January 26, 2012

"The Power of a Supportive Spouse..."

This Cake Was Amazing!
I need to confess, my wife is stinking amazing & I have not fully appreciated her as often as I should. First of all, for my birthday on January 17th she not only was extremely affirming & encouraging, but she made me breakfast, showered me with love, made sure I had an amazing time at Buffalo Wild Wings, bought me a Captain America shirt & made me a Captain America cake!

At the beginning of the month we both started school. I’m working full-time, serving in ministry & taking two classes & she is going to school full-time, serving in ministry & working part time. With major transition comes major growth. For the first couple of weeks it was really hard, mostly because I didn’t take the time to see how I could meet my wife’s needs & how I could support her. But, last week we sat down and communicated.

You know, a lot of problems, arguments & misunderstandings can be alleviated
with loving, sincere & clear

Take Time To Talk...
And LISTEN....
I didn’t realize how much my wife was sacrificing as she has been supporting me with school, ministry & work. I also didn’t realize how much her support meant to me. Over the last couple weeks when I got home extremely late from class, went to bed extremely late from working on homework or got up super early to spend time with God or study she was there to tell me how proud she was of me. Not only that, but she has loving cleaned up my mess because I rushed out of the house. She has stood in prayer for my strength. And, she has packed me lunch, made dinner & made sure that I have been taken care of. All along, she has also made time to study, spend time with God, clean the house, put away clothes and more!!!

 At the same time, I didn’t realize how much I’m also supposed to stand with her, how much she looks for me to encourage her & how much we need each other. Recently she told she didn’t realize how much she feels emotionally supported by me. When she told me that I realized that I felt the same way about her, but hadn’t verbalized it like I should. I think we often appreciate in our hearts, but don’t allow it to become realized through our words & actions. It is definitely a skills & something to be worked at.

When God said,
“The two will become one flesh,” He meant it.

Bout to Eat BBQ in Texas...

It’s not about me completing the vision I think God has for my life or her just fulfilling the vision God has for her life; it’s about ‘us’ walking with God in the vision He has for our ‘life’ as one. Yes, we’re individuals and we like different things, have different personalities & think different, but He has called us to oneness.

One of the major ways that we walk in that oneness is standing in support of one another, believing for one another, encouraging one another & selflessly serving one another.

This married thing is a team thing.

I need her just as much as she needs me, the minute I think any different I have allowed pride to creep in & stepped into selfishness.

If my wife did not support me in school, ministry or work I know that I definitely would not be able to do it, or at least be able to do it the right way. The support of our spouse is so powerful! We are not only called to stand with our spouses, but to help release him or her into the fullness of God has him or him. Your support may release your spouse into discovering new gifts, pursuing new dreams & conquering fears that held him or her down his or her whole life! 

The support of our spouse could cause us to soar with strength we didn’t know we had,
run with endurance that we never
realized was in us and walk
in confidence as one who
could conquer the

I encourage you to take some time to stop, think about how much he or she may be supporting you without you even recognizing it & intentionally choose to appreciate your spouse in word & action…

January 22, 2012

"A Letter That Has Changed My Life..."

Far too often we try to separate the sacred from the secular and in doing so we have created such a chasm that, in our eyes, not even Christ can penetrate. However, when I look at the life of Jesus I see the Divine cross such chasms. "The Word become flesh and made His dwelling among us," (John 1:14). I see the Divine entering flesh to manifest love beyond reason. I see One who was absolutely sacred, yet dwelt in the midst of the secular without fear of becoming blemished. I see One who entered into the midst of darkeness and brought light...

He touched the unclean and made it clean, 
He touched the broken and make it whole,
He sat with the unloved and loved them.

Too often we sit on the sidelines of our culture or world parading around with the persona of holiness, but have done nothing other than isolate ourselves from the world which God has commanded us to love. The hope, love, joy, peace and victory we have in Christ is meant to not only distinguish us from those who may not possess it in our world, but it is also meant to transform the very fabric of our culture.

The Gospel was never meant to isolate us from the world, but to transform us and the
world we live in.
By transforming us, we become agents of its transformative power in the world.

Below is an excerpt from a letter that has changed my life. I hope that it will shake you, encourage you & inspire you to live in a way you never have before. I hope that it will inspire the church to truly live in such a way that radically shapes the world that we live in...

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  “Letter From a Birmingham Jail”
Martin Luther King Jr.
Christian & Civil Rights Activist
1929 - 1968
“I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and its leadership… I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister of the gospel, who loves the church… When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the ministers, priests, and rabbis of the South would be among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting its leader; all too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows… In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle to our rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: ‘Those are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern.’ And I have watched many churches commit themselves to completely otherworldly religion which makes a strange, unbiblical distinction between body and soul, between the sacred and the secular… There was a time when the church was very powerful-in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was thermostat that transformed the mores of society.”

William Wilberforce
Christian & Slave Abolitionist
 1759 – 1833 
This letter has challenged me to be a man that not only lives out my faith, but lives it out in the midst of my culture & world in transformative way. Despite struggle, turmoil, persectuion & mockery Martin Luther King Jr., William Willberforce, Hudson Taylor, John Perkins, Billy Graham, Corrie-Ten Boom & Mother Theresa are some of the few that refused to allow the Gospel they believed in to isolate them from the world they lived in. Rather, they truly believed that the Jesus of the Gospel they believed in not only came to redeem the world, but to transform it through those who would follow him.

They believed that the sacred was meant to be lived out in the midst of the secular.
They believed that their lives, the Gospel & the redemptive power of Jesus living in them should transform the very mores of their society, culture & world.

Is your life reflecting the transformational power of the Gospel or are you living in a state of  isolation from the world that you were called to help see reconciled to its
Creator, Savior & Lover?

January 19, 2012

"Got Hope? How Do You Respond To Struggle?"

This year has begun with such great momentum. There is such great vision, clarity and passion among my friends, family & church. Often, with a fresh year comes a fresh hope. Hope that this year will be different. Hope that this year you will try new things. Hope that you will change areas of your life that you have always wanted to change. But, how many know that after a couple months, or even after a couple days, we tend to become discouraged with our situations. As a result, we become disillusioned and lose hope of ever seeing those changes come to pass.

Paul writes to the church in Thessalonica and begins his letter by saying,
“We always thank God for you….we remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  1 Thessalonians 1:2,3 NIV

Where Do You Find Hope?
The believers in Thessalonica were facing extreme persecution, their situations were absolutely trying. However, Paul heard of the way that they were living in the midst of these extremely difficult situations & says that he “always thanks God for them… remembering their endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

I want to ask you today, when you’re faced with difficult situations, unchanging circumstances, persecution or ‘dry seasons’ would someone be able to say that they ‘remember your endurance inspired by hope?’ What do the people around you see when you’re in a season of struggle? Do they see complaining, anger, frustration, disillusionment or hope?

 Many times we want God to deliver us from the rough stuff, the hard situations. But, maybe God is trying to
make us greater stewards of the hope He
has given us in Jesus Christ!

This Sunday I'll be preaching at Living Hope Christian Center about "Stewarding Hope." You can check it out on Sunday by going to http://www.livehope.us/ & checking out the Media page. Tune in to hear how God has called us to great endurance, to become stewards of the hope that is ours in Christ Jesus!

January 12, 2012

"I'm Sick of Excuses..."

No More Excuses Garfield....
Change Your Story.
 I must admit that I'm sick of excuses. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely guilty of making them. You know how it goes. You plan to work out but the alarm goes off & your brain is shouting, 'I can't get out of bed because then I will be too tired for the rest of the day!' The reality is that you can't afford to not get out of bed because in the long run exercising is going to help you become healthier, stronger, have more energy & feel better about yourself. Or how about, 'I was late because of  ____________ (you filll in the blank)...' The reality is that you chose not to roll out of bed, didn't iron your clothes the day before, pressed snooze or took an extra 5 minutes to check your Facebook status before you left the house...

Okay, last one. How about, 'I can't afford that....' The reality is that you are choosing to place your finances in different areas (movies, food, cable, other garbage or even good things). You 'can' pull out more credit & get in more debt or you can choose to save, invest & purchase it when you really have the money... The reality is that you really 'can' do what you think you can't.

I have come to realize that my,
"I can'ts" are really, "I'm choosing not too."

There may be certain limitations that you will face in yourself in situations, but they are often far less times than you think.

We too easily dismiss ourselves from changing areas of our lives simply because we have bought into the lie that we “can't.”

When it comes to reorganizing your schedule, working on your marriage, building that friendship, getting to work on time, spending more time with God, doing your homework on time, pursuing that job you want to or going back to school like you have always wanted it is often more fear & doubt that keeps you from seeing those changes come to pass than it is your incapability.

Now I'm not saying that you can change every ‘situation’ or ‘circumstance’ in your life. And, I'm not saying that you have everything 'in yourself' to make everything better, but 'with God all things are possible.' We often fail to lay hold of the reality of the power that He has given us through His consistent presence in & unchanging promises for our lives. Far too often when we're in situations we think about what we can or can't do to make it better. Too often God is our last resort when He should be our first (whether it is a relationship conflict or needing help with homework). So many times we are so deeply immersed in excuses of why we can't that we fail to recognize the One standing before us who can...

Too often we let our disillusionment with transformation,
our familiarity with struggle, our comfortability with hopelessness & our fellowship with helplessness
 keep us in the shackles of depression,
unbelief & stagnation.

It's time that we take “I can't” out of our vocabulary & replace it with “I choose” (hopefully more good than bad). It's time that we learn to take our “I can'ts” to God & allow him to make real in our lives the promise that, "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength..." (Philippians 4:13).  There are times that your situation may not change, but you can change in the midst of your situation.  Then there are times you can change the situation, will you?

I'm sick of excuses, how about you?

January 9, 2012

"Is It Always Black or White? Yes or No? This or That?"

Some like slow & easy starts, some like to hit the ground running, but whether I wanted to or not hitting the ground running was my only option. I must admit though, even though I feel like every fiber of my being is being stretched beyond its capacity I know that it is only gonna make me stronger, produce greater faithfulness, bring about divine increase & demand divine acceleration.

Sometimes our greatness struggles or periods of
stretching are our greatest opportunities
for growth & promotion.

Living Hope's SWM Day 1...
I was super excited that in the first class of Living Hope's School of World Missions 2012 we had over 50 people! It's going to be awesome! I'm really excited too because one of my classes "Insights for Cultural Understanding" ties directly into a lot of what we're teaching for SWM. I love learning about new cultures, traveling the world & experiencing life outside of my 'familiar' cultural setting. That's one of the reasons I love living in the Bay Area where over 100 different dialects are spoken & where there is so much cultural diversity!

With that said, I wanted to share a recent exercise from my class & get your thoughts. We had to "Take A Stand" (the name & purpose of a questionnaire from Fuller Theological Seminary) & answer only 'Yes' or 'No', without any opportunity for explanation. Then we had to share what are initial reaction was, if it was easy or hard to answer the questions and what tensions we felt in answering the questions. Below is the questionnaire & my thoughts. I would love to hear your thoughts too. Remember you could only answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each statement:

1.      Illegal immigrants are in the United States illegally and should be deported immediately upon detection.
2.      Doctors and teachers who suspect a patient or student is an illegal should be required to report these suspected aliens to the proper authorities.
3.       Children of illegal aliens born in the United States should be considered 100% United States citizens, with all rights and privileges.
4.      Any and all refugees fleeing from oppressive regimes should be given asylum in the United States.
5.      Welfare benefits or other public assistance should be denied to illegal aliens.
6.      Emergency medical care such as labor and delivery should be denied to all illegals.
7.      It is a Christian citizens duty to uphold the law, regardless of whether they agree with it (Romans 13:1), including turning in an illegal neighbor or classmate.
8.      All farm-workers should be 100% naturalized American citizens, even if this standard causes the cost of fruit and vegetables to double.
9.      The scriptures say care for the alien in our land (Deut. 10:19, 23:7, Numb. 9:14); for the Christian this means hiding illegal aliens in your home or church from the INS.
My initial reaction to the questionnaire was, "This is not easy...." As a holistic thinker it is not always the easiest for me to make decisions right away, especially when it comes to situations that I believe could have more than one possible solution. Sherwood Lingenfelter's description of the holistic-thinker (Ministering Cross Culturally) is right on for me.

I tried to put myself in each situation and not just separate myself from the tensions just because this was a questionnaire.

I really wanted to feel what it would be like to be in the seat of decision making in these situations, as well as be the refugee, alien,
person in need of assistance or the farm worker.

Realizing my holistic tendencies & knowing that I needed to make a decision without any explanations, discussion or background information into each case made it pretty difficult.

I felt a constant tension between a number of different factors: What is my country's law? What is my family background & personal background concerning these things? What have other Christian's done in similar situations in the past or present? What does Scripture say about these things? What are the spiritual & moral implications of the decision I am making? And, while the scenarios may be similar each case is extremely distinct.

Perhaps the hardest thing for me is many laws that are set
by our governing authorities are not necessarily 
directed by the law or word of God.

Even though our money says, “In God we trust…” is that really what our laws & culture exemplify? Therefore, when it comes to questions of morality, the value of human life, the value of creation and things of that nature I believe that the Law of God (the Law of the Spirit) is meant to supersede every governing law set by humanity.

In the case with Daniel, we see that when the king of Babylon set a law that no one could pray to any god other than himself Daniel clearly defied the king's law in order to uphold the law of God. I think about Rahab who hid the spies & was blessed by God, even though it was against the laws of her land to provide refuge to these spies. I think about such men as Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was murdered for helping the refugees during World War II because he held what he believed to be God's value of human life above the law of the Nazi government. I think about the greatest commandment to love God & love our neighbor and how that would look in each situation. To me it just doesn't always seem so clear cut.

God used refugees, prostitutes, outcasts, murderers, adulters, false prophets, liars, stealers
& incompetents to reveal His glory,
as well as contribute to
redemptive history.

And, many times the people went against the laws of their lands to obey God (ie. Jesus & the apostles being persecuted by certain Jews & Romans for their life of faith). While I strongly believe in upholding the laws of the land & strongly believe in honoring our leaders, government & authorities as Paul & Peter refer too, I also realize that even they were not silent from demonstrating & proclaiming what they believed to be the Gospel even though it was against the law of their time & cost them their lives.

In this questionnaire they dealt with the cultural & legal tension of immigration, ‘illegal’ aliens & refugees. Did you see everything as black or white, yes or no, this or that? When you look at the cultural tensions you experience in your job, church, neighborhood or family, do you see everything as black or white, yes or no, this or that? What is the standard by which you filter your judgment of these things: your cultural background, your experiences, what society says, what God’s word says?

Maybe the next time you enter into a cultural tension it may be good to ask yourself the question, “Is everything black or white, yes or no, this or that?”

Answering this question could possibly save or preserve your relationships, friendships, marriage or group you’re working with… And it may give you a deeper understanding in the heart of God in each situation you face.

January 5, 2012

"The Year of Stewardship"

So I know that at the beginning of the year tons of people make resolutions, most of which are given up on, forgotten about or forsaken. Nonetheless, I resolute to keep my resolutions for 2012 & I have you (the amazing reader) to hold me accountable. God has been teaching us a lot about stewardship at my home church, Living Hope Christian Center (our pastor just preached an awesome message on it that will change your life). Therefore, this year I resolute to become a faithful steward that multiplies the trust given to him… I refuse to go through the year just letting things go as they will.

I’m going to see every day, every hour, every minute & every second as a trust from God.

I’m going to be faithful to see increase take place in every area of my life. If God has given me breathe, a wife, a home, relationships, ministry, etc. He believes in me & has placed in me what is necessary to multiply what He has entrusted into my care. In Jesus’ parable of the talents the master said, “You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things” (Matt. 25:23).

Many times the trust that is small seems insignificant,
but to the Master the small is
just as valuable
as the great.

Don’t despise even the smallest of things
entrusted to your care…

So here are some of the areas that I’m going to steward & see multiply this year:
1. Relationship with Jesus I’m going to be consistent with my daily quiet times, prayer, bible reading & journaling. Intimacy is developed through consistency.
Saying Goodbye
To My Little
2. Relationship with my wife – I’m going to read through a book every other month that will help me grow as a husband & strengthen our marriage (I’ll share my notes with ya too!).

3. Family – I’m going to call my family members at least once every other week & visit at least once a month (I got a hecka big Mexican family, this is going to be some work, but worth it!).

4. Body – I’m going to work out 3 days a week for at least 30 mins a day & limit my fried chicken eating (this is hecka sacrifice, eating less fried chicken that is). I lost 20 pounds last year, gotta step up the game!

5. Finances – According to the layout our pastor challenged us with we’re going to give 15% (tithe & offering), save 15% & live on the other 70%.  I’m excited to see how God is going to move through this!

6. School – I enrolled again into classes for my Master’s Degree, Masters in Theology, at Fuller Theological Seminary. Taking 2 classes to start off, gonna chip away little by little.

7.  Ministry – I’m going to intentionally pour into the teams I oversee & believe for the 1…

8. Friends – I’m going to intentionally call, text, email, facebook, etc. 5 friends weekly in order to have a meaningful connection with them. Too often we let friendships dwindle because of a lack of meaningful connection. People are worth too much to just ‘lose connection’ with them.

9. House – Going to do at least 1 significant handy man thing around the house a week. Gotta be a grown man & show my wife I care about the little things she wants to see fixed.

10. Fun – I’m going to do something hecka fun at least once a week!

This is good to start… How about you? What is your trust & how are you going to multiply it?