Have you had to endure?

As I was reading my Bible, I came across 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. I felt such a conviction in my heart that my eyes started to water. In this piece of Scripture, we see that Paul was speaking about the few things that have happened to him while spreading the Gospel. I would like to list them to bring them into the light for everyone today. Please keep in mind that everything that he went through was because he was preaching the Gospel everywhere he went.

1. Paul was imprisoned multiple times.
2. He was beaten more times than he can number.
3. He had multiple instances where he almost faced death.
4. Five times he received 39 lashing from the Jewish people.
5. Three times he was beaten by rods.
6. He was stoned once and left for dead.
7. He was shipwrecked.
8. He dealt with the dangers of the rivers, robbers, the people he was trying to minister to (the Gentile community), the wilderness that he had to travel in.
9. Paul had to deal with extreme temperature changes (both hot and cold).
10. Paul had to deal with the dangers of false brothers.
11. Paul often had to suffer from thirst and hunger.

Paul shared this with his audience to show his steadfastness in Christ. He also boasted about everything that he had to deal with because, in these times of weakness, he found strength only in the Lord. It was in these times of weakness that the Holy Spirit was able to comfort him and encourage his ministry. Paul shared this with his audience to honor God, who gave him the ability to suffer so much for the cause of Christ and His Gospel.

When reading this and truly meditating on what Paul was saying, I felt ashamed. Who am I to complain about the small inconveniences of my life. I started to think about this application not only inside my ministry but outside of it too. How many times have I complained about the very blessings that God provided me with? I don’t know about you, but I felt that I needed to do more and be better than I am now. I asked myself, have I truly tried to preach the Gospel and fulfill the Great Commission or have I only preached out of my own selfish ambitions? You see, it is upon these questions that the Holy Spirit confirmed in my heart that we all have so much more to grow.

We cannot sit still and expect the Gospel to spread to all of the world. Our faith is about action! Christ did not say that He loved us and would die for us, He did it. He lived what he preached and each and every one of us is called to emulate His life and sacrifice. Like Paul, we will have to go through times that we will be uncomfortable or even have to go through difficult circumstances. However, it is upon these situations that our faith can be strengthened like Paul’s faith was. Then like Paul, we can boast about what the Lord did for us. This only helps us build our testimony to be able to defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15). If the Lord did not help us get through anything difficult in our lives, then what type of God do we serve? Do we not have the God of Abraham? Is He not the God of Jacob and David? All of God’s messengers dealt with difficult and dire circumstances and each and every one of them were able to boast about how our God got them out of their situations or allowed them to endure.

So, I ask everyone here today, have you had to endure for your faith? It is not until we have to endure hardships for our faith that we can truly see the grace, love, and mercy of God in our lives. So, I am challenging everyone reading this message that we need to get uncomfortable and walk out our faith. Being a Christian is about action. Being a Christian is not about memorizing Scriptures, but showing that Christ lives in your heart. It is about allowing the Holy Spirit to take control over your every being, and then doing what He is guiding us to do. This is what Paul did for Christ and so can we!

I would like to conclude this message with a simple prayer. I pray that we can have the heart and conviction of the early apostles. I pray that we can walk out our faith under the most difficult circumstances and overcome them through the grace of God. I pray that we can start to get uncomfortable and show the world Christ not only through our words but through our actions as well. I pray that we can learn this simple lesson from the life of Paul. Amen.

Real men cry!

Lamentations 2:9-11

Jerusalem’s gates collapsed to the ground; he destroyed and broke the bars of her gates. Both king and prince have gone into captivity. There is no instruction, and the prophets receive no vision from the LORD. The leaders of cherished Zion sit silently on the ground; they throw dust on their heads and dress in mourning clothes. The young women of Jerusalem bow their heads in sorrow. My eyes are worn out from crying, my insides are churning, My emotions pour out in grief because my people are destroyed— Children and infants faint in the streets of the city.

My entire life growing up in a Cuban household, I was told that men do not cry and to never show my emotions because it showed weakness. This slowly built a wall around my heart and hardened it to others. It was not until I let God in and work in my life that those walls were slowly taken away. He told me that it was ok to cry and cast all my emotions unto Him. In this piece of scripture, Jeremiah’s tears were full of sincerity and compassion. This was not a sign of weakness, but of strength. Men need to understand just because you cry or show sorrow in any way does not mean that you lack faith or strength. There is nothing wrong with showing your emotions if you are a man and this stigma must be retracted in every household. Jesus Christ himself showed His emotions and cried.

John 11:32-35

As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell down at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.” When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was greatly troubled in spirit and deeply moved. He asked, “Where have you put him?” They told him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus burst into tears.

Let’s talk a little about emotions adult to adult. How do you react when you are sad or hurt? Do you show the proper emotions or does anger come out instead as a defense mechanism? Do you randomly feel sad and do not know why? I have felt this way in my life and I know many of you have too. What helped me was when I cried out to Jesus and prayed for help with my emotions. By letting these emotions out and casting them where they should have been all along (at the foot of the cross), helped me open my heart up as a man of God. It is ok to feel sorrow for yourself, the community, and even our nation. This sorrow does not show lack of faith but reminds us all to turn to the Lord in our times of weakness. This shows true strength and commitment to the Lord. So I say again, real men do cry.

As a father of four children, three of whom are boys; I must ensure that the way I was raised to hide my emotions do not hinder them in their growth. I teach them it’s ok to love, laugh and cry. I do not want them to waste many years of their lives bottling up their emotions just because I did. I pray that this message helps those men of God to not fear the emotions God gave us, but to embrace them and thank Him for them. Whenever you have that feeling in your gut that tells you to hold it in next time, say “I am not weak.” Never be afraid to express yourself in a godly manner. Please have a blessed day and I pray this message helps someone today.

Visiting Rome!

For many of you that are new followers, my family and I have been roadschooling our kids and traveling full-time for four years now. The Lord opened the door for us to world school our children and travel throughout Europe. So far, we have been living in Rome near the Coliseum for two weeks. We just wanted to share some of our pictures of exploring the immediate area. As we venture out and meet new people in new locations, I would love to share our experiences with you. So far, the food has been amazing and the people have been friendly. We have truly been enjoying our surroundings!

Clean your house!

Matthew 12:43-45

Whenever an unclean spirit goes out of a person, it wanders through waterless places looking for a place to rest but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will go back to the home that I left.’ When it arrives, it finds it empty, swept clean, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and settle there. And so the final condition of that person becomes worse than the first. That’s just what will happen to this evil generation.

In this piece of Scripture, Jesus is describing the heart of Israel. If you clean up your lives but do not fill the void with the love of God, it will be temporary. If that void is not filled with God you leave room for Satan to come back and fill it sevenfold and it will be even worse than before. Ridding ourselves of one sin is the first step towards the right direction, but we can’t go further than that without the strength of the Lord.

One example of many is dealing with issues of lust and greed. If you get rid of everything that makes you want to lust, but never fix the root of the problem and ask “why” you are committing this sin, your fix will most likely be temporary. Now if you clean your house, but don’t fill it with the love of the Lord, allows room for other bondages to come back into your life. You may go from fantasizing about adultery to actually committing adultery. Then from adultery to constantly lying to cover up your sinful actions. However, if you would have fully given the issue to the Lord, you would not have compounded your sins. Now where there was one form of bondage, you have three or four. If you filled that void with God’s love you would not have room for anything else in your life. This is a powerful message that we all need to be reminded of every now and then.

I pray that everyone that reads this message is reminded to clean up their hearts and minds. I pray that we can have the strength and courage to give up all of those little things in our lives that is causes a wedge between us and God. It is these small wedges that keep us from having the fullness of God’s blessing in our lives, and we should want every blessing the Lord wants us to have. Amen!

Being a good ambassador

Out of all the apostles and biblical characters, I can relate the most to the apostle Paul. Like Paul, I used to be a sinner who chased away Christians left and right. I spoke ill of Christians and whenever a Christian spoke of Christ, it used to make my blood boil. I honestly think the reason why i reacted like this was because of the way people spoke to me that was supposed to be representing Christ. I was either going to burn in hell or I was being spoken down to like I was a lessor than them. Honestly, it was not until I married my wife and met her family that I knew what being a Christian was all about. Being a Christian is not about words, it is about the way we walk, talk, and think. Being a Christian is something that we actively do. We fight hard against our sins, we try to be above reproach to be an example to our children, our spouses, and our families.  We have to represent Christ in everything that we do as Christians. Paul understood this more than anyone I think and I want to share some of his wise words with you all today.

Paul wrote, “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” (2 Corinthians 5:20-21, NASB). 

Our outlook on how we interact and speak with people should always be one of humidity. As Christians, we are ambassadors for Christ. That means that every fiber in our body should be trying to emulate Him. As Christ reconciled us to God, we are trying to help guide others to do the same. We are only made righteous through Christ and yet we some of us can accept that truth but not share it out of a Christ-like love. This makes me think about the days when I disliked Christianity because of the people, not because of Jesus. I think about how much faster I would have come to know Christ as my Lord and Savior if those “bad ambassadors” would have been reflecting the humility and love of Christ with their words.  

I am only bringing this piece of my past up because I was lucky. I eventually found Christ and I am here today. However, what about those who are not. My heart saddens of the thought that so many others were once pushed away from Christ because of bad ambassadors and are suffering for eternity because of my very own brothers and sisters in Christ. This is the very reason why I am writing this message today. We should never forget two simple truths to guide our daily Christian walk.  

First, we are all Christ’s ambassadors! We are not all called to evangelize or preach, but we are all called to live out our faith. We are called to love others like no other. We are commanded to forgive those who trespass against us because we have trespassed against God himself and He forgave us, so who are we to not forgive the sins of others? We are commanded to holy. Being holy carries the connotation of moral purity. This means that we are set apart or have been dedicated to God. When we are set apart and belong to someone, we represent them in everything that we say and do. This is what it means to be an ambassador. 

Secondly, through our words and actions, God is making an appeal for others. What this means is that people who do not know God will come to know Him by us first. Therefore, we need to always have the mindset that we will represent God every day. It is not a suggestion, as Christ took our sins and exchanged them for His righteousness, we are now committed to doing something with that righteousness. This “doing” is appealing to those around us for God. God does not want people to die without knowing Him or His son Jesus Christ. Therefore, He has us as His servants. It is up to us to make the appeal to others to come and get to know Him. This cannot happen without the heart of humility and love. We are only here to help reconcile others to God and share His truth through Christ. It is that simple.

For today, I pray that we all reflect on our actions and if we have been a good ambassador for Christ. If we have, keep fighting the good fight. If we have not been, this is the chance to adjust our lives and seek forgiveness. This is the chance to change the impression others have about Jesus because of our past actions. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen. 

Standing Firm

My wife and I often speak with one another about how easy the world can sneak up in our lives. When you turn on a television episode, there is nudity and sexually explicit language on almost every show. When you change the channel, there is someone else committing adultery or otherworldly behaviors. However, when did this become OK? It is not OK, we just have been blinded by the worldly influences in our lives and simply have learned to tolerate them as we continue watching the television screen. For unbelievers, this is fine but not for Christians. Paul speaks to this situation as the “god of this world blinding the minds of the unbelievers so they cannot see the Gospel of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4, NASB). For unbelievers, the world continues to blind them. Their environment has total power over their lives, whether it is on television or social media. However, Paul did not say “also for believers.” There has always been a separation between believers and unbelievers.

We live in the day of age where you cannot share your Christian values and love without being called names. When we do not accept the sin of others, we are the problem. When we do not conform to the current culture, we are left isolated and alone. This makes us vulnerable because people naturally want to fit in. Our culture does not allow us to show the glory of God through the image of Christ but it is fine to push the ways of the world on our children. However, I am not saying this to make us feel doomed. No, on the contrary, I am trying to allow my readers to understand the harmful situation the Christian culture is currently facing. We are called to not preach about ourselves, but to preach Christ as our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5). We may not be popular with the crowds but it is what we are called to do. For it is written, “The light shall shine out of the darkness,”(2 Corinthians 4:6). This cannot happen when we are too busy trying to conform to this world. Ultimately, the physical must conform to the spiritual. This cannot happen if we continue to allow the world to blind unbelievers.

We have the knowledge of the truth, however, we are too scared to share it with others. This is a common conception held by many Christians and I just want to encourage us all today to stand firm in our faith. Do not tolerate sin in your lives. If the television series you like is going south, turn it off. If someone is speaking down on our faith or our beliefs, stand up and defend our faith, and pray for discernment when it is time to walk away. Sometimes walking away is not weakness, it is showing the strength of God in your life. Christians have always been called to be different. There is no difference between when Paul wrote this letter and the time that we currently live in. We have the light in us to help others find Christ. Use it! Don’t let others dim your light, because if it not for us to help guide unbelievers, then who is supposed to? Be different and be strong.

I want to pray today for encouragement and strength. I pray that we can all have the courage to stand firm in our faith and our beliefs. I pray that we can all identify any worldly influences that we may currently have and give it to the Lord. I pray that we stand out so brightly that people will be attracted to our Gospel like a moth to a bug zapper. This is what it means to be the light and I pray that we all have this ability in our daily walk. Amen!

Don’t forget to lift your veil!

For today’s devotional, I wanted to remind my readers that we are under the new covenant. What I mean is simple, being under Christ in the new covenant means that we are no longer to be hidden under the veil of the Old Testament. We are no longer under “The Law” because Christ fulfilled it. Yet, what is turning more people away from the church today is the church itself. More specifically, the body of believers that have become legalistic and their hearts have hardened just like the early Jewish people.

In 2 Corinthians 3:12-18, Paul is speaking to the church in Corinth. He was reminding the early church that the law of Moses hardened the hearts of the people and was of condemnation. What he meant by this is that “The Law” opened the people’s minds to know what sin was and how to act, however, it also hardened their hearts because they were always judging one another. This led to so much legalism and the creations of so many laws that no man could honestly be found righteous. So, the people grew cold towards one another and to outsiders. Paul called this having “a veil over their hearts.” Their minds were free to see the Lord and know His commands but their hearts kept them from feeling the love through His Spirit.

Paul then continues to explain to the church that through Christ is liberty. There is freedom no longer living under the veil of the Old Testament because we are all provided the gift of the Holy Spirit. Our sins are forgiven and we are able to exchange that sin with Christ’s righteousness. This exchange allows for the transforming power of Jesus Christ to work in us and through us. However, why are so many of us forgetting to lift the veil over our hearts? Our covenant is not one of condemnation but of mercy, grace,and forgiveness. Yet, I keep seeing believers just as legalistic as the Jewish people in Paul’s time. We as a church body have placed so many rules and regulations on the people that have led them feeling so short that they won’t even grace the doors of a church building. We judge, we gossip, and we condemn others in such a manner that I wonder if we truly lifted the veil over our hearts when we said “I do” to Christ. Why hasn’t our change taken place? We are no better than we were without Christ if we do not allow Him to work in us.

The reason why I am writing this is not to condemn people but to bring this real issue to light. Our Gospel is not one of legalism, ceremony, and tradition; it is a Gospel of the glory of our savior Jesus Christ and His sacrifice that allowed us to be in fellowship with the Father once again. It is a Gospel of the fruits of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faith, modesty, self-control, and chastity). Our Gospel is not one of condemnation and judgment, and we need to remember this simple truth. When we can do this, our actions will reflect the Gospel instead of our words. This is what it means to be a new covenant believer. The old is dead and gone, and we are made into a new creation. This can not happen if we continue to allow our hearts to stay hardened. We need to be able to walk out our faith instead of speaking about it with others. This is what Paul was telling the early church and this is what I want to share with you all today.

So for today’s prayer, I just ask for the Lord to remove the veil that covers many of our hearts. I pray for the Holy Spirit to allow us to share our personal transformation in Christ with others. I pray that the same mercy, love, and grace that we hold dear in our hearts to be mirrored to those around us. I pray that we can be the generation to stop allowing our own legalisms (traditions) from keeping the church pews from growing, and people from being reached. I pray that we can all come together in prayer and live out our faith instead of just talking about it. This is how we can change this generation for the better. In Jesus name, I pray, Amen.