for lack of sleep, I received so much from the time, love, faith & heart that my New Philly family in Korea has imparted. When I think of saying 'Goodbye' it makes my heart 'triste,' that means sad in "Mexican" (not Spanish, Mexican, right Pastor Christian?), hahahaha.

I got tons of spiritual deposits to share back home! I so wish I could bring some of that bangin' 'yum yum' fried chicken & Kalbi!!! But, I know this is just the start of a something great, we're going from glory to glory! So, i'm not gonna cry (maybe i will, but on the plane under the little blanket they give you so nobody sees me..), but I know we'll see each other again soon so "Let's just say see you later..."

December 2, 2011

A Culture of Honor...

So I got sooooo much to share about our hecka crazy, adventurous, fun, tiring, refreshing & empowering trip to South Korea, but I just wanna share real quickly about what I'm learning from a 'culture of honor.' My mind is totally blown away by the hospitality and the way in which Koreans demonstrate honor, or at those who I have encountered on this trip. Not only are they amazing because they love friend chicken, spicy food & ice cream, but God has showed me how powerful, necessary and biblical it is to honor to those God has brought into your life.

We came not having a place to stay and, except for the crazy night at the ghetto "jujibang" (jimjilpang - a glorified bath house, lounge, snack bar, etc...) we have not lacked somewhere to rest our heads (didn't Jesus say when you give everything up for him you would not get more houses in this life & the life to come? sooooo deep). We have been constantly fed & constantly offered more! Yes, Captain America does love Korean food, especially the fried chicken & banana milk... mmmm... banana milk.....

Many of the brothers & sisters at New Philly, Daniel's relatives & other friends have opened their homes to us, blessed us with taxi fare, invited us over to their homes, fed us & have opened their hearts to us in tremendous ways. I truly feel like I am at home...You know they say, "Home is where your heart is..." This is becoming so much more real to me because my heart finds rest in God's presence, God's presence is home to me. And, God doesn't dwell in temples built by human hands, He dwells in His children who are 'living stones being fitted together to be the house of God...' He dwells in the believers who open their hearts, lives, wallets, cars, time, emotions, spirit & lives to others...

Jesus said, "A prophet is without honor in his hometown." We have too often forfeit the blessing that comes from honor. We don't truly believe the word of God when it says that 'a gift opens the way for the giver.' Honor, especially from what we have experience in our everyday life in America, seems to be a lost word, a lost art, a lost value and as a result it has become a lost blessing in our lives & the church. People will honor themselves, but honor others? Not likely...

Did God tell Abraham to give Malchezidek a 1/10 of all he had? No... Then why did Abraham do it? Honor... Did God tell Esau to send out droves to Jacob when they were going to be reconciled? No. Then why did he do it? Honor... Was the woman who anointed Jesus with the Alabaster Jar told to do it, required to do it or even favorably looked upon by those watching? No. Then why did she do it? Honor...

In each of these cases those who honored were blessed because of it. I never realized home much I was cutting myself off from the blessing of God because of my lack of honor to others, especially to my leaders, parents & wife. Why is a prophet without honor in his hometown? Because the people treat him/her as common, familiar & 'one of us.' Too often we have allowed ourselves to become too familiar with our parents, friends, leaders, teachers, pastors and God. As a result, we have forgotten how to honor them, hold them in high regards, esteem them, cherish them, bless them, prepare the way through gifts or value them... In reality, a lack of honor means there is a lack of understanding in what true home is...

Home for us is meant to be the presence of God, the presence of our Heavenly Father.. Peter says we are aliens & strangers here on earth... Hebrews tells us where looking for a home whose architect & builder is God... The place where our heavenly Father is, that is home... The earthly model of home that God has given us is the place where we dwell with our father & mother & siblings. The first commandment with a promise is to 'honor your mother & father & you will live long in the land I am going to give you.' There was a blessing that was meant to flow from the honoring of our mother & father. Honor was meant to begin in the home and the blessing from honoring was meant to bring long/full/whole life...

But, because we have not allowed the presence of God to dwell in our homes or our 'hometowns' we have cut ourselves off from this blessings. We have become too familiar with our 'families', natural & spiritual. We have become to familiar with our mothers & fathers, natural & spiritual. We have cut ourselves off from the blessing that comes from honor and exchanged it for the contempt that comes from familiarity. Familiarity breeds contempt...

Familiar & Family come from the same root word. No wonder why so many families have fallen apart, it's because we have become too familiar. It may sound stupid but follow me.... We have forgotten to recognize the gift that our family is, that our parents are, that are siblings are, that our spouse is. And, because we have forgotten that these are gifts we don't honor them and we don't honor the Giver of these gifts. And if you don't honor the gift or the Giver, there is no way that blessing can continue to flow. The promise of blessing comes with the command to honor...

It is not a matter of whether someone is honorable or not... you may say, 'well my mom, dad, spouse, pastor or family members are not worthy of my honor...' was Saul honorable when he hurled a spear at David? Yet, David honored him by protecting him and submitting to him... was Pilate honorable when he made the decision to crucify Jesus? Yet, Jesus honored him by not overthrowing him or calling down angels to kill him...

What David & Jesus recognized was that by honoring the authorities God placed over their lives they were honoring God... Through the honor they displayed, even when the people didn't seem honorable, they were preparing the way for a greater anointing, blessing, favor & fullness to be release to them. To them, honoring those God placed over their lives was to honor God.... Did they agree fully with those over them, probably not, but they still honored them... To them, honoring God and receiving honor from God was more important than honoring themselves. They honored, valued, esteemed, cherised & loved God & those who were in their lineage far more than they did themselves. They were opening the door for that blessing to be released in their lives & the lives of all who would follow in their lineage.

Their lineage, their family was not 'too' familiar to them.You see, when we allow something to become too familiar to us then we have forgotten what it means to love it, value it, cherish it and honor it. The moment I allow my wife to become too familiar too me is the moment I have allowed my passionate love for her dwindle. Yet, when I am cherishing & honoring her as a gift from God then I am constantly holding her in high esteem, thinking of ways to display my love, planning dates & thinking through things I can say to express how valuable she is to me. And in honoring her I am really honoring the One who graciously gave her to me...

Jesus & David's love for their family & lineage led them to choose a culture of honor... And as a result, the favor & blessing of God still flows through them and their lineage, to all who believe!

God has challenged me through my Korean family to pursue a life that honors.... it's time that we begin to create in our families, marriages, hometowns, churches, cities & nations, a culture of honor...