What to Say

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

~ Revelation 21:3-4

This morning as I laid in bed trying to wake, scrolling through Twitter, waiting for the snooze to go off and I began seeing the hashtag #PhilandoCastille, as I began to put together the story I cried out, “Lord not again,” not a day after #AltonSterling. Now tonight as I sit at my computer reading the reports of a sniper shooting in Dallas, my home, I find myself mourning and at a lost of words.

Honestly I have been trying to find words all day to say. This morning as I read the news, I probably began and deleted who knows how many tweets, trying to process all that is going on. Trying to understand all that is going on, praying for those directly affected and those indirectly affected. Praying for those close friends who are in bi-racial relationships and those who have so lovingly showed the Gospel to the world and have adopted from multiple races, wondering how the tension in America is and will affect them. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand it all, as a Mexican American who is considered a Caucasian, and  grew up in a city that was 90%+ Caucasian, race was never really an issue. But hear me on this, I am trying to understand and I am trying to grasp all that is going on.

I don’t understand it all, but here is what I know:

  • There is a great racial tension in America that hasn’t died and isn’t going away; it must be addressed.
  • There is a large population of people who are hurting and have scars going back centuries, and to combat the #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter is simply unloving and evil.
  • That as I read comments online and responses on social media to men and women I would consider leaders in the Church, who are African-American, there is a great racial tension in the Church today as well.
  • That the Church is to display the Glory of God in our cities.
  • A divided church cannot display the Glory of God in our Cities and to our neighbors.
  • That we are called to love, and loving those around us means sitting and listening, without telling them why they are wrong to feel how they do.
  • I know that men who were created in the image of God have lost their lives this week, and that should break our hearts.
  • That as I write this, five families have lost men who were sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands, and that those families will never be the same.
  • There is a large part of the population that will go to bed tonight and wake up tomorrow living in fear, pain, anger and hurt.
  • That we are called to mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).
  • That our response to the command that we are to love has nothing to do with “others” and what they have done or their response to us, and has everything to do with the simple question of, will we be obedient?
  • That the current conditions of the world daily remind us that we are living in a Genesis 3 world and things are not how they were created to be.
  • That there is coming a day when the Lord will come back and make everything right.

I don’t know a lot, but I am seeking to learn. To my brothers and sisters who are hurting and walking in fear, I want to say I am sorry you are walking through this and that I love you and am praying; where I don’t fully understand please help me. I really want to understand because I love you.

Come Quickly Lord! Maranatha! 

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Life Lessons From My PawPaw

photo 2I would like to introduce you to my PawPaw, a man who I am blessed to have in my life and is always a joy to be around. Over the past few weeks with all the holidays I was able to spend a lot of time with him and my MawMaw at their house near my parents. Times like this are times I cherish and am so thankful for to sit with and talk with them and a lot of the time simply sit there and listen, listen to stories of how they met, listen to them joke with each other, or listen to the latest news that my MawMaw just read in the National Enquirer (she loves these stories).  These times are precious cause I know I won’t always have them, my PawPaw is 92 and although his goal is to catch Moses at 120 years old, (a joke he has had for the past 10 plus years and one I’m starting to think may actually happen) he is slowing down some along with my MawMaw who is 90. As I spent time with them over the last month and began to think of their legacy in our family and what I have learned from them over the years. This is not an exhausted list by any means, just a few of my first thoughts as I have dwelled on this.

  1. The Importance of Faith – The picture above is how I found my PawPaw one day I stopped by to say hi. He was sitting on his spot on the couch doing what he has done nearly everyday for the past 30 years, reading his Bible, as my MawMaw took a nap. He came to know the Lord while in his 60’s as the Lord saw fit to use my dad to lead him to the Lord. And since that day my PawPaw has forever been changed, after spending the first 60 years of his life trying to be good enough, the Lord opened his eyes to His love and grace. My PawPaw was worn his Bible out since then, and every time I go by there he tells me about what he read that day. One of the highlights of our time together over Christmas break, was sitting there with my 92-year-old PawPaw sat there and told me a list of answered prayers the Lord had answered this month for him, how some people may not believe in Christ, but he knows that when he prays to Him that the Lord answers him. On Christmas he told us, “This family is built on love and joy. Love for Christ and love for others.”
  2. The Importance of the Individual – This may be one of the biggest things I have noticed about my PawPaw, and that is he makes everyone feel important and as if you are the only one he is talking to. If you were to come with me and my family to meet them, he would talk to you directly and include you in everything. You would leave feeling like you are part of the family and not just some stranger who was tagging alone. And he has been this way it seems like his whole life, he was a car salesman most of his life, and even today we run into people who when they hear my dad’s name (he is a junior) they ask if his dad sold cars because they bought a car from him and remember how he helped them and how he got them into the car they wanted. I’ve purchased two vehicles in my life and couldn’t tell you the names of the salesman I dealt with.
  3. The Importance of Being a Witness – Any opportunity my PawPaw gets to point to Christ he takes it. Recently when at the doctor about to be released to go home, all the doctors and all the nurses were in his room (see point above, people are drawn to him) and they were asking him about being married for 71 years and whats the secret, his answer short, simple and powerful, “Jesus Christ.” Even at 92, and no longer able to be out and about he is still being a witness to anyone and everyone he may come in contact with, whether family member, doctor, nurse, or home health nurse that comes to check on him, he will tell you the main thing in his life and the secret to his joy is Christ.
  4. The Importance of a Never Changing Joy – My PawPaw is 92, and rides a scooter to get around in the house and has to basically sit on the couch all day long watching a TV he may or may not hear that well, but you would never know it. He is always joyful, regardless of the circumstances, and happy to see you. Never once can I recall him every complaining about his or my MawMaw’s circumstances. Through hospital trips, losing a home to a hurricane, having your car taken from you, zero complaints. Always joyful, always joking around, always thanking the Lord for what he has.
  5. The Importance of Family – My Grandparents have been married 71 years and are still in love. In an age where more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, my Grandparents have made it through, most people would be happy to live for 71 years and they have been married 71. It’s an amazing thing to see and witness and one that the world is astonished by, leading to questions as mentioned above, “How?” And the answer is always the same, “Jesus Christ,” Christ has sustained them. My MawMaw recently told my dad that no matter what family is family, they will make mistakes but the Lord tells us that whoever is without sin to throw the first stones, so no matter what you love your family cause that’s what the Lord has told us to do. And they have loved us all well, through ups and downs their love has remained constant.

This is just some of the many things that I have noticed in my PawPaw and MawMaw’s lives, and a small part of the legacy they are leaving our family. I am incredibly grateful for all that the Lord has used them to show me about living out His Word, and loving others. I cherish the moments the Lord continues to allow me to sit with them and just talk and listen. These times are precious and whether I get a few more years of these opportunities, or they make it to Moses and I get another 25+ years with them, these are the things I will hold onto.

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Married 71 years and still in Love!

 

“This family is built on love and joy. Love for Christ and love for others.”

Train Yourself

Photo1  Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness;

for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way,

as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

~ 1 timothy 4:7-8

Two weekends ago I went home for the first time in almost 4 months since moving to Dallas, to watch two dear friends get married. While home, though I had the same conversation over and over with friends and family; that basically went like this:

Someone: “Nick, you have lost weight, what are you doing?”

Me: “Diet and exercise.”

Someone: “Oh…”

It got to where it was comical to me, because the response to me saying I had lost weight to diet and exercise was almost one of disappointment, like people were hoping that I had moved to Dallas and found some special formula that didn’t require diet and exercise (I’m sure the reading load in seminary has helped too). Cause although deep inside we really know that the secret to weight loss and getting in shape is diet and exercise, we all want that easy fix. Diet and exercise take discipline, effort and is difficult; please give us a special pill, or some 6 minute abs belt that we can wear while in bed eating, and we will try it.

Just make it easy…

Now this isn’t a post on health and fitness, but I have been chewing on this, because is this not a picture of our spiritual lives? We are called to be Holy (1 Peter 1:16), we are told to pursue Godliness, righteousness, and faith (1 Timothy 6:11). To often we try to achieve this the easy way, like attending church once or twice a week will help us get to where we are supposed to be. Or we just wait for the Lord to sanctify us, and claim “we will be Holy, one day, when we are with Him;” Yes, ultimately this is true, but that does not take away the command to train ourselves for Godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). If we were to go to our heroes of the Faith, and ask them how did you get so Godly? When they told us, would our response be, “oh…” wishing the answer was simpler?

All of this started to connect last week as I was preparing for my home group bible study where we were focusing on the passage in James 4:7-10:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.

 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

As I was reading this passage, I noticed all the “action” words that pertain to us, that we are to do: submit, resist, draw near, cleanse, purify, and humble, all words that pertain to us getting near to God.

We cannot pursue Godliness apart from actively pursuing Him. Yes it takes discipline, effort and is difficult sometimes, but what else is there to go towards?

Effective Light

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You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltines be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. 

~ Matthew 5:13-16

A few months ago, I was down in Brazil on a mission trip to a Children’s Home for two weeks. While there I was reminded of a few things:

  • The World is a Dark and Hurting place
  • Sometimes we have to get outside of our small comfortable bubble to realize this
  • The truth is there are hurting people in other countries, but there are also hurting people in the cubicle next to us, in line at Wal-Mart, and across the street
  • We just have to have eyes to see
  • Jesus said that, us believers ARE the light of the world
  • Not that we should be, or if we get a chance to be to do it but that we ARE
  • You see light makes what was once unseen now seen
  • Light is only effective in the midst of darkness 
  • When you turn on a flash light in a well-lit room it adds no benefit
  • When I was walking back to my house at night in Brazil, a flashlight was a huge benefit
  • As Christians we love simply hanging out with each other, so all of our lights are together, essentially turning on a flashlight in a well-lit room
  • For light to be effective it must be shown in the darkness – in order for Christ light to shine in the World, His disciples must go out into the world
  • Sometimes that means jumping on a plane and traveling thousand of miles away, and sometimes it means meeting your neighbor where they are
  • We do this to shine in the darkness, so that the world can be shown Christ
  • We shine our lights so others may see and give Glory to God

 

Read this last week as I’ve continued to think over all that the Lord showed me this summer:

Charles H. Spurgeon – Morning and Evening Devotional

Morning September 6th

“In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” 

— Philippians 2:15

We use lights to make manifest. A Christian man should so shine in his life, that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the gospel. His conversation should be such that all who are about him should clearly perceive whose he is, and whom he serves; and should see the image of Jesus reflected in his daily actions. Lights are intended for guidance. We are to help those around us who are in the dark. We are to hold forth to them the Word of life. We are to point sinners to the Saviour, and the weary to a divine resting-place. Men sometimes read their Bibles, and fail to understand them; we should be ready, like Philip, to instruct the inquirer in the meaning of God’s Word, the way of salvation, and the life of godliness. Lights are also used for warning. On our rocks and shoals a light-house is sure to be erected. Christian men should know that there are many false lights shown everywhere in the world, and therefore the right light is needed. The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodly to sin under the name of pleasure; they hoist the wrong light, be it ours to put up the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin, and tell what it leads to, that so we may be clear of the blood of all men, shining as lights in the world. Lights also have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. A Christian ought to be a comforter, with kind words on his lips, and sympathy in his heart; he should carry sunshine wherever he goes, and diffuse happiness around him.

Gracious Spirit dwell with me;

I myself would gracious be,

And with words that help and heal

Would thy life in mine reveal,

And with actions bold and meek

Would for Christ my Saviour speak.

Ponderings & Reflections of 2012 and So Forth

What a year 2012 was! A year I saw God continue to be faithful in my life, to continue to grow me, stretch me and lead me in a new direction. I have been reflecting on the past year a lot lately,partly cause its the start of the new year, and partly because the Lord is just stirring a lot in me right now and beginning to lead in a whole new way, that as early as six months ago I didn’t see coming.

As I reflect on the year, I can yet again say that God is faithful and continues to prove in my life over and over that He is worthy to trust and worth following. That when life doesn’t make sense that He is faithful to encourage, grow and lead.

He has taught me a lot this year, grown me, and stretched me, more than I can put into words here as I am struggling to that. Here are a few random highlights of the year, a few top of the Year list, and a closing prayer:

HIGHLIGHTS

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1) Haiti Trip:

Once again this year God allowed me the opportunity to serve the people in Canaan in Haiti. Haiti is a place the Lord placed on my heart several years ago and He continues to be faithful to provide ways to go there and serve the people there. The people in Canaan I have fallen in love with and hope, if the Lord allows to go back again to. This year the Lord sent me to a small town by the name of Crossnore, in North Carolina to lead a team from there to Haiti, with Crossroads Worldwide. I have written about the trip in detail this past summer. It’s just amazing to see that when God puts a place on your heart and you beg Him to send you there He provides the opportunity. He is so faithful.

2) New Friends

Another highlight this year has been new friends I now have. Friends that I have learned a lot from, and that constantly encourage me and push me to want to love the Lord more. I have prayer warriors in my life that I know are constantly doing battle on my behalf in prayer, this is humbling and more encouraging than I could ever describe. Through a team member on my trip to Haiti, I got to see what it really looks like to love everyone you come in contact with. I’m always so focused to getting to where I’m trying to go that I often times miss opportunities right in front of me. Had a team member not wait to get to Haiti to love people, got to see them love people in the airport and on the plane and in customs. Then once the trip was over and we left the people we were sent to love and serve, their job wasn’t over they continued to love those around them as we traveled home. God just started speaking to me that is what love looks like. Other friends have come into my life and been constant encouragers, and have jumped right into whatever ministry opportunities are available and looked to love and serve the church. I am eternally grateful for those people the Lord has brought into my life this past year, and how He has used them to teach me.

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3) Youth Group

Although this is a sad highlight it is a highlight. At the end of this year the Lord has closed this part of my life as I have stepped down as Youth Minister at my church. I absolutely love these students, and it has been an exciting journey over the past four years. I remember years ago telling God and everyone who asked that I would never be a youth pastor. Never would I of thought that the Lord would lead me to be one, and never did I think it would have been as amazing as it was. It was a complete roller coaster, but it has been the best four years of my life. Doing life with students and getting to see some become gripped with the Gospel and fall in love with Christ, not just an idea of Him but fall in love with Him and pursue Him, you can’t beat that.

As I continue on the journey the Lord has me on, and into Seminary staring this year, the past four years of doing life with the students I was blessed to serve alongside and minister to I will always cherish.

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Top Three Albums of Year

I love music, and am always getting new albums. I based this list on the three albums I think I listened to the most this year. Albums that I constantly listen to the whole album through and through:

1) “Clear the Stage” by Jimmy Needham

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This album is incredible, the lyrics and stories in the songs grouped up with the incredible voice of Jimmy, make this album a must have. And the title song “Clear The Stage” is one that needs to be heard and sang and taken to heart. Perhaps the most powerful song of the year for me.

2) “Gravity” by Lecrae

lecrae_gravity_album_cover

If you know me, you know I have Christian Hip Hop, and this is perhaps will go down as one of the greatest Christian Hip Hop albums ever. The issues this album addresses, and the impact it has had is amazing. The Lord has and is raising up a generation of hip hop artist to declare His Name and Grace and Love, Lecrae is leading the way.

3) “White Flag” by Passion

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Always look forward to the new Passion album to come out. And this album was a constant for the year in my quiet times. This album leads to worship in my life, often gives me words to sing to the Lord that I need to say and can’t figure out what to say.

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Top Three Books Read of The Year

1) “BONHOEFFER: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy” by Eric Metaxas

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Easily a top 5 book all time for me. Great read from a historic and theologic view. Challenging and thought-provoking, Bonhoeffer was fully submitted to the Will of God, no matter where it lead him. We can learn so much by reading the stories of those who have lived before us.

2) “Explicit Gospel” by Matt Chandler

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Great Gospel Centered challenging read. Challenging the Church to get back to the Gospel. Encourage every church leader to read this book and read it slowly. It’s the Gospel that saves us, sustains us, and sanctities us.

3) “Am I Called” by Harvey Clark

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Any man who feels that God may be calling him into pastoral ministry has to read this book. This small book focuses on the Biblical standard that is laid out for those in pastoral leadership positions. Small but powerful and straight to the point. Really can’t recommend this book enough to those feeling lead into ministry.

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Prayer for New Year

Father, I ask that as we thank You for all that You did in 2012 both in us and around us, may 2013 be a year where we pursue You like never before. Lord, please grow us in the knowledge of You and Your Will this year and increase our faith and trust that we may follow as You lead us. You are so good, I thank You for who You are and all that You have done, please use us to magnify your Name this year make your Name known everywhere You send us. Amen

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Will close with a quote I read this morning that is a perfect reminder as we head into a new year wondering what all God has in store for us:

“God is always doing 10,000 things in your life, and you may only be aware of three of them.”

~ John Piper

Reminder in the Little Things

In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind

~ Job 12:10

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Take a deep breath…

Exhale…

Again…

Again…

Again…

Again…

One More Time…

This past Monday I sat in a doctor’s office dying (Ok not really dying but if I was in at a doctor’s office its safe to say I was real sick); hoping for a shot maybe a few antibiotics and told I will be better soon. As probably with a lot of people when sick being a little selfish, wanting to hurry up and get past this sickness, I have too much to do to get sick right now, this is not a good time for me to be sick, work will be crazy tomorrow, etc. Then along came one of those small moments in time, that we generally look past hundreds of times weekly if not daily, that this world isn’t centered around us, or even all about us, but that there is a God in heaven who is currently holding everything together, and what does He ask of us? To love Him with all that we have then love others as ourselves.

My reminder? The doctor walking into the room asking me my symptoms, and saying ok lets have a look, then grabbing his stethoscope he places it on my back and says “breath”. He repeated this about 6 times as he was listening to my breath, but every time I took a breath for him, my thought was simple, wow God allowed me to do that! He allowed me to do it again! This may not seem like much, but have you every stopped to think that you are breathing right now because God in heaven is allowing you to?

So many times we thank God for the LARGE things in life, or the BIG miracles He has done for us, which yes we should. Just been wondering lately how many small things do we neglect to thank God for on a daily basis?

  • Our breathe
  • Our family
  • Our friends
  • Our Church He’s placed us in
  • The people He has placed in our life that have greatly influenced us
  • The abilities He has given us
  • The fact that we can have a His Holy Word in our language readily available to us
  • Nature, sunsets, sunrises,
  • Books
  • and so on…

Yes lets take time to thank Him for the LARGE things He has done for us, but lets also be mindful of those things that often get neglected in giving Him praise for and remember to thank Him!

Take a deep breath….

Yeah God let you do that!

Audacious Truth

 

Had an incredible week last week at Student Life Camp located at University of Texas at Arlington, where we put on a VBS in the projects through Mission Arlington.

God ministered greatly in our group as well as in the lives of many people there, saw God do what only He can do and call people from dark to light! Saw prayers get answered! Peace given! Worlds rocked with the Gospel, and Christ’s love go out to a group of people different from us and, saw students love and love and love on them.

As I’m still trying to process the week; here are a few Gospel Truths (nuggets) given to us last week:

All from Camp Pastor: Afshin Ziafat

  • Some of you will miss God’s will because you are mindful of the things of men and of God (Matthew 16:23)
  • “Follow Me” is the call of Christ on your life
  • We are really good at keeping commands, doing the “good” Christian things, but God says you must give it all up to follow Him
  • God has a plan for your life, and if you’re not careful you can miss it
  • A Christian out of God’s will, is like a fish out of water, he will struggle until he gets back in water.
  • Just because you have something in your life doesn’t mean it’s of God, sometimes God will give you what you desire to show you how much you really don’t want/need it. 
  • God’s will is much deeper than who you will marry; where you will work, live, etc.
  • Sin is anything outside of Gods best for you
  • If your goal is the American Dream then there is no good in suffering, but if your goal is to be more like Christ, then there is hope in suffering. 
  • You will either stand on what you have done or what Christ has done.
  • Integrity: honoring God regardless of the circumstances
  • Epidemic of youth ministry is that Jesus isn’t your Lord but an event is.
  • Don’t be an event-to-event Christian, be a day-in day-out Christian. 
  • Noah’s ark was a visible representation of his faith, whats yours?
  • Every step we take walking with Christ is another nail in our Ark of Faith
  • If you don’t live our your faith, you forfeit your right to witness for Him.
  • The greatest miracle of Jonah, is that God would take a man who was running from Him and have him only walk 1/3 of the way through the city and preach only 5 words (in the original language) and the whole city would repent! That’s the power of God!
  • The Gospel will compel missions.
  • When I understand the Gospel, I forfeit the right to cheer anyones death, who didn’t know Him.
  • We shouldn’t be surprised by lost people acting lost.
  • The weight of the stewardship we have been given compels us to go.
  • The Gospel will compel you to get out of your comfort zone and go to others.  

Just some random thoughts/ quotes from camp last week. Was an incredible week.