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CHRIST, COMMUNITY AND CULTURE



What does it mean to live as a Christ follower in today's world? His message is relevant even when we aren't. He lived in community even though most of us don't. He engaged culture and many of us work hard to create our own sheltered subculture.



Updated: 2015-09-16T13:17:49.814-04:00

 



The Goodness of God

2014-01-27T19:51:57.091-05:00

So I forgot my blogger password and just got around to resetting it.  Here's a recent post that went straight to Facebook since I couldn't sign in.

January 17th

I Just want to remind you this morning that God is good. He is good regardless of whether you believe it. He is good regardless of your circumstances. He is good, even to those who are as undeserving as you and me. Yes, we are completely undeserving of His goodness and love, yet He loves us and extends grace to us on a daily basis.

The reality is, I should be dead. Strong statement I know, but very true (I'm sure some of you can relate). His grace has seen me through and will continue to see me through until the day He calls me home. Until that day I will live for Him, loving people and stumbling toward Him all the way.

I hope you experience His goodness and grace today. Maybe you just need to look around because it's there for all to see!

*FYI it is my intention is to begin to post more regularly here...  stay tuned!



You Are Loved!

2013-10-07T21:22:27.603-04:00


Just felt compelled to say this tonight,

"YOU ARE LOVED!"

Whether you feel it or not, it is true.

Whether you believe it or not, it is true.

God loves you more than you know. He's not a vengeful God waiting to exercise judgment for everything you have done wrong or for your unbelief. He is a loving God who went to the greatest lengths to let you know how much He loves you.

"God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins."
1 John 4:9-10

Don't ever let the devil lie to you and get you to believe that you are not loved or that you are worthless. You are deeply loved by God. Value is based on what something is worth. God says that you are worth His One and Only Son. That's the price that was paid for you.

YOU ARE PRICELESS!

It is true. You are loved by God and many others.

If you ever find yourself in a real time of need, don't hide. Find someone to talk to. If I can help in any way let me know and I will do whatever I can to help.

"Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us." 1 John 4:11-12

LOVE.



Do It Anyway!

2013-08-02T10:04:39.459-04:00

Do It Anyway - Mother TeresaPeople are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.Forgive them anyway.If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.Be kind anyway.If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.Be honest and sincere anyway.What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.Create anyway.If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.Be happy anyway.The good you do today, will often be forgotten.Do good anyway.Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.Give your best anyway.You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God.It was never between you and them anyway.I recently read this poem and was reminded of how often I forget what life is really about.  So many times my perspective is colored by my finite view of things.  This caused me to once again ask myself the following questions:What really matters in this life?  Why am I even here?  Who am I living to please?  Wrestling with these questions help our perspective begin to change from finite to eternal.  When I begin to think about that which really matters, I am then motivated to live for Christ and the reality of His Kingdom. His Kingdom may be unseen and we may struggle at times to understand how we are to function as a part of it, while living in this earthly kingdom, but we must not forget that it is the Kingdom of God that we must live for and "seek first."I love the end of this poem and think it basically sums up life "You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God."  We will all stand before Him one day and give account for what we did with the life He has given us. May we think more about Him and less about our circumstances, critics, fans, enemies, excuses and problems.  "It was never between you and them anyway."[...]



Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

2013-03-09T16:47:01.663-05:00


Where is your trust? Is it in Jesus or your own ability to control and manipulate things according to your will? Do you believe that He is good and all things work for the good of those who love Him? If so, stop sweating the small stuff. Enjoy life and rest in His love and care for you. When you are tempted to be anxious and worry, just remember that a sparrow doesn't fall to the ground without Him knowing and He has all of the hairs on your head numbered.

HE IS HERE AND HE IS TRUSTWORTHY!




Alone in the Darkness?

2012-11-30T10:07:47.347-05:00

“If I ever become a saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness,’” were the words of Mother Teresa in September of 1959. “I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”Two years earlier she wrote this to Archbishop Perier of Calcutta:"There is so much contradiction in my soul.—Such deep longing for God—so deep that it is painful—a suffering continual—and yet not wanted by God—repulsed—empty—no faith—no love—no zeal. Souls hold no attraction—Heaven means nothing—to me it looks like an empty place—the thought of it means nothing to me and yet this torturing longing for God. Pray for me please that I keep smiling at Him in spite of everything. For I am only His—so He has every right over me. I am perfectly happy to be nobody even to God..."Sometimes it is good to know that you are not alone in your struggles. In our darkness we tend to forget that many saints who have gone before us shared similar experiences.  Can you imagine the feelings of failure Peter must have had after his denial of Jesus? How about when you read Paul's heartfelt struggles in Romans 7, as he seems almost tormented by his battle with the flesh?  And to hear the despair in the heart of a modern day saint like mother Teresa.  This should remind us that even in our darkest moments, we are not alone.  There are many great men and women of faith who have shared similar struggles.  In fact, there are probably people around us right now who have been there and can relate to our pain.  You will never know unless you are willing to be vulnerable with those God has put in your life.And we should never forget that He knows and loves us in spite of our failures, struggles and unbelief.  He is always there."But you are a shield around me, O Lord; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. To the Lord I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill.  Psalm 3:3-4We must take off our masks and let others in.  That is when the healing begins.Peace,Vic[...]



The other 90%

2012-07-23T10:11:14.629-04:00

One of the biggest complaints that I hear from people who leave churches or refuse to attend a local church is they feel like pastor's talk too much about money.  I recently had a wealthy businessman tell me that he was tired of being treated like an ATM, called on to build another man's kingdom.  As a result, he and his wife spent the better part of the last two years worshiping in their home with a handful of other believers. Please understand that this man is someone who has given generously and is someone that I respect as a mature follower of Jesus.I think it is sad to see how many pastors focus on trying to get people to "tithe" to their church.  In my humble opinion, ministers spend way too much time talking about something that Jesus basically never talked about.  Jesus only mentions the tithe one time and that is when He is rebuking some religious leaders for "tithing."  That's right, Jesus wasn't impressed with their tithe.“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former." Matthew 23:23Apparently these individuals were giving as a religious act or duty, but their hearts were not engaged.  Giving should be something that is an act of worship.  It is the response of someone who understands that all he or she has is a gift given to them by God."You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today."  - Deuteronomy 8:17-18"Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name. “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand."  - 1 Chronicles 29:13-14The truth is that we only have what has been given to us from God.  All that we have is a gift.The question that should be asked of all of us is "What are we doing with what has been given to us?"People often ask questions like "how could God allow so much suffering in the world?"  "How could God allow children to starve to death?"  "Why doesn't God do something about the fact that almost a billion people live without access to clean drinking water?"  "Where is God?"Sometimes I am tempted to ask those same questions as well.  The problem is that I am pretty sure that God is looking at us with those same questions in mind.  "Vic, how could you allow so many children to starve?" "Where are you and what are you doing with what I have entrusted to your hands?"You see, God has the resources to take care of all of the needs that we see around us.  The only problem is that in His infinite wisdom, He has decided to give those resource to each of us and He has left it up to us to be stewards of His resources.So to me the question is not whether or not you are "tithing" to a local church.  The question is whether or not you understand that all you have has been given to you by God and that you are responsible as a steward of those resources?Don't get me wrong, I think it is a good thing for people to tithe to a local church.  But don't be like the religious leaders who thought that was the extent of their religious duty.  God cares about the other 90%.  God cares about the people that are in need all around us.  God has blessed us so that we can be a blessing.I am reminded of the words of Paul:"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has&n[...]



Just Read Your Stinkin' Bible

2012-05-23T10:29:40.813-04:00

We recently finished a 14 week study through the book of Ephesians. Paul's letter to the church in Ephesus is encouraging and very challenging. He spends the first part of the letter reminding those who follow Christ of all the blessings that they have received in Him. He talks about being called by God and the inheritance that is ours as saints. He then goes on to challenge believers to live differently in light of the blessing and calling that they have received. As the letter comes to a close, Paul talks about relationships. He begins with husbands and wives and then goes on to address parents and children and slaves and masters. Right after this discussion on relationships, Paul reminds his readers that they are in a battle. I find the placement and timing of this very interesting. It's like he is saying "You are children of God, abundantly blessed by the Father. Be sure to live as His children, loving and serving one another. And by all means don't forget that you are in a battle."You are in a battle. Did you realize that?It's easy to forget that as we go through our daily lives, there is a spiritual battle raging all around us.   When was the last time you heard someone say "God has a wonderful plan for your life?" Now let me ask, when was the last time you heard someone say "the devil has a plan for your life?" Whether we realize it or not, he does.Paul implores his readers to put on the full armor of God so that they can take their stand against the devil's schemes. He has a scheme. He has a plan. We must be ready. Paul begins his discussion regarding the armor of God by saying that we must "stand with truth like a belt around your waist."We are bombarded day in and day out by lies. They come at us from all sides and from various sources. Commercials tell us what we need in order to be happy. Some parents tell us we are not good enough. Friends tell us what we need to do in order to be accepted. We are either too fat or too skinny, too tall or too short. Lies, lies lies.There is only one way to combat the lies that we are inundated by, and that is with truth. We must stand with truth like a belt around our waist. The belt was the thing that held the armor of a Roman soldier together, it was essential. Our belt is truth and truth is found in the Word of God. We must know God's truth in order to take a stand against the lies of the enemy. Here is just some of what God says about the importance of His Word:"Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Psalm 119:105 “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:4 "For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 "To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified." Acts 20:32 "Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth." (John 17:17) God has given us His Truth so that we can combat the lies that come against us in our daily lives. Do you have the truth inside you so that you can take a stand against the devil's schemes?  The devil has a plan and he would like nothing more than to destroy you, your marriage and your family.  God has a plan and he has given us everything we need for life and godliness. However it is up to us to take full advantage of all that is available to us.Read God's Word daily. Let it be your food and the Truth that helps you to stand!As one guy put it, "Please, just read your stinkin' Bible!"&n[...]



Our Faithless Lives

2012-02-18T08:33:55.422-05:00

If you ask the average person whether or not they have faith, many would say they do. This leads to the obvious question, "In whom or in what have you put your faith?" People have faith in a lot of things. Some have faith in a "higher power", others have faith in Jesus, while some have faith in other gods or even themselves. But what does it really mean to be a man or woman of faith?While many of us would claim to be people of faith, the reality is that it takes very little faith for us to live in America. In fact, there was a point in my life when I realized that the way I was living and the things I was doing, didn't require much faith at all. And at that time, I was a staff pastor at a large church!What does it really mean for a person to have faith in Jesus? We have faith in Christ for our salvation, which is important, but does our faith go beyond that? Paul said in Galatians 3:11 "Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.”" It is clear that we are justified by our faith, but that verse says "The righteous will live by faith."Here is a good question to ask yourself, "Am I currently living by faith? This is a question that I try to ask myself on a regular basis. Does the way that I live my life require any faith on my part? Or is my life structured in such a way that I can pretty much do it on my own? Think about your life. In what or in whom have you placed your faith? Are you currently living by faith or does your faith have to do with a decision that you made, possibly many years ago?I recently went to Guatemala with a group of guys. While there, we met a woman named Maria who was suffering from a debilitating disease that had left her with stroke like symptoms. As we talked to her, we realized that she could not afford proper medical treatment. In fact, she couldn't even afford to pay for the bus ride to get to the clinic. All she could do was pray. After hearing her story, we joined our faith with hers and asked God to heal her and bring her a miracle.The situation weighed heavy on our hearts and we started trying to figure out how we could help her get the treatment that she needed. You might think that it would be easy for everyone to just pitch in money and make it happen. The only problem is that this is just one of many situations that you encounter while on a trip like this. However, we all felt we should help in some way and we all continued to pray.The next day we woke up to some incredible news. Chris, our missionary friend and host, had received an email in the middle of the night. The person indicated that they felt like God was leading them to give a financial gift, specifically for someone with a medical need. Of course, the first person we all thought of was Maria.God had heard the cry of Maria's heart and in His infinite wisdom, He brought a group of guys to her house that day. As we heard her story and prayed for her, God kept her at the forefront of our minds. God then prompted someone thousands of miles away to give a gift to "someone with a medical need." There was no question that in that moment God had heard our prayers and answered in a way that only He could.Sometimes God will work a miracle that defies the laws of nature, other times He uses people like us to provide that miracle for someone in need. However, we need to be people who believe. Not just people who believe that one day we will spend eternity with God because we have faith in Jesus. We need to be people who believe God in the here and now.Paul said "the righteous will live by faith." This leads me to believe that these should not be isolated incidents that we only experience while on mission trips. I think God wants us to be people who live by faith in our everyday lives, believing Him to do the unexpected and even the impossible.So what exactly is faith? The writer of Heb[...]



God, David Copperifield, Corvettes and Orphans

2012-01-06T09:14:54.070-05:00

Does anyone remember David Copperfield? He was an illusionist who used to do some crazy stuff, like make airplanes and the Statue of Liberty disappear. I remember watching him on TV as a kid and being mesmerized by his stunts. Of course, it's TV so you figured it was all done with mirrors and camera tricks, but it still sucked you in. He had these crazy eyes that made you wonder if maybe he had some kind of supernatural powers. Of course, he didn't. He was just a dude wearing funny clothes, hamming it up for the cameras. Impressive nonetheless.

Copperfield did some amazing things. However, not even his greatest stunts matched something I saw God do recently. Who else but God could take a beautiful, fire engine red, 1975 Corvette and turn it into an acre of land in Africa? Now that is amazing!

Not long ago a gentleman approached me to tell me that he wanted to donate his beautiful red corvette to the church to be used for one of our "crazy love projects". A crazy love project is something that we do to be a blessing to someone in need. Whether it is repairing someone's home here in the U.S. or building a home for someone in Guatemala, this is our way of letting people know that Jesus loves them, with no strings attached.

So we all prayed that God would use the finances from the sale of the car to do something crazy to show His love to someone in need.

It wasn't long after that when we connected with Jeff and Lucy Osborne, missionaries to Kenya. They shared with us about a young pastor (Samson Kiriinya) who was feeding some needy children in an impoverished area called Taveta. Some of the children are orphans who have lost their parents to AIDS, while others are just victims of poverty. Samson and his small congregation took it upon themselves to try to help these children.

A few months ago I had the privilege of going to Africa with some other men to visit Jeff, Lucy and pastor Samson, and to see the work first hand. It's hard to explain abject poverty. It is one thing to hear about poverty and see pictures, but when you actually meet the people who are living like this, it changes everything. It is then that you realize that poverty has a name, a face and a smile. It is then that your heart breaks and you realize that God's heart breaks as well.

After some inquiry we found out that we could buy a piece of property to build a feeding/educational/activity center for these children for about the same amount of money that we could get from selling the Corvette that was donated. So that's what we decided to do.

When we returned to the States, we shared this story with the people at Journey. At the end of the service a gentlemen approached me to let me know that God had put it on his heart to donate the finances to help build the facility for these children. I was almost speechless.

Only God can turn a shiny red Corvette into a piece of property that will one day house a facility that will change the lives of countless children for generations to come.

This is one amazing journey!



Modern Day Slaves and Future Abolitionists

2011-12-08T07:29:07.173-05:00

Three days ago I received an email from Samson, a friend of mine in Kenya. He was writing to regretfully inform me of a tragedy that had just taken place in their small town. Jane, a young girl that I had met while on a trip to Kenya a few months ago, had lost her father. He died of an illness that probably could have been prevented if good medical care was available.Jane is 13 and she is one of the young people who has been helped through the Taveta Children’s Assistance (TCA) program. I remember when I first heard of the TCA’s efforts to help feed and educate orphans and impoverished children in Taveta. One of the things that caught my attention was a praise report in one of Samson’s monthly newsletters. He said “Praise God that since we began helping, there have been no cases of girls engaging in immoral behavior to earn a living as was previously the case.” The “girls” he is speaking of are all under the age of 16.When children have nobody to protect them, they are very vulnerable. Prostitution, slavery and human trafficking is a much larger issue among at risk children than many of us realize. Children who are orphans and or homeless are among those with the greatest risk of being trafficked. According to statistics compiled by the Polaris Project, 1 million children enter the global commercial sex trade every year. Take a moment and try to wrap your head around that number. One million!As I think about Jane, I think about a young girl without a mother and father. I am so thankful that she is a part of the TCA and that we have the opportunity to help in her situation. She will be fed, taken care of and educated. However, many children like her are much less fortunate. What can we do to make a difference? First, it is important for us to be educated on the issue. This is a real problem affecting not only those on the other side of the globe but it extends right here to our own city. It was only months ago that the police arrested a man who was holding a minor against her will and prostituting her to men here in Jacksonville.According to the organization Force4Compassion “Human Trafficking is the second largest crime in terms of dollars transacted and is the cruelest form of crime against humanity. It involves an act of recruiting, transporting, transferring, harboring or receiving a person through a use of force, coercion or other means, for the purpose of exploiting them”Through organizations such as Force4Compassion, Transitions Global, Shared Hope International, Meet Justice and Shop to Stop Slavery (just to name a few), you can be educated and start making a difference. Recently I was given a "freedom chain" from Robin Rossmanith of Shop to Stop Slavery. The bracelet was actually made by a survivor of human trafficking. Not only is it a cool bracelet, it is also a chain that reminds you of the bondage that people all around the world are suffering. The chain came from Force4Compassion and can be seen here. At first glance it may seem like any other piece of jewelry, until you put it on and allow yourself to engage the thought that a real person who experienced the real horrors of this issue, created it with their own hands. The issue is personal.It is personal to God and should be personal to us. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)How can we read passages like this and think that we have no responsibility in the matter? It is reprehensible to think that those who follow Jesus and are aware of such injustice, can simply sit by and do nothing. I fully understand that there are many worthy c[...]



Steeple Envy

2011-11-17T14:12:35.305-05:00

I recently completed my first book, Steeple Envy - Losing My Religion and Rediscovering Jesus. Although I hope that people will read it and be encouraged and challenged by the message, this was never intended to be a money making venture. This book was the result of many sleepless nights where I simply felt compelled to write about my thoughts and experiences concerning Jesus and His Church. Being a pastor for more than 18 years, I have seen and experienced a lot from the inside of the American church. To be honest, I wrote the book as much for me as for anyone else who might read it. It was a therapeutic exercise of sorts. :)The church in America is an interesting thing. It often looks very little like the Church described in the pages of the New Testament, and to a large degree it is consumer driven and corporate run. The Church in the book of Acts seems to be much more organic. It is defined by people, not places and it doesn't seem to have the top down structure that we see in a lot of churches today. As a result we have pastors that achieve rock star status and labor week in and week out to put on a great show in order to keep the crowds coming.In the book of Acts we read about this group who were on the move. Sure they came together and met in the temple courts but they spent most of their time in each others homes, as well as sharing the love that they had found, with anyone and everyone who would listen. It's actually quite beautiful. The Bible talks about a group where people were even willing to sacrifice for each other, so that there were no needy among them.James, defines pure religion this way: "Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you." (James 1:27) Somehow we have gotten to a place where this is a sidebar at best in the life of the "church".The reality is that the church in America has fallen out of favor with most people and we either don't realize it or we scratch our heads and wonder "why? " Maybe it's because it is time for some much needed change. Maybe it is time for the church to take its eyes of itself and to spend more time looking at a world that is out there dying without Jesus. Our beautiful buildings, best gimmicks, bright lights and great music aren't going to be what draw most of them in. It is going to take us going out, IN LOVE.The world needs to see a people (the Church) who care. They need to see a group of people (the Church) who are not fake and who love people right where they are. What the world really needs to see is Jesus, and too often the church doesn't look a whole like like Him (see the book UnChristian by Lyons).Now, I don't claim to have it all figured out and I certainly don't have all the answers. However, there seems to be a huge disconnect between the life of Jesus, his early followers and the current life of the the church in our country today. All I am suggesting is that we become more like Jesus and begin to lift Him up, above our institutions, programs and agendas. In fact, we are to lift Him up, even above our very lives.I think there are people all around us who are just waiting to see the love Jesus on display in a way that they can relate to. Jesus was good at relating to people and we should be as well (think woman at the well, woman caught in adultery, story of the good samaritan etc.). We are told that when He is lifted up, He will draw people to Himself (John 12:32).Therefore let us be a people who above all things, lift up Jesus and show His love to those around us. It doesn't appear that we need the latest and greatest "next thing" in the church. What we need is to love God with all our hearts, love our neighbors as ourselves and lift up Jesus, then watch the S[...]



In His Presence

2011-10-31T08:29:02.424-04:00

I have a friend in Guatemala named Cesar. He is one of the strongest men of faith that I have ever met in my life. I will never forget the times that I have sat with him and listened to him speak of the wonders of God. He always shares about how much God has blessed him and how he can’t wait to one day see Him face to face, to run on streets of gold and to be in His presence. Cesar knows God in an intimate way. He has experienced His presence and power in such ways that there is not a shadow of a doubt in his mind that on the day he breathes his last breath, he will be with him for eternity. Cesar is very sick and barring a miracle, he will soon find himself in the presence of his Maker and Friend. I appreciate your prayers for him and his family. In my book, Steeple Envy, there is a chapter that is written by Brock Johnson, a friend of mine and missionary in Guatemala. He’s the one who first introduced me to Cesar. In the chapter that he wrote, he tells Cesar’s story so I thought I would share that with you today.“Cesar is a friend of mine who lives in a shack in the middle of abeautiful Guatemalan forest. He is a husband and a father. When hewas 26, he was enjoying a normal life. Cesar had a beautiful wife andwas starting a family. He had a pretty good job (any job in rural Guatemalais a good job), and he was a star in the local men’s soccer league.Suddenly, his back began to bother him. For three years, he continuedworking his manual labor job, but with each year, the back paingrew worse. Soon, he couldn’t bear the pain to even get out of bed.With limited resources, Cesar and his family began to seek medicalhelp. What they discovered was terrifying. Cesar had an incurable andfatal degenerative bone disease. He was told he would not live muchlonger and that he would be bedridden for his final months or years.By this time, Cesar had three beautiful young children. As Christians,Cesar and his wife believed God for healing. But they also beganto accept the reality that God’s will for their life may be drastically differentthan anything they had ever imagined.After enduring three years of deterioration, the pain and sufferinggrew to its worst. In the most excruciating night of pain that Cesarcan remember, he was surrounded by doctors and family. His doctorsadvised him that he would not make it through the night. A wifeprepared herself for life without her husband, and young childrenprepared to say goodbye to their daddy.Cesar slipped into a coma. He recalls the story beautifully. “I lookeddown and saw angels at my feet, their beauty indescribable. Each onetook the weight of one of my legs in their arms and gently caressedthem. As they comforted me, a distinct voice whispered into my ear.The voice was very clear and very close. When I turned to look forthe person, no one was there. But three times the voice said the samething: “Read Matthew 9:12.”After three months, Cesar awoke from the coma. That was severalyears ago. Today, if you have the privilege to visit Cesar, you willleave his home blessed beyond measure. He has the majority of God’sWord memorized. He preaches God’s power, grace, mercy, love andmystery better than any trained evangelist I have ever heard. Weighingnext-to-nothing and fighting through severe head, jaw, throat, backand leg pain, he shouts worship songs to his Heavenly Father withheartfelt depth and passion. He looks you in the eye, asks you questions,listens intently, and longs to know you.It’s hard to explain, but I always come away from hanging out withCesar feeling deeply loved. Yes, I am always challenged, convicted andawed at his committed life of steadfast faith. Everyone who meetshim is. But as I walk home from his house—every single time—Icome away with an ov[...]



Slow Down and Simplify

2011-09-13T07:38:13.094-04:00

As Americans we have a tendency to complicate things. Let's face it, our lives are complex and very busy. We are doers. We run around from one thing to another at an exhausting pace. However if we were honest, I think many of us would admit that when it is all said and done we often feel like we have accomplished much, but very little that really matters. It's almost as if we are afraid to slow down.

What would happen if we made an effort to simplify our lives? What if we chose to do one less sport with the kids this fall? What if we decided that we were OK with driving an older car that was paid off, rather than working longer and harder to pay another $300 car payment? What if we stopped trying to please people who are virtually impossible to please? Maybe we would find ourselves with more time, energy and emotional bandwidth to invest in things that really matter.

Life is simple. We make it complex. That is our tendency, to complicate things.

We do this in life and we do it with our relationship with God. When I read the Bible, the gospel seems very straightforward and simple. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." According to this verse, there is only one thing that we must do.

Believe.

God has done the rest.

He loved us so much that He gave His one and only Son. Jesus lived a life that we could never live, died to pay a price that we could never pay and rose so that we might be able to experience eternal life.

It is finished.

He did it all.

However that's not good enough for many of us. It doesn't feel right because it is too simple. Therefore we must complicate things. Believing is important but is it really enough? Can we rest in what God has already done? Isn't there more that we must do? This is where we step in and create our man made religions that are centered more on us and what we do, than on God and what He has done.

The gospel is simple and beautiful. Religion is complex and burdensome.

Jesus left us with one or two simple commands to guide us into a life full of meaning and purpose and free us from the complexity and shackles of religion.

He said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Jesus takes something that is very complex and makes it very simple. So what does this mean to us? What must we do?

Slow down and simplify.

Believe.

Receive.

Love Him.

Love others.

Live to the full...



Losing My Religion

2011-08-23T06:29:49.167-04:00

I know a lot of religious people and for the most part they're no fun to be around. Not to mention that some of them are flat out weird. They use words that many people don't understand and they think that anything that resembles fun is sin. I used to be a very religious person. If you knew me back then, I'm sorry. Really, I mean that. Often times religious people think that they are superior to others who aren't quite as "sold out" as they are to their faith. The sad reality is that according to the apostle Paul, many of these people are actually "sold in" to slavery and they don't even realize it. Formerly, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those who by nature are not gods. But now that you know God—or rather are known by God—how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? You are observing special days and months and seasons and years! I fear for you, that somehow I have wasted my efforts on you. Galatians 4:8-11 Through Christ, God fulfilled the requirements of the Law and as a result He gave all of those who would believe in Him, the right to become sons and daughters of God. Heirs to the promise that was originally made to Abraham. This means that we have been adopted into the family. I know some people who have adopted children and those children are a part of their family just as their biological children are. The adopted children are not required to do specific things in order to maintain their status as family members. They are simply a part of the ______________ family. Family relationships are based on love, not law. I love my children and they are my children because of who they are and there is nothing that can change that. They have no need of proving themselves in order to be accepted as a family member. Family relationships are based on love. Religion on the other hand is based on law. IF you do certain things, then you will be accepted. In this system there is an inherent need to work in order to feel loved and accepted. It is burdensome and unfulfilling and in the end it leads to destruction, rather than life. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." Galatians 5:1 So what does this mean? Does this mean that a person can be a family member and live however they desire? Well, not exactly. The relationship is founded in love. Although one receives love and is accepted on the basis of love, there is also an expectation that love would be reciprocated in the relationship. I love my kids and accept them, period. As a result, they have the freedom to be themselves and to enjoy the things that bring them joy and happiness. However, if they truly love me, they will desire to live within the boundaries that I have given them. If they choose to step outside those boundaries, there is no love lost, but there are consequences. These consequences are also based in love. Because I love them, I have given them boundaries that are ultimately in their best interest, whether they fully realize it or not. I know this is a human example and can break down, particularly if parents are overbearing etc. But our heavenly Father is perfect and His love and Law are perfect. All that to say, our obedience is based in love. Jesus said "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" John 14:23. We love Him because He first loved us. It is not burdensome and it is not an issue of measuring up in order to be accepted. It is actually the freedom we have in knowing that we are loved - period! As a result, those of us who are family members and know that we are loved, ho[...]



On death and dying

2011-06-21T09:59:55.096-04:00

Death is not something that many of us like to think about. That's kind of funny because it is inevitable for us all. The reality is that we will all breathe our last breath sooner or later and none of us know when our day will come. But we still live from day to day like we are invincible, never thinking that today could be our last day on the earth.My dad lives with our family and was recently diagnosed with fourth stage colon cancer. He is 83, so he has lived a long life. Nonetheless it is still difficult to stare death in the face. On Father's Day I wrote him a letter to let him know how much I love him and how much God loves him. I remembered a poem that I saw in one of those Daily Bread devotional booklets almost 20 years ago and included it in the letter. What Cancer Can't DoIt cannot cripple loveIt cannot shatter hopeIt cannot erode faithIt cannot eat away peaceIt cannot destroy confidenceIt cannot kill friendshipIt cannot shut out memoriesIt cannot silence courageIt cannot invade the soulIt cannot reduce eternal lifeIt cannot quench the spiritIt cannot lesson the power of the resurrectionWhether it is the result of cancer, a car accident or a long life that ends by natural causes, death awaits us all. However, those of us who know Christ are not without hope. Jesus said "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies" (John 11:25) In other words, we will all leave our earthly bodies behind one day, but those of us who believe in Christ will live.The apostle Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:54-58When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.Paul seems to have a healthy view of our lives on this earth and eternity. He realizes that "Death has been swallowed up in victory" and as a result we can stand firm, living out the rest of our days with purpose. He goes as far as to encourage us to always give ourselves "fully to the work of the Lord." Why? Because our labor is not in vain. We have the opportunity to join God in what He is doing on this earth and that is the main reason why we are still breathing.Rather than fear death, we should live in such a way that when our time comes, we will be left with no regrets. Lately I have found myself aksing this question "If my last day were tomorrow, would I have any regrets?" As a result, with God's help, I am trying to live in such a way that the answer would be "No"."Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins." James 4:13-17 [...]



Thankful

2011-04-05T09:01:27.285-04:00

I have had two things happen to me recently that have helped me to be more thankful. A few weeks back I took another trip to Guatemala and as usual my eyes were opened to the burden and blessing of poverty. It's a burden for sure and you can see that as you visit people. Like when we sat with this beautiful family and heard the struggle of a mother trying to take care of her son who had a cyst on his brain. They sold everything they had of value, including their beds, to get tests done and buy medication. She had nothing and could do nothing. Her desperation was tangible.

And the blessing? The blessing was seen in the beauty of simplicity. We met families who lived in shacks and had very little, yet possessed a joy that escapes many of us who live in the land of plenty.

Then I had surgery this past week. Nothing too major, but not fun either. Sometimes it isn't until you are on your back for a while that you begin to realize how much you take for granted. Just being in bed for a few days helped me to see how blessed I am to be able to run and play with my kids. My wife was great and took good care of me, but by the third day I was feeling like a burden. You know, there are things you want to do and should be able to do for yourself, but you can't. So you have to rely on others for all of those things.

I thought of Cesar, a man we met in Guatemala who can't get out of bed because he has a rare disease that is causing his spine to fuse together. He has a wife and 3 beautiful kids. I thought for a moment what it would be like to be in his situation. In thinking about that, I was convicted of the fact that I am not as thankful as I need to be for the many blessings that I have. Not only am I pretty healthy (aside from the 10lbs or so that I could afford to lose), but I also live in extreme wealth when compared to the rest of the world. I have so much, yet say "thank you so little". And Cesar, who has very little and cannot even get out of bed on his own, is full of thanksgiving! I sat in his house for 3 hours listening to him tell of the goodness of God, expressing thanks to Him over and over again. Shouldn't he be the guy who is struggling with bitterness and anger?

Life is way too short to sweat the small stuff and God is way too good to allow the things of this world to pull me away from Him. This is all passing away. True joy is found in living for something beyond what this world has to offer. So I am going to make a more concerted effort to be thankful. I have been reminded of how blessed I am, so I will try to say "thank you" more.

Thank you to the many beautiful people that God has put in my life. You encourage me more than you will ever know.

Much love on the journey,
vic

"Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18



Love Wins

2011-03-17T16:54:28.222-04:00

When I read the scriptures I am reminded of the fact that "God is Love". It is out of His great love for us that while we were sinners, with our backs turned toward Him, He stepped out of His world into ours to pay the price for our sin. That is love. God then invites us into a relationship where love is exchanged. He extends His love to us and asks us to love Him in return. We are also commanded to love those around us. When this exchange of love takes place in a person's life, it changes everything. It not only affects them, but the rest of the world as well. When God's love is displayed through His people it is a beautiful thing.In this sense, I believe that love wins.Recently there has been a firestorm of debate over Rob Bell's new book with this title (Love Wins). From John Piper tweeting "farewell Rob Bell" to Joshua Harris saying that Bell is "teaching a false gospel", everyone seems to have an opinion. With that being the case, I figured I would add my two cents to the mix.Let me begin by saying that over the past 5 years I have been challenged and encouraged by the teachings of Rob Bell. I also had the opportunity to meet him and interview him a few years back when I was going through a transitional time in life and ministry. God used Rob in a significant way to help me during that time and for that I will be forever grateful. Over the years, Rob's ministry has been challenged and criticized by a number of people, so when I heard the latest I wasn't too surprised. I believe that it is always important to go to the source, rather than taking what other people are saying at face value. With that, I decided to read "Love Wins".I finished reading the book this morning and I have to say that I was more than a little disappointed. While Rob is masterful at asking questions, I don't think he does a very good job of supporting some of his conclusions with solid scriptural evidence. I was surprised by the number of single verses used to support his viewpoint as well as his willingness to make speculations based on these verses. Rarely does he go into the context of the verses cited, rather they are often used as proof texts to support his views. Also, there are verses and whole passages that would challenge his conclusions, which are completely ignored.It is not my goal to go through and point out everything I disagree with in the book. I simply don't have the desire, nor the time or energy to give to such an endeavor. A simple google search will give you a slew of opposing viewpoints, if you desire. However, I do want to make it clear that Rob has come to some conclusions that not only leave me uncomfortable, but that I would stand in direct opposition of. For instance, I can find no solid biblical support for the idea that people will have the opportunity to turn to Christ after they die, and Rob certainly implies this in the book.Is he a heretic and does this discredit his previous body of work?The bottom line is that Rob does a pretty good job of covering his bases. He would unequivocally say that he is not a universalist and that he believes that Jesus is the only way to the Father. He would also say that he believes in heaven and hell. However, his definition of what these things mean may be a little sketchy. Personally, I have a hard time with labels, particularly when they are selectively used by individuals. Heresy is a strong word and I would hesitate to apply it to what I have read in Bell's latest book. Are his views any more heretical than John Calvin's view regarding infant baptism, Luther's view of baptismal regeneration or the way catholics view the e[...]



Sad but true...

2010-12-27T19:21:30.014-05:00

A missionary friend of mine in Guatemala recently posted the following blog, which I felt compelled to share. Hope from ashes"This morning a young man, 25 yrs. old, knocked on our door for about 30 minutes straight. When we finally answered, there stood Daniel Gonzalez. He nervously explained his situation.He did not want to come to our house today, but some friends had convinced him that it was his best and last chance. He said he was not the type of person to ask for things, so he was sorry for coming. He explained that yesterday he had lost his home in a fire. A husband and father of 2 young kids, they had lost almost everything… house, bed, clothes, TV, food, and belongings - all ashes. We were his last hope. I am thankful for that much – just being here, able to be that hope for somebody. That hope has a name – Jesus – and it is always amazing to me that we can “be” Jesus… Now to the frustrating part. Why exactly were we his “last” hope? Before showing up at our house, Daniel had exhausted his options. Most alarming was the response from his church, from whom he was misled regarding “God’s justice.” Rewind just 2 months… to when Daniel and his wife Martha lost their 3rd child. Following childbirth, Florcita (little flower) spent 20 days on life support. Born two months premature, she hung on for 3 weeks before letting go. Daniel spent all 20 days & nights in the hospital at his wife’s side, praying for Florcita to pull through.Following their daughter’s death, they returned to their church. Daniel, who was striving to become a deacon and took seriously his role collecting the weekly offering, was put on “probation” for missing 3 Sunday mornings and several other gatherings. He was told that missing church, for any reason, is a sin and requires discipline from the church authorities.Now, after losing his house and all his belongings in the fire, the “church authority” explained to Daniel that God is righteous, punishing them for missing a few church services while clinging bedside to their dying daughter. The only effort to bring comfort was a simple reminder of the story of Job, and how God won’t give you more than you can handle.After being denied by his church for help, they decided to try another church, this one well known for helping the people of his neighborhood. This specific church has been working in his neighborhood for years, even recently completing a new community center to better serve them.Martha returned home with the news. The church said there is nothing they can do, because they only help families in the community who are members of their church.Broken, denied, and ready to give up, he knocked on our door.When we showed up at the site of their house this afternoon, Daniel made small talk for about 5-10 minutes. He was cheerful, seemed thrilled actually, to see us. When he introduced us to his kids, and showed us the extent of their remaining belongings, he got quieter, clearly trying to hide some emotion. When he shared about the response from the churches, he broke. Confused and hurt, he began sobbing. It wasn’t the loss of his daughter, or his house, that brought on the sobbing. It was the pain inflicted from the “church” that ultimately crushed him. The very thing that is supposed to bring life, support, love, help, and hope… was killing him. I wondered to myself if Daniel’s pastor that avoided helping (but reminded Daniel about God’s justice and Job’s sufferings) had forgotten, or ever read, where Jesus said to love your neighbor as yourself. Paul’s teachings about carrying one an[...]



I don't really like church

2010-12-13T18:53:51.698-05:00

A phrase that I often hear these days is "I don't really like church". That may not be an exact quote but I hear that communicated in different ways quite a bit. In fact, rumor has it that a pastor even said that from the stage this past Sunday ;)Church has fallen out of favor with many today. Right now I am sitting in Panera and there is a guy sitting next to me and I am going to turn to him right now and ask him what he thinks about church and then I will write his response. Seriously, I am going to do this. Hold on.OK, I did it, really I did. I found out the guy's name was Ron and the conversation went something like this...Me: "hey, I'm sorry to bother you but can I ask you a question?"Ron: "sure"Me: "what do you think about church?"Ron: "In what context?"Me: "I don't know, I was just wondering what you thought about church. Do you go to church? What's your opinion of church in general?"Ron: "Well, I became a Christian in 1986. At first when it was just me, Jesus and my Bible everything was great. Then I started going to church and it was OK for a while, I guess. Then after a while I started to see a lot of stuff and, well... I don't know. I know it is bad to say this but it got political, or maybe it was just people's egos that got in the way. The church ended up going through a split and some other stuff. So eventually I just stopped going." Me: "That's hard."Ron: "Yeah, it seemed like people had more bad things to say than good. For instance in my denomination people would really slam Catholics and I pretty much just listened and went along with it. Not too long ago a friend of mine was in a situation where he was really in need. The Catholics were the ones who helped him out. No questions asked, they just helped him in his time of need. They helped him when people from my denomination wouldn't lift a finger. If I were to talk to someone from that group now, I would be cordial. But I can tell you if they ever said anything bad about the Catholics I would tell them to take a hike!" "So when it comes to church, I guess I can take it or leave it to tell you the truth."Me: "Man, I'm sorry it sounds like you have seen some ugly stuff along the way..."There was more to our conversation but I think you get the gist. Ron didn't come out and specifically say "I don't like church" but he clearly isn't big fan. Our conversation was a good one and as it continued he reminisced about his time leading a small group for singles in the church he attended. He told me a few stories. Like the time after one of their meetings they all decided on a whim to just go swimming with all their clothes on. Then there was the time that they ended up helping a homeless guy. He had a smile on his face and you could tell it really meant something to him. He said that he misses that at times.This makes sense to me because those are the things I love about "church". Not necessarily swimming with my clothes on, but being with people, doing life together and serving God. And the reality is that the things that turned Ron off, turn me off as well. In fact when he was finished he asked me what I thought about church. So I told him that as far as I could tell from reading the Bible, church is all about people. It was never described as a place or something we do, it is the people who gather. I went on to say that there are a lot of things about church that I don't like and that I wondered if God liked them either.Can you believe it? What are the odds that I would get that kind of response from the first guy I ask? Unfortunately prett[...]



Searching For True Religion?

2010-11-04T07:58:15.629-04:00

I am in the middle of reading two pretty good books right now. Currently I am rereading "Searching For God Knows What" by Donald Miller and "True Religion" by Palmer Chinchen.

Chinchen does a good job of reminding us that "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." (James 1:27) He points out the ways that the "American church" has failed in this regard and challenges us to align our agendas with God's. He reminds us of the global horrors of pain and suffering that exist in our world today and challenges us to do something about it. It's a great book that I highly recommend.

As for Donald Miller, he is funny and does a great job of getting his point across in such a way that most anyone can understand and enjoy. Although I love his humor, I find a lot of depth in what he writes. In Searching For God Knows What, Miller talks about how our lives are a story and how God has written a story to help us understand the meaning of why we exist and what it is that we are all searching for.

What has stood out to me recently is how we have taken this beautiful love story found in the Bible, dissected it, and reduced it to a formula. Although we all like routines and formulas with predictable outcomes, relationships don't always work that way. God invites us into a relationship, not some formulaic religion. Although relationships can be messy, they are also exciting and exhilarating. This has helped to remind me of the relational side of our faith. It has also caused the Scripture come to life as I read it through a relational lens as opposed to a more academic approach. I understand that there is a need for both but I am convinced that although our theology must be good, it is worthless outside of a relationship with the creator.

All of that said, if you are looking for a good read check out either of these books. I think you will be both challenged and refreshed in the process.



money, money, money...MONEY!

2010-09-16T07:40:52.181-04:00

So as I look at the landscape of the American church and reflect on the things that God has been doing around me lately, I thought this would be a good time to put some thoughts out there on what is probably the most controversial topic in the church in America today - money. We all should be aware of the fact that money is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Timothy 6:10). Therefore how we approach this topic as well as how we handle money within the church is very important. One of the biggest complaints that we hear from people outside the church is "all they want is your money." My suggestion is that before we try to counter this in any way, we simply admit that, yes there are churches, pastors and ministries out there that this would be true of. There are television ministries that exist for the sole purpose of raising money. There are churches that spend so much time talking about money and taking offerings that it would be hard to not conclude that it is the most important thing to them.There are churches and pastors that do ridiculous things with money, that is reality. The fact that this reflects on the church as a whole, drives me crazy. Therefore, I have to say to those looking in with a jaded eye, "I understand your questions and concerns and I share many of them as well." There are a lot of things that we do in the church in America today that I simply do not understand. So much so, that maybe I should reserve that for a much deeper discussion which may fill many more pages, if you know what I mean. But for now let me just say that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and He has enough money to do all that He desires in and through His church. Does this mean that we are not called to give? No. Does it mean that we don't receive offerings? No. It simply means that we should give to him with a cheerful heart and not under compulsion as we are taught in Scripture (2cor. 9:7). God desires for us to give and even give sacrificially. However for this to take place in a biblical way where there is no compulsion and with a cheerful spirit, one must have confidence in the people and place they are giving. The needs of people must come before bigger buildings and church budgets. We must have a global awareness of how rich the poorest person in America is, in comparison to the rest of the world. Church books should always be open and no question about church finances should ever be shunned. People shouldn't feel bad when they ask questions about where money goes. Answers should instill confidence and not more questions.The lives of church leaders should look more like Jesus than they do the CEO of a company that is comparable in size to the church they lead. A humble spirit should accompany a modest lifestyle. I have heard people say crazy things to justify the extravagant lifestyles of some church leaders like "I am glad that my pastor is blessed, because that means I am going to be blessed as well." That is messed up on so many levels. First of all that's not biblical, that's prosperity propaganda. Also when we equate blessing solely with finances, we miss the fact that blessing can come even in the midst of trials, pain and poverty (take the lives of Jesus and all the apostles for example).Jesus desires that we give him our lives. As we give him our lives, that means we submit our finances to him as well. We have an obligation to be good stewards. This applies to us as individuals as well as to the church as a whole. We are all on a journey of growing[...]



Alive and well...

2010-08-12T15:34:52.661-04:00

Since it has been about 3 months since I have blogged I thought I would at least write and let anyone who may read this know that I am alive and I am well. To be perfectly honest it has been a strange couple of months. My role has expanded from pastor to project manager and even amateur, hack, construction worker as we renovated our new building. It has made for an interesting time to say the least. I am very grateful for the blessing of our new facility and I will share that story another time. However I have also seen how easy it is for church people and pastors to get caught up in things like buildings etc.

What I have realized is that while it is nice to have a cool place to gather, it should never take precedent of the mission of God in the lives of His people and His Church. With that said, I am ready to go Guatemala to serve the poorest of the poor with a group of Kingdom minded people with huge hearts. We leave in the AM and will be back in a week. Pray for the leading of God's Spirit and for His will to be done as we show the tangible love of Jesus to those we come in contact with.

Oh and don't forget that simply living in America marks us among the richest people in the world. We are also some of the loneliest and most medicated people as well. Go figure...

"What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?" Luke 9:25



Love.

2010-04-26T07:01:35.568-04:00

Love.

So what does love look like?

Love looks like a person who sees a woman on the side of the road with her two children and feels a compulsion to stop, so they do. Love looks like a guy who decides to take blankets downtown to offer to those on the streets on a cold winter night. Love looks like a group of people who decide that it is more important to build houses for those living in third world abject poverty than it is to invest in a bigger building for their growing church. Love looks like a wife and mother who makes it her mission to see human slavery abolished in her lifetime. Love looks like someone who gives anonymously to the couple who are out of work during economically challenging times. Love looks like those who don’t give up on the drug addict who continues to fall time and time again but expresses a desire to be free. Love looks like a founding pastor who walks away from a big established church after sixteen years of ministry with a group of people, because he feels led to take a step of faith into something unknown.

Love looks like people who choose to die to themselves to do things like those stated above, expecting nothing in return.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

Ultimately love looks like Jesus.

When we look at the life of Jesus we see that his love is very different than ours. Rarely do we love people without expecting anything in return. Even if it is a simple “thank you” we expect there will be some reciprocation for our love. Jesus loved people, period. He loved with no strings attached. He expressed love to people who had no ability to repay him. He loved simply because it was the right thing to do.

Freely we receive love and freely we should give. I think that would make the world a better place.

vic



letdown

2010-01-29T23:17:44.117-05:00

Well since it has been two months to the day since my last post I figured I ought to say something...

I am in awe of the things that I see God do in this world. I know there are a lot of people out there (maybe reading this) that don't even believe He exists and that baffles me in some ways and in others I totally understand. It baffles me because of the beauty and many miracles that are seen throughout creation. I guess it all could be by chance but honestly I don't have enough faith to believe that. I have also seen God interact in "my world" on numerous occasions in ways that I would have to deny my very being in order to chalk it up as coincidence. On the other hand I have witnessed things done in the name of God that are nothing short of evil. So I do understand how people could look on at the church and people who claim to represent God, with a jaded eye.

I'm a pastor and I am far from perfect. However my heart's desire is to please God and to love the people that He puts me in contact with, so that in someway I might reflect His glory in this world. We live in a kingdom that is full of pain, sickness, heartache and death and I believe that God would have those of us who follow Him, do our best to help alleviate that by expressing His love and grace to people in their time of need.

Today I heard a story that broke my heart. I listened as a brother of mine shared how he was treated by a man who claims to follow and serve the same God as I. Without saying too much about what happened, let me just say that it was just WRONG. Now I'm not going to go so far as to say that this guy doesn't know God or serve God, but in this instance his actions looked nothing like the God that I know. When I see christians and particularly pastors doing things that serve nothing but their own self interest and egos, I begin to understand why there are so many people in our country who don't believe.

So tonight I simply wanted to say something to all of you who have been hurt, disappointed, letdown or abused by people who claim the name of Jesus...
I am sorry. I am sorry that you have experienced what you have, but I can tell you that there is a God and He looks and acts nothing like those who have wronged you. He is a God of love, grace and mercy and personally I rely on that everyday of my life.

It is my prayer that somehow His love and grace will breakthrough the pain and that the people of God would wake up and begin to live for that which really matters. God let it begin with me...



Significance

2009-11-29T22:29:54.703-05:00

So have you ever felt like your life was insignificant? I have. In fact there are times when I wonder if I am making any difference at all. I often feel like my contribution to this world is like a tiny pebble being thrown in an endless ocean where any ripples created are immediately swallowed up, disappearing without notice or impact.

Then there are those moments when God allows you to see how you have touched someone's life. You know what I mean, you do something for someone and somehow brings hope where there was hopelessness or comfort to someone who is hurting or brings joy to those shrouded in sadness. These are the times that make me feel like I have something to contribute to this world. Though they may be few and far between, I think we have all had these moments.

So why do we feel so insignificant when we have the power to bring comfort, hope, joy and even life to people when they are desperately in need? Could it be that as much as God wants us to experience these things and share them with others, there is a battle raging to keep us feeling small and insignificant? Could it be that we are no different from the "insignificant" men and women who have gone before us and are written about throughout the pages of history? Just think for a moment about some of the people that God has used in the past. Moses, who didn't even think he could speak well enough to represent God let alone lead His people. How about David the shepherd boy who was overlooked by his father? Or the same David who was an adulterer? How about an insignificant teenage girl named Mary? Or a small group of fishermen and tax collectors who would literally turn the world upside down with their message and by laying down their lives?

Our lives are filled with meaning and purpose. This world is filled with meaningless stuff that is put here to distract us and keep us from experiencing all that God has created us for. Some people go with the flow and live for their own selfish ambition, while others will move to the beat of a different drum. They make decisions not based on what is best for them but what is best for Him and His Kingdom.

Today I was encouraged to continue swimming upstream and I thought that I would just write a little something that just might encourage some others to do the same. You have nothing to lose when you give your life away to others, but you have everything to lose when you give your life to this world.

I think Jesus said it best when He said:"Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 10:39) and "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36)

One day we will all breathe our last breath and on that day we will really know how significant our lives were.