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an instrument of peace…

I was listening to the radio and one of the announcers began to talk about this stressful time of the year.  There is so much stress and busyness, I don’t disagree.  It can be very rushed and chaotic.  So much so that we want to be alone and quiet…at peace.

I have also read a few articles lately about comfort dogs, they actually help with healing and happiness.  I have two dogs that bring me joy and a few laughs, but they are not trained to bring comfort.  I do love the idea of dogs being a comfort to people who are living on the edge or need unconditional love.  I read another story about robots as caregivers, they are putting them in homes to provide emotional as well as physical support.  They are designed to create a bond of trust and improve the quality of life.

I think God has called me to bring peace.  Hopefully, as I walk into my mom’s house this Thanksgiving, I will bring a calmness and a sense of peace.  God has called me to bring His peace, His comfort.  I want to bring healing and happiness to my mom, my family, and everyone I encounter.  I know I can do just the opposite, but as I spend more time in His Word I begin to understand and take on and live out His peace.  I bring an emotional support that comes from His Spirit within me.  God uses me as a peacemaker, and I am always amazed how others begin to trust and want this same peace, a peace that comes from Christ through me, I am an instrument of His peace.

I am anxious to see my mom and family, enjoy the food, and bring comfort, peace…a nature that God has given me.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”

Have a peaceful Thanksgiving…

It’s been a year…

I cannot believe it has been a whole year. As I get older time just moves by so fast, but memories and life lessons still happen and become etched in our minds.  It is like I have lived in two worlds, two wonderful and incredible worlds.  They are very different, but I treasure them both as precious moments God is using to still form me into the man of God He wants me to be.

One world, an academic setting, predominantly Hispanic community, a very difficult and challenging leadership role.  The very first day I was in that role I realized that this was going to be a God thing, there was no way I could do this, I wasn’t really qualified.  God reminded me that He does the qualifying, He calls and we must obey His leadership.  Despite my inadequacies, He had a plan.  In that environment, I learned so much from my culture, my hermanos, and hermanas, God taught me so much in that world and it wasn’t easy but if we allow Him… He will lead us.

The second world, a church, a predominantly Anglo community, a whole new learning experience for me.  I have felt called and used in ministry for many years – in a Christian educational role and now in the church. I am eager to serve and lead, but I also want to let God show me His way, His will, to wait on Him and His perfect time. I love serving the church. I am learning so much from the incredible leaders around me. I also once again realize how inadequate I am to lead, but He has called me to this place and I am following.

Two different worlds, two challenges, but in this year God has brought these two experiences together to reveal His way in my life.  I am truly blessed by God’s call in my life, I am trusting Him and asking Him to use me. The Scripture says, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

I am following and asking Him to lead me…I look forward to another year of seeing His hand in my life.

Let’s play…

Growing up in my Hispanic home in New Mexico was different.  My father was a public-school teacher, so like him, I learned to love and accept anyone, black, white, rich, poor, those who went church and those who didn’t. My dad loved and cared for all of them.  I guess you could say he taught me to do the same and to not be ashamed or defensive about who I was, where I lived, or what I had compared to others.  My self-worth didn’t come from them it came from my father’s love for me.  He never told me or taught me to hate others because they were different. Most of the time he told me to go and play with them and be friends with them…so I did.  In time, we went to school together, sat on a bus together, played sports together. Nothing really divided us.

It wasn’t till junior high that I finally felt the sting of someone who didn’t like me because I was a Mexican-American.  I knew I was, but that label didn’t define me. They really didn’t know me or play with me.  And even though they said it, it didn’t change my outlook on who I was.  I still had that identity with my father who loved me and that was enough.

In a time when people are acting and speaking hate, it reminds me that we need the Father’s love.  He loved us so much that He wanted to restore us back to our true identity.  Not as children of this world, but as His creation, created in His image and likeness.  We need that love so that we can love others so we can play together again.

I am grateful for my culture, but even more thankful that I am a child of God…His son.  “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Does anyone want to play?

Listening to the wind…

We sat and talked and watched as people went by, but more than anything else we just listened.  We sat and listened to ocean waves come in and out and felt the ocean breeze.  After a while, we began to hear ourselves, our heartbeats, our breath, and then we began to hear God’s Spirit.  John 3:8 says, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Sometimes it is taking time away from your familiar place and friends to hear God’s Spirit within you.  There are too many interruptions and noises going on in our lives daily to truly listen and know His leadership and calling.  Last week, I spent five days with my wife at a beachside location to rest, be still, be with her, and to listen to the Spirit of God.

Daily we took the time to talk about our family, faith, hopes and dreams for the coming year, and we also took the time to stop and listen.  We are always talking or making noise, but rarely do we stop to listen.  It takes an effort to listen.  It is a discipline to be still and quiet, and in that stillness, it will amaze you how that time actually renews and refreshes you with new thoughts and ideas for life and love as well as understanding your dependence on God.  The God of creation who stopped one day and “rested from all of His work.”  He knows you need that time to rest and to hear the wind blow.

Taking time to rest in our busy pace is important, but as you rest be sure and stop and listen- listen for His Spirit to speak life and newness into your day.  He is speaking…are you listening?

 

a new thing…

The demolition has started.  Last week, I traveled back to San Antonio to see some friends and I had a chance to drive by the old campus of the Baptist University of the Americas.  I spent almost 10 years driving up to that campus and walking through those doors and hallways.  I knew just about every inch of that campus and the buildings.  We had patched, repaired, hammered and caulked many holes, spaces and walls.  It was a labor of love to keep those buildings usable and functioning.  They were old and worn out, but they were buildings that trained many Hispanic church leaders for many years as well as one Hispanic past president.  I am so grateful for those years God used me and trained me on those holy grounds.

 Now it was coming down.  The school has a new campus.  The old campus was purchased and now the old buildings were being demolished.  As I walked around outside and looked at the old buildings, I thought about how God used that place to call many into service and I thought about the many students who had passed through those halls on their way to ministry and churches.  I also thought about the wonderful leaders and professors who also served and gave themselves to the students and to the University.  Their work and their teaching and leading was also a labor of love.  They also taught me how to serve.  God used those old buildings and that place to train me.  He called me to BUA so that I would also be trained for ministry.

It was difficult as I walked around and saw parts of the buildings I recognized. I saw furniture and the pews of the chapel scattered around outside.  Those old hallways, fixtures and furniture were going away and would become just memories.  It truly was holy ground for me.

Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  19 See, I am doing a new thing!   Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.

 Now God is doing a new thing at BUA. There are great days ahead and we cannot dwell on the past. He will continue to sustain the University and will continue to make a way for many Hispanic students who dream the dream of a college education.  I thank God for those old buildings and the time I trained there, but now He is doing a new thing…even in my life.

To God be the glory!

friends…

Driving Miss Daisy is a great movie!  If you have not ever seen this movie take some time to watch it.  It is a classic, it won four academy awards.  There are a lot of wonderful lessons about people, racism, getting old and friendship.  As I watched it again the other night I laughed, got angry, and was reminded about how dear and important are our friendship.

There are a lot of wonderful scenes and words spoken in this movie, but my favorite one was when she was getting old and needing a lot of help and Hoke, her driver, was the only person around for her.  She had finally come to a place in her life where she grabs his hand and says to him, “Hoke, you are my best friend.”

Her family didn’t have much patience with her, but Hoke was there in good weather and in bad.  He was there for her when she didn’t want him around. He drove her and cared for her like no one else and even when her prejudice would come out he was still loyal and caring.  Over time she began to love this black man as a family member.  Then when they were both too old to drive and to live by themselves, he still would go see Miss Daisy in the nursing home weekly and he would talk with her and feed her.  He loved her, and she fell in love with him.

The lesson for me is how am I loving others?  Am I showing even my neighbors that I care for them, and if I am, will it just be a matter of time that they trust me and count on me and I become a friend?  My prayer is that God would use my friendships to draw others to Him.

Hoke was her driver, how will God use you?

John 15:13 (NIV)  Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

Parenting

This past weekend our church hosted a parenting conference for any and all parents who needed help, ideas, encouragement, and resources to be a better parent.  It was a good turnout, but we always wish more would show up for this important responsibility.  I am so grateful for the children’s ministry at our church.  They do an incredible job of loving children, teaching children, and loving the family.  Their passion to love and build up the family is encouraging and needed.

This workshop reminded me of how God led me when I was parenting my girls.  I wouldn’t say I was the world’s best parent, but the one thing I learned from my parents was making your family a priority.  As a father I have been given a great task and responsibility to love and care for my children.  God has made me a steward of their lives for just a few short years.  That time was so critical and valuable to my girls and to me and Sabrina.  God used it to help me understand my Father’s love for me.  God also used them many times, when they would say to me, “Daddy, hold my hand.”

I remember holding the hands of my girls and walking beside them when they were children. Sometimes I would hold on to them tightly and then God would remind me that they belong to Him.  No one can hold them like He can, yet He has entrusted us, parents, to hold, guide, instruct, discipline, and love them as a priority in our lives.

My strong natured Hispanic father loved his family.  He was a disciplinarian, but he also wanted to be around us and he wanted to be a good father and parent.  As I watched his life ebb away on that hospital bed, his family was around him and he was still being a great parent…holding my hand.

I am so grateful for Barbra and her staff making parenting a priority.  Thank you for reminding me of the gift of parenting.

 

Getting in Shape!

I am a runner and I am getting ready to run a race that is a few more miles than I have run in a while. It’s not that I am out of shape…well maybe a little. I just haven’t run as much as I used to run, plus my diet has not been a good runner’s diet. In fact, I have been lazy in my training and the amount of running I should be doing. I really enjoy running, but at my age I need to train and prepare myself to be able to enjoy it and get the full benefit of running and competing. I am really not prepared for this race like I should be so my form and my shape are lacking.

I am also getting ready to lead a session at a conference on “Shaping the Heart of a Leader.” I am excited about spending some time with these pastors and ministers and know I need God’s wisdom to teach such a session. God has allowed me to lead in my career and I realize that even Christian leaders need spiritual forming and shaping. There are just times that we become lazy and indifferent and try to rely on our talents, abilities, and skills to get us through.

I believe in the spiritual disciplines and how we need them to keep us on track and to grow in our faith. I need them in my life daily and truly do feel strengthen when I stay obedient and faithful. But even before I can take on those disciplines I must be open and willing to allow God’s Spirit to shape my walk. It is so easy to be shaped and influenced by our world and culture today. Sometimes we just get lazy and give in to bad thoughts, wrong attitudes, and a lack of passion. We get out of shape.

I believe it is impossible to be formed and shaped by His Spirit if you are resisting or grieving His Spirit within us.
1 John 3:24 (NIV) The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

If His Spirit is in us, then it is also His Spirit that shapes, forms, and prepares us to be used by Him.
1 Corinthians 2:10-11(NIV) These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.
I am praying that you will allow God’s Spirit to remind you of His presence in your life and to get you back into shape. So whether you are running or walking, it’s time to get in shape.
Anyone want to join me on a run?

Join in…

As a kid growing up in Tucumcari, New Mexico we would start a baseball game, a game of freeze tag, a basketball game or any game we could think of and the neighborhood kids would come out and join in.  We didn’t always know them on a first name basis, but that didn’t matter. We were just enjoying their company and them coming out to play with us.

In the same way it would be like going into your neighborhood and starting your grill and inviting some neighbors to join you.  Maybe even going into a different neighborhood or apartment complex and taking your grill to help develop new friendships.  You know food has that effect on people. It helps us forget our differences or sometimes it helps us start conversations.  Food is especially important to Baptist. A friend once told me when Baptist meet, a chicken dies.  Food is a good way to connect to people or maybe it is just a wonderful way to bless them.  One meaning of blessing is to confer happiness upon them or to fill them with encouragement.

Last weekend, I had a chance to be involved with many adults and children from our church serving and loving our community through different projects as well as going into neighborhoods across Waco and blessing others.  In one instance, we went to an apartment complex and rolled in a grill and cooked 100 hamburgers and about 75 hotdogs–what no chicken?  Then we waited…and slowly people began to come out. We talked with them, played, and of course we ate with them.  This was all part of our spring break mission project in Waco called Engage His City.  The weather couldn’t have been any better, the food was excellent, and we met and started some new friendships.  We wanted to fill them in two ways, food and encouragement.

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the blessing!  We had hoped we were a blessing to them, but honestly they blessed us.  There is something about hanging out with people that reminds you of God’s incredible love for us all.  His love is unconditional, it doesn’t matter who it is, whoever wants to join in come on.

Lent

I have observed Lent for 16 years and this six-week period has been a wonderful experience that has allowed me to draw closer to God. It has helped me to focus on repentance and prepare for the celebration of Easter.  It has drawn my attention to the idea of penitence.  I know this is not a word we use much in Baptist circles, but the definition of penitence is the action of feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong or repentance.

A friend reminded me recently this needs to be something we do daily.  I agree completely, but for me during this Lenten season I am reminded I live in a fallen world and I am also sinful.  The world and my old nature battles with the new man. My sinful heart and mind separate me from God, my God and my Savior. The separation causes us to live in the flesh where we fall prey to our enemy, the deceiver and father of lies.  Convincing us at times to submit and fall in line with the world and our sinful actions and thoughts.

However, I do need to confess my sins daily. His Word says in 1 John 1:9, “ If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  I need that daily confession, but I also need this time to refocus my heart and my will to His.  I need to repent and turn around, show sorrow and regret for my weakness, see the wrong in my life and ask God to change me.  This season gives me a new devotion to follow God.  Not after things or ideas or selfish gains, but to deny myself and follow Him.

Lent also gives us a chance to fast.  A denial or sacrifice of something I enjoy daily.  It helps me be aware of how much I depend on other things in life rather than on God.  It reminds me of my commitment to God and my passion to make Him first in my life, “seek first His Kingdom.”

Finally, Lent prepares me for Easter.  It draws my attention to the sacrifice Christ made on my account, but also that He came out of the grave, He was raised from the dead, and came back to life…for me.  Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  We are justified, which means He has removed our sins, made us new, and has declared us righteous.  He has declared me righteous!  I am no longer a slave to sin, I am now a slave to righteousness.  Therefore, I am reminded of my sinfulness during this Lenten season, but I am also reminded of the new life I have in Christ.

I am grateful for this time to draw nearer Lord to thee.

I am Thine, O Lord, I have heard Thy voice,
And it told Thy love to me;
But I long to rise in the arms of faith
And be closer drawn to Thee.
Draw me nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To the cross where Thou hast died;
Draw me nearer, nearer, nearer blessed Lord,
To Thy precious, bleeding side.
(Fanny Crosby)