I had been wrestling with the idea of blogging some of my life experiences with the intent of encouraging others who may be going through similar situations. Although the main audience being those who have been attending church for a long time and are caught in the cycle of just "doing church", I believe these stories will reach all audiences with God's help.

I'd rather fail miserably at something I feel God asked me to do than just sit back and wonder what could've, would've or should've happened.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Hokey Pokey Effect

At one time in our lives we've all danced it. If you haven't... WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU???

"You put your right foot in,
You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey,
And you turn it all around,
That's what it's all about..."

Yes. We know the words. Such a simple song. But did you know that there is much confusion as to who wrote the song? As a matter of fact, this simple song was involved in a lawsuit! Ironic that a song that speaks of simply having fun and dancing made easy would end up in a complex tug of war! Apparently, "that's what it's all about" is not that simple after all!

What does the Hokey Pokey have to do with a PK's life? So glad you asked! God has a funny way of speaking to me. As a PK or someone how has been attending church for a while, we have to find a way to stay connected (serving) in church. I mean we know it's a vital part of being a Christian - if it weren't so important, Jesus wouldn't have washed those crusty feet of His disciples. Besides Jesus' example, serving others has an unexplainable effect in our hearts. It's like a spiritual warm and fuzzy feeling. But even with that, we find it difficult to serve in the Body of Christ a.k.a. The church.

Since I can remember, I've been taught that serving is not an option. Be like Nike and just do it. I guess it comes with the PK territory. Easier said then done, though. Sometimes I don't feel like serving - don't give me that look... I know I'm not alone! After a long week of work, family and life it's not that easy to serve at church. Would you agree? We may even have a day or two where those projects (if you don't know what that mean read my previous blog I Am A Project) we are serving alongside are not so easy to get alone with as you would like ten to be. Maybe you were frustrated with a negative serving experience and want to throw in the towel.

Whenever I want to throw in the towel on serving God reminds me about why we serve. I can vividly remember times where God would allow me to see a friend or family member who would have never step in a church and was miraculously saved by that ministry and now raising their hands in worship. Or when the pastor makes a calling and people raise their hands to accept Jesus as their Savior. Or when we have water baptisms and people make that next step in their journey.

Then Jesus said to them, “Go everywhere in the world, and tell everyone the Good News. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. (Mark 16:15, 16 GWT)

We serve because it's our mission! We serve because those that are not saved depend on us. We serve because our pastors and leaders can't do it all themselves. We serve to see the lost get found by a God that loves them more than we can imagine. We serve for them!  It's about lives being changed. It's about soul forever transformed by God. That, my friend, that's what it's all about!! *CLAP-CLAP* The Hokey Pokey effect.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I'm A Project

As a PK, I've been to many different kinds of churches. One thing they ALL have in common is that they require people to run them.  We have the worship team, ushers, Sunday school teachers, parking team, the greeter, the creepy guy that sits in the back, and even the pastor - all people! The bigger the church, the more people in it!  Some are really great people... some are not so good... But ALL imperfect people!! 

Unfortunately, that is the greatest problem we have in the Church Body today - we have to deal with people. I believe most people would rather deal with adjusting to a theology and/or rules than being hurt by a person. That can be devastating! As a matter of fact, I'd be willing to bet that the #1 reason people leave church is due to an interaction with a who?? DING!! DING!!DING!!! You guessed it! A person. 
It reminds me of that Dr. Pepper commercial from back in the days... "I'm a pepper, he's a pepper,  she's a pepper, we're a pepper wouldn't you like to be a pepper too?" Check it out!

So what do we do? We can't have our churches run by robots. Here are 3 things I try keep in mind to help me deal with people in church or life in general:

1.  Nobody is perfect - my father is a closest demonstration of God's perfect love toward people  that I have ever witnessed. Not only as a pastor but also and, more importantly, as a father & husband. I know because I got to see the "behind the scenes". No matter what the circumstances in life would bring him, he would always react in love and taught us to do the same. But even he is not perfect. Nor am I. Nor are you.  Remembering that nobody is perfect helps me. Try it! 
Because all people have sinned, they have fallen short of God’s glory. (Romans 3:23 GWT)

2. The Struggle - There is this constant fight between our spirit man and our flesh that I like to call The Struggle. Our personalities, characteristics, upbringings, past experiences and other things fuel our flesh to war against our spirit man. We read the bible and pray to God but there is force that wants to do the opposite based on a personality trait or past experiences. Everyone has that one area in their life they struggle with the most. There's a struggle in all of us. Unfortunately, the evidence of the struggle will occasionally be released during our interactions with one another. 
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. (Galatians 5:17 NIV)

3. Dealing with UCP's - just because we are saved, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost doesn't mean we are a completed project. We are what I like to call UCP's or Under Construction Projects. Being saved is the beginning of the project God performs in us and one day we will be a finished project - can I get an amen?!!  The problem is that there is work to be done  here on earth for God's kingdom. We have to use the talents and gifts that God has given us to do that work WHILE we are still UCP's!! So keep in mind that those UCP's you run into in church are using their God-given gifts and talents to work in God's kingdom and  serve The Lord. 
I’m convinced that God, who began this good work in you, will carry it through to completion on the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:6 GWT)

Now, there are 2 sides to the coin: 
1.  You may be the person coming into church and interacting with the people who are  serving in church who and doing their best to  not mess up. But sometimes they do. 
2.  You may be the person serving in church trying your best to get it right and have interactions with those people attending church. Either way, keep these things in mind during these interactions. 

Here's a thought... the next time you come across an unpleasant interaction in church or life in general just begin to sing that Dr. Pepper song but with a remix... "I'm a project, he's a project, she's a project, we're a project, wouldn't you like to be a project too?"

Now you [collectively] are Christ's body and [individually] you are members of it, each part severally and distinct [each with his own place and function]. (1 Corinthians 12:27 AMP)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hugging THE TREE

There are few things I remember from my childhood in the Dominican Republic as I arrive to the USA when I was 7 years old. Some memories stand out very clear, though. Like the time I busted my neighbor and closest friend’s chin open. Let me explain.
 In the DR, we didn’t have PS1, PS2, Nintendo or none of that stuff. We had to make up games to keep ourselves occupied. One of the games we played was sliding in the cement floor of our porches when it rained. This was every Dominican kid’s rainy day playtime activity. We would take a running-start then slide on our backside or chest on the slippery cement floor. Who needs PS3 when you have that?!

One rainy day as I was playing with my neighbor, I decided to give him a little push so that he could slide faster. Apparently, I didn’t know my own strength. As my neighbor went face-first to slide on his chest, his chin hit the cement floor and was cut open. My laugh quickly turned into a frown as I saw the blood pour down his hand that he was holding over his chin and unto his chest.

I ran through the hallway to the back of the house and climbed up the big tree we had in the backyard. Holding for dear life, I hugged the tree as if would defend me from the discipline that was sure to come – my dad’s size 34 leather belt! It was as if hugging the tree would actually save me. So I hugged the tree tighter and tighter.

Recently, during my morning prayer and devotional time, I came across the parable of the True Vine in John 15 where Jesus compares the relationship of the vine and branches with our relationship with Him – He is the True Vine and we are the branches. It goes on to say that we should remain connected to the Vine so that we can bear fruit.

After reading this passage, I was immediately reminded of myself on the tree and how “safe” I thought I would be if I remained hugging the tree. God wanted to let me know that the only way we could be safe from all of life’s worries and struggles is if we are hugging THE TREE known as Jesus! THE TREE is not only a safe haven but it is our complete life source – without THE TREE we can do nothing! 

Since this experience, I have been hugging THE TREE by reading the Word and spending time in prayer every day. For me it is the source that keeps me going each day…the breath of life my spirit yearns for…the beat my heart needs to stay alive. Hugging THE TREE helps me understand that without Jesus my life is nothing!!

“I am the Vine; you are the branches. Whoever lives in Me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me [cut off from vital union with Me] you can do nothing.”  (John 15:5 AMP)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

My New Year's Rez = Fake It Till I Make It

Every year many people make New Year's resolutions right around this time of the year. Some decide to diet, others have career-related goals and others have spiritual resolutions. Statistics say only 12% of those who have resolutions actually stick to them - don't be discourage... You and I are part of that 12%. 

So here I am... Throwing it out there... My new year's resolution is (drumroll please)... FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT!! According to Wiki, this phrase is used to "imitate confidence so that as the confidence produces success, it will generate real confidence." 

Now I know what you are thinking, "that's a weak resolution". And you may be right but let me explain. 1 Corinthians 11:1 says that as Christians we should imitate Christ in all we do and I try my best to do that. However, we have an enemy whose nickname is The Accuser and he goes around....well accusing people every time they do something wrong. So rather than falling under his schemes, I will take on a FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT attitude in 2013. This way when he accuses me I will imitate confidence IN CHRIST so that as the confidence IN CHRIST produces success, it will generate real confidence IN CHRIST. 

Now we also know that Philippians 1:6 says that God began a good work in us and will complete it by the time Jesus comes back (paraphrased) but the problem is that we are on earth while He is completing this work. So in the meantime, we should work at being Christ-like without feeling like we will never get there - like the Accuser always tells us. That's why I am taking on this resolution! It's a Win-Win situation!

I'm going to FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT in every area of my life:
  • If someone at work upsets me, I'm gonna FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT
  • If things don't go the way I want a home, I'm gonna FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT
  • If my prayers aren't answered immediately, I'm gonna FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT
  • If things in life don't go as planned, I'm gonna FAKE IT TILL I MAKE IT
Who's with me? I'd love to hear what your New Year's resolution is! We can encourage each other throughout the year!

And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. (Philippians 1:6 AMP)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

It's All About A Relationship

They say that kids tend to be rowdy in Jr. High School and based on my personal experience, I would agree! Not that I was bad because I’ve always been such a good kid (insert heavenly music here). But I did hang out with some “friends” who acted up in class just so that I could be part of the “cool kids”.

Now the things we did in Jr. High compared to the things kids in Jr. High do nowadays is completely different. We would do what eventually was known as “payasearías” (clowning around – doesn’t have the same affect in English) titled by one of our teachers. The idea was to make fun of the teacher using mumbled words and repeating what he/she was saying while their backs were turned to the class. This would cause an outburst of laughter and the teacher would stay wondering what happened. Funny until you get caught.

One day while one of the guys was doing this “payasearías”, the teacher turned around and caught him doing this. Now he was in trouble frequently and I was kinda the teacher’s favorite due to my A average and how well I behaved in class. So I took one for the team. I told the teacher I was the one doing the “payasearías” and my friend was simply laughing at my jokes.

I took his place for his actions trying to establish a relationship with him.

This story reminds me of someone who did the same thing for YOU and ME to restore a relationship. I'm not talking about simply taking our punishment for making fun of a teacher but actually taking our punishment for our sins - DEATH (Romans 6:23)!! Yes Jesus Christ did just that for us!

Let me explain:

God’s intension in making us humans was always to have relationship with a creation that would have their own free will and decide on their own to worship God! It was nice for about 2 chapters in the bible before man messed that relationship up. You know the story – Adam, Eve, the Snake and the apple…. In entered the sinful man (that’s all of us). But don't hate on Adam and Eve because Romans 3:23 says we all sin and fall short.

Long story short…God is a Holy God and cannot be around sin but He loved and cared about having relationship with His creation (that's you and me) so much that He gave up His very best for us – In entered Jesus Christ the sinless sacrifice. Jesus died to do away with all of our sins and restore this relationship between our Heavenly Father and His creation - us.

Getting back to my story… for this first-time offense, I barely got in trouble. My teacher gave me the old “I’m very disappointed in you” speech and did not discipline me at all. When I saw my friend after class, I was sure we would be “best friend” after what I did for him. Unfortunately, this was not the case. (insert sad face here… AWWWWW)

That hurt! To think that I took his punishment and he didn’t even care. As a matter of fact, he may be reading this blog and not even know it’s about him.

Hmmmm.....Sometimes I wonder how Jesus must feel when we ignore his sacrifice and don’t acknowledge His offer to have relationship with us.

I think sometimes we focus so much on religion and church that we miss what it's all about! 


Will you react to His relationship offer today?
Will you allow Him to restore the relationship with our Heavenly Father and you?
Have you spent time today strengthening that relationship by talking with our Heavenly Father?

 “For our sake He made Christ [virtually] to be sin Who knew no sin, so that in and through Him we might become [endued with, viewed as being in, and examples of] the righteousness of God [what we ought to be, approved and acceptable and in right relationship with Him, by His goodness].” 2 Corinthians 5:21

Friday, November 9, 2012

We'll Wait Again!

I graduated from Edison Tech High School (S/O to all the Edisonians reading this blog!!) and as part of the Vocational Training Program, we had to explore the different departments available before we decided our "career path" or shop class (as most of us called it). The scope of program went from cosmetology to auto mechanics and everything in-between.

I will never forget one shop teacher (except for his name) who seemed to have the calmest character ever. Whenever the class would get rowdy and loud (which was quite frequent for high school freshmen), he would speak the following words calmly and softly, "we'll wait again..." ARE YOU KIDDING ME!!?? Class is out of control and he is almost whispering??? I would have kicked everyone out of the class until only the good kids were left! And who is the "we" he is talking about??? This became a joke for us freshmen and we would laugh and get louder. His response, "we'll wait again..."

Eventually, the class did quiet down and he proceeded with his lesson. Was he on to something? Did he discover a new way to quiet freshmen students? Was he really that cool, calm and collect??

Thinking back about this shop teacher reminds me how God waits for us. He is ever so patient as He waits for us to do what He has asked us to do. For some of you reading this blog, it may be just surrendering to God and accepting Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Some may be in the middle of some trouble and He waits for you to turn to Him for help instead of trying to do it on your own. Others may be wrestling a calling God has placed in your heart and He waits for you to trust Him completely. Whatever the situation may be, God always seems to be waiting for us. 

Why does He wait?
He loves us that much! So much so that He gave His son, Jesus, to die for us and now waits for us to respond (John 3:16). Talk about being patient!! He gave up His very best for us and waits. It's all about a relationship (we'll talk about that in next week's blog).

Revelation 3:20 says He knocks on our doors (hearts) and waits for us to open the door... then He enters in. God is a gentleman and a well-mannered God. He won't barge in even though He can! As a matter of fact, He is the reason we are breathing today! He has the power to speak the world into existence and created mankind, yet He waits for us to respond to His knock.

Will you respond today?
Will you answer the door?
How long will you ignore that knock on your heart?

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears and listens to and heeds My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will eat with him, and he [will eat] with Me. (Revelation 3:20 AMP)

God is saying to us today, "We'll wait again..."

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sister Pat's Woodshop

During my Jr. High years I worked at Sister Pat's Woodshop with a few of the other guys from our church. This was an after-school program that this particular Catholic Church had for Jr. High-schoolers to keep them out of trouble. In the woodshop, we would make wooden objects that would eventually be sold - the proceeds going to the church. Our salary was based on our performance or should I say Sister Pat's evaluation of our performance.

Sister Pat = a no-nonsense, in-your-face, take no crap from nobody, serious, all business, fire you on the spot, rehire you on the same spot, tough as nails nun. This little nun was no joke! Truth is she had to be that way to deal with these inner city kids she was responsible for. In retrospect, she had a great heart - and I'm sure still does.

We had a great time there! Lots of laughing, joking and learning went on in that woodshop. There were many great memories and some not so great. But this one particular day taught me a great lesson:

As usual, we were joking around and laughing. This time it was "make fun of Sister Pat day". We made fun of everything we could think of - maybe too much! She gave us several warnings to lower our voices and control our laughter but we would continue. For a moment, she briefly walked out of the room and came back in only to catch us making fun if her. I was sure we would all hear, "Izzy, Franky, Billy, Sammy (names were changed to protect the innocent) YOU'RE FIRED!" as we had heard many times before. Instead she put her head down, walked toward her desk and between her weeping barely got the following words out: "and you're supposed to be Christians".

OUCH! It was as if someone took a samurai sword and shoved it through my heart in a lower-case T motion! I would rather be fired than hear that! We made Sister Pat cry!

Since I was the PK and the oldest of our group, I eventually gathered enough courage to approach her and apologized. Things seemed to be back to normal but I learned a hard lesson that day - we represent Christ wherever we go!

I've heard this phrase thrown around a lot, "you may be the only Jesus someone sees". When you really think about it, that's a pretty tough responsibility! There are so many people all around us depending on us: at work, school, neighborhood, grocery store and even our family gatherings. We MUST represent Jesus well if we are to reach those around us.

Now some might take this to the extreme and try to shove Jesus down people's throats but I would argue that it is the little things that we do on a daily basis that will demonstrate Jesus (or the lack of Him) in us to others. Here are just 5 little things we can do:
  1. Treat your coworkers with love even though they may not deserve it.
  2. Work as if God was your Boss.
  3. Say hello to your neighbors every time you see them.
  4. Choose your words wisely around your family.
  5. Show God's joy in you by smiling!
These little things will open up God moments for conversations that will introduce Jesus to those around us.

As I'm reminded of this "Sister Pat" experience, I am committed to represent Him well one day at a time by asking the Holy Spirit to help me as I "gear-up" daily! I challenge you to do the same.

God's plan is to make known his secret to his people, this rich and glorious secret which he has for all peoples. And the secret is that Christ is in you, which means that you will share in the glory of God. (Colossians 1:27 GNT)