This season…

I love the Christmas season.

It always fills me with memories of snow, food, family and presents…

Like when I was 7 and I asked my dad for an air hockey table. I remember the euphoria I felt when I was able to open the box and play some puck with my dad.

The past few years as I’ve become a husband and a father, my joy and anticipation has shifted a bit. Instead of anticipating what I will be getting, I now am ecstatic to think of the look on my wife and son’s faces as they open their gifts on Christmas.

There is still one gift though that I get all the feels for every year around this time and that is the celebration of the brith of Jesus.

The coming of the Christ child is part of two of the greatest miracles ever recorded in our history.  (A virgin being pregnant and God raising a dead man are pretty sweet things to have happened.)

And when I read the Gospel of Luke I love what I find in chapter 2.  We meet two people in this passage, Simeon and Anna.

Simeon was a man late in his life, who was promised by God that he would get to see the Messiah before he dies. We find Simeon worshipping God at the Temple as was his routine. He did this everyday. (Everyday? Some of us have a hard time going to church once a week!)

And here he is in the midst of worshipping the Lord in the temple when he sees God’s promised Messiah…

Can you imagine Simeon’s joy and excitement?

I love how Luke pen’s the emotional response perfectly when he writes that “Simeon took the child Jesus into his arms and praised God.”(v 28)

Anna was also of old age. She was a widow and a prophet. She was married for 7 years when her husband died. She was now 84. We don’t know how young she was when she got married but during this time period it wasn’t out of the question to assume that she would have been married as early as 15 years old.

Can you imagine being a widow for 62 years?

This was Anna’s reality.

But instead of Anna being angry at God and turning away from Him, she drew near to God and as Luke writes “she stayed in the Temple, day and night, worshipping God with fasting and prayer” (v37).

I wish I had that type of discipline.

Luke writes that when “Anna saw the child, she went and spoke to everyone who was waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.” (v38)

Simeon and Anna looked at the Messiah who was a helpless little infant, with complete Joy.

And with that joy we need to understand that their lives weren’t easy living at this point. We must keep in mind that Rome was in charge of everything and that the Israelites had been in captivity and that God was silent towards them for generations.
God. Was. Silent…

Let that sink in.

So you can imagine how they must have felt as a people who had been waiting for God to restore them for hundreds of years, and to finally see the Messiah.

Imagine for a second if we spent every day living our lives with that same anticipation and expectation?

Expecting God to show up in not only the big things, but also in the little things.

Just like he did when he showed up as a helpless little infant, who impacted and changed the world of those around him right from jump.

My prayer is that we would have that same anticipation and expectation during this advent season that we had as children expectant of our parents  and Santa getting us the things that we wanted most.

-Andrew

A response…

A couple of days ago I wrote a blog that was based on an interview that Katy Perry gave after her Super Bowl performance. In this interview she stated that God spoke to her and encouraged her. You can read the blog below titled: “Did God really speak to Katy Perry” in its entirety.

Since then a lot of folks have shown me some love all over social media.(It is currently trending on my favorite urban culture site jamthehype.com.) For those who have encouraged me I want to say thank you so much for your outpouring of love and support. It truly mean a lot.

And just as I have had a lot of support, I have also received some criticism based on what I said.

And I knew that I was going to get some shade thrown at me because of the content matter and the sensitivity of the topic.

And that’s ok with me.

The reason why I wrote the blog was to create conversations amongst believers and nothing creates conversation more so than controversy…

I wanted to take some time to address some of the common themes I have noticed that some are struggling with. I am not writing this to prove my point to you or for you to join my side. I am writing this to help bring some clarification to what may be cloudy in the eyes of some.

I’ve read people say to me that God doesn’t speak to people who live like she does…

Really?

So you’re the authority on who God can and can’t speak to?

I would be very careful with saying things like God doesn’t. I have learned in my life time and again that God does a lot more than He doesn’t.

You feel me?

God does is a phrase that I have learned to lean on more so that God doesn’t. When we say that God doesn’t or God can’t, we put Him in a box that neither of us were meant to put Him into. If we truly believe that God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent, then we also have to believe that God can do whatever He pleases.

When we read scripture we see God speaking to and using men and women who were the very least of their society and God was able to use them to His benefit.

Another one I got was that God wouldn’t want to speak to her because of her lifestyle choices, her lyrics and her actions.
While I understand where this is coming from I would like to invite you into John 8. In this passage, there was a women who was caught in the act of adultery and she was brought straight to Jesus. She probably had no clothes on and was completely embarrassed and set up so that they can use her to try and trick Jesus.

And what did Jesus do?

Did He refuse to talk to her because she was naked and caught having sex with a man she wasn’t married to?

No.

He defended her and most importantly loved on her. He later told her to stop sinning.

Remember where you were at when Christ found you and loved you for the first time? It was an amazing feeling right? He didn’t turn His back on us and walk away from us due to our sins. As a matter of fact, He came in deeper and closer to us in spite of our sins. So if God did this for you and me, wouldn’t He also want to do this for anyone else?

There is no sin (except blasphemy of the Holy Spirit) that can’t be forgiven by the grace of God.

In the book of Isaiah 59:1 while giving a warning against sin, the prophet wrote: “Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear to deaf to hear you call.”

Listen, I know that it may go against how you were raised or how theology has been explained and taught to you and I get it. But I just want to share with you one last word of encouragement, when the woman caught in adultery from John 8 was brought before Jesus and they wanted to stone her because of her sin, remember what Jesus said: “Let anyone who is without sin throw the first stone.” And what does the scripture show us? That all of her accusers walked away and dropped their stones. Jesus then said to her in verse 11 “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I.”

Lets stop condemning and start praying and encouraging. I’m not saying go and buy all of her music and go to all of her shows or anything. But I am saying to pray for her and stop judging her.

If we lead more with grace, we can transform this world.

Peace be with you.

Did God really speak to Katy Perry?

I am a huge football fan.

Like really big…

Like in high school and college I would paint my face, dye my hair, and scream at the top of my lungs at the opposing teams and refs all while cheering on my home squad.

That’s just me.

So you can imagine how excited I get every year when the NFL Super Bowl comes around. It is the zenith of the season where everything comes together and everyone joins in…

Typically what I am not excited for is the half-time show. The reason why the show even exists is to draw in the casual crowd who may only be watching the game to hang out with friends.

Some years the NFL hits a home run with the musicians that they bring in. Other years its a flop of epic proportions…

This year I wasn’t too excited about who they had on stage. Now I don’t mean any hate towards Katy Perry but her music just isn’t my taste. But like any good Super Bowl party, we kept the TV’s locked in and I watched parts of her performance. I  thought she had some dope pieces in there like the huge lion or tiger that she rode in was pretty cool, and of course who can forget about the meme making “left shark” that has kept us smirking since that performance.

But what really caught my attention is what she said in an interview after the performance.

She said that God spoke to her…

And that while speaking He told her “ Don’t worry, You got this.” And then when she was about to take the field some tech told her “Don’t worry, you got this.” She then felt as if God was affirming what He said to her earlier through this tech guy.

Since then, the Christian world has gone upside down calling what she said blasphemy and that God would never speak to a heathen like her…

Now I am not here to defend Katy or even confirm that in fact it was God that spoke to her. It could have in fact been gas or someone in her monitors…

I am here to appeal to believers to hopefully create some healthy conversation about all of this.

First I don’t know whether or not God spoke to her. And honestly it’s not my place to judge. And neither is it yours. 

We all know Katy’s background. Her parents are evangelical pastors, raised her in the church and she “turned her back” (whatever that means) on Jesus to pursue this life style that glorifies the illuminati and is a servant of satan. (seriously, people say that about this girl)

But what I do know is that before her halftime performance, she tweeted out a passage of scripture from Psalm 118:24 to all 64.9 million of her followers which states: “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

That tells me that 64.9 million people may have heard from God’s word for the very first time.

That’s huge…

Now I know I may get hate and all that thrown at me on this blog because its always easier to flex muscles online than to have a healthy conversation about things but here’s what I think about all of this…

What if God did speak to her?

I mean can’t God speak to who He wants to speak to?

Didn’t He speak to a murderer in Moses?

Didn’t He use an adulterer in David?

Didn’t He call a man who was a terrorist in Saul to be His chosen messenger to the gentiles?

Before you start looking at what Katy has done, look at what the men above did before God was able to change their lives and transform them.

So if God was able to use these men, I think that He can definitely use Katy Perry.

Who knows what God is doing in her life? Who knows if God is allowing her this 64.9 million person platform to one day tell them all about how God has transformed her?

That day may or may not ever come, but I tell you one thing, I’m not giving up hope on her and neither should you. Want to know why?

Romans 5 specifically verses 6-8: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God redeemed sinners like you and me. If He can do that, why can’t He redeem Katy? I believe that He can and I will not give up hope on her and will continue to pray for her. Now I am not saying that she is the next great pastor or evangelist because I do not know, but I do know that God wants me to love her and pray for her. After all, isn’t that the mission of the gospel?

And remember, before you go judging her, get the plank out of your eye…

By the way, how does Pete Carroll NOT give the ball to Marshawn Lynch from the half yard line?

Deuces….

Identity…

What defines me?

I have asked myself this question for a while now.

I am currently in the middle of a season in life that I didn’t plan on being in and am going through some growing pains. The funny part is that this season isn’t really all that bad.

It just isn’t what I had planned…

I have spent most of my time during this season trying to seek out what it is that God is calling me to do and in the process I’ve also been trying to find out who I really am.

I’ve spent time thinking about my past….

Thinking about my future…

Thinking about my current place in life…

And what I have found out is that my identity isn’t found in a season of life. It isn’t found in a career choice, its found in who God has called me to be…

And I think that right there is where my struggle begins because sometimes, I don’t know who God is calling me to be. (That’s tweet-able)

Can you smell what I’m stepping in?

It is so hard for us to know who it is that God is calling us to be while we are in the middle of the hard parts in life. If you are a person like me, you struggle with placing who you are in your job performance, or how others feel about you.

But something clicked in me yesterday during the message yesterday and was confirmed today in God’s word. And the only way that I was able to find this out was by spending intentional time in prayer. What clicked was this…

God wants my identity to be in Him at all times no matter what…. (that’s a tweet)

I know that sounds churchy or cliche but for whatever reason, I kinda get it now and it has taken me a while to get it. Maybe its because of my stubbornness, or maybe its because of my lack of trust sometimes, but God wants me to know that I belong to Him.

I’ve always belonged to Him…

And you belong to Him….

Read Psalm 139 for some encouragement and insight into this.

So after reading that passage I want to ask you, what defines you?

“God, please bless the eyes of the one who is reading this and help them to see how much you value them and love them. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Discipline…

As I sat in the familiar chair… (You know the one. You sit in every Sunday when you attend your local worship gathering.) I expected to sing some songs, say what up to some neighbors, and hear a message from the pastor.

What I didn’t expect was to be challenged to my core.

Think about that…. (How sad is it that I was going to church and not expecting to be challenge? Anyways that’s another blog for another time.)

As our pastor was preaching he challenged the congregation to read through the book of 1 John this week. Seems simple enough right? I mean its only five chapters and I can do one a day.

Too easy right?

The issue here is not just reading the five chapters, it’s that for the past 8 Sunday’s I have felt God asking me to do something that honestly, I have been too lazy to do.

I want to do it, but I don’t. (Side note, I think Paul talks about this)

What is it that God has been asking me to do? You’re probably thinking that It has to be something difficult like…

Going on a missions trip? or Give beyond my current means right?

Well no.

He’s been telling me to get my lazy butt up in the am before my family and spend some time with Him.

Sounds simple enough right?

Wrong.

I am ashamed to admit that I am not nor have I ever been one of those people who can wake up in the am and jump into God’s word. It has always been a chore for me.

Can I get a witness on this?

Don’t get me wrong. I do read the Bible and spend time with God. However I feel that He is wanting me to do it in a different way.

And why would God want me to do something so painful like wake up before the sun is up?

Maybe because God wants me to learn discipline.

I struggle with discipline. In fact I am very undisciplined in a lot of areas in my life. (Ask my wife.)

But what I am realizing is that my struggle with discipline is due to the choices I make.  (Such as going to bed past midnight, eating junk food all of the time, etc.) And I have reaped the unfortunate results of a lack of discipline.
So what I guess I am saying is that I need more discipline in my life and God sees that too and He is using people in my life to point that out for me.

Here is a truth that I am learning in all of this: If I want to become more of who God is calling me to be, I need to sacrifice certain things and become disciplined in certain areas so that I can achieve the goals that God has for me.

Am I saying that if you don’t wake up early to spend time with God that you aren’t a good Christian?

No.

What I am saying is that God wants us to be obedient to whatever His calling looks like in our lives.

So as I sat in that seat and my pastor issued that challenge, I heard God asking me, “Are you going to do this or not? Are you going to discipline yourself to get out of bed and meet me in the quiet? Are you going to be an example to your wife and son of what is looks like to follow me? Are you going to become the leader that I want you to be? If so, this is where you have to start Andrew, this is the first step. Can you do this for Me?

And right there is where it hit me. God doesn’t want me to do this for me, He wants me to do this for Him.

God wants me to do this for Him so that I can reflect Him more. In Him disciplining me, He is forming me to be more like Him.

Jesus knew exactly what this looked like and He modeled it.

If Jesus knew that He had to deny himself to reflect God then I need to do the same. I need to be more disciplined and get my lazy butt up in the am to hear from God.

Waiting…

I have never been mistaken for being a patient person. Most of the time I am in a hurry to get to the next task, next location, or next adventure. I have never, EVER, been a fan of waiting…

I HATE waiting…

Waiting on the cable guy to show up, waiting for my name to be called at the doctors office, waiting for a pizza that takes longer than 30 minutes to arrive. You get the picture.

Patience has never been one of my strong points. It is a straight up struggle for me to wait for something to happen.

Which is why this current season of my life is rough…

I am currently in a holding pattern. I have been told by God Himself to slow down and wait… (Cue the reason for my anxiety.)

I have always been a big supporter and believer of the importance of obedience in the life of a Christ follower, and yet here I am struggling with being obedient during this season of life.

But why?

Because I need to be doing stuff, I need to be out there, I need to know that I bring something to the table.

And yet I struggle as my current job and school work, doesn’t fulfill my heart as much as being in vocational ministry does.

I know what you are thinking right now: “But Andrew, every job is a ministry.” Not when you’ve been in bible college and graduated with a degree and were told day in and day out that for five years that working in the local church is the only way to do ministry.

So I guess you can say that I am currently detoxing from that mindset and it is rough. I know that I will be ok, I know that I will get through this, but the waiting part….

Not cool bro…

Race and Prejudice…

For the past few weeks, racial issues have commanded the forefront of our media headlines.

From the issues of the owner of the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers Donald Sterlings derogatory comments about the African-American community and specifically Ervin “Magic” Johnson to Dallas Maverick’s Owner and Entrepreneur Mark Cuban stating his view, “I mean, we’re all prejudiced in one way or another. If I see a black kid in a hoodie and it’s late at night, I’m walking to the other side of the street. And if on that side of the street, there’s a guy that has tattoos all over his face — white guy, bald head, tattoos everywhere — I’m walking back to the other side of the street. And the list goes on of stereotypes that we all live up to and are fearful of. So in my businesses, I try not to be hypocritical. I know that I’m not perfect. I know that I live in a glass house, and it’s not appropriate for me to throw stones.”*1

Since this has come out, everyone who has a mouth, social media account or a blog has shared their two cents about what was said. So I figured “hey why not share what I think as well”?

In sharing my views on all of this I want to start off by sharing my ethnic background for those who aren’t aware.

I was born in Brooklyn, New York.

My dad is of Puerto Rican and Greek heritage.

My mom is of Puerto Rican, and African-American heritage.

So when you add all of this up, I am a melting pot of ethnicities.

My wife is of Caucasian and European heritage.

My son is more of a melting pot than I am…

Ok so now that we got this out, I want to say that I personally have been affected by the issue of Race and Prejudice in our culture, and the sad part about it is that my first experience of prejudice wasn’t in the public school system or the job field, it was in Bible college.

I remember when I first got to Bible college. I looked around and introduced my self to some people and for the first time in my life I received looks of confusion. People didn’t understand why I spoke the way that I did, why I acted how I acted, why I LOVED hip-hop music or why I dressed how I dressed.

I immediately realized that while I was called by God to go into ministry and learn at a Bible college, this specific one didn’t make me feel as if I belonged. There were a certain few who embraced me but for the most part I was misunderstood…

I spent five long years at a school where I was loved by few and looked at differently by many.

During my internship and after graduation I experienced this prejudice more and more, especially at the churches that I served at.

I remember a lady coming up to me saying, “Wow, I just love your ethnic hair”. Really?

I also had comments like “You speak too fast, you need to slow down when you talk to people like us”. People like us…

I have been passed up on jobs because of my skin color and my background to people that I had a far superior resume and experience in that specific field.

I share all of this not to sound as if I’m complaining but to draw attention to the issue of prejudice in our churches. We hear what’s going on in the media and we scream “foul” but yet we don’t look at the plank in our own eye.

What I have learned in my years of dealing with the ignorant comments and looks of certain people, is that everyone has a prejudice and I am glad that Mark Cuban spoke out on that. If you don’t know what he said feel free to google it.

I attribute the issue of prejudice with ignorance and fear. Ignorance in the sense of not knowing or choosing to know, and fear in the sense of the fear of the unknown. We fear what we don’t know and what we don’t know is how our words and actions affect others.

So how do we fix this problem?

We get out of our “tribes” and instead we choose  to learn more about people who look different than we look.

Notice how I used the word choose. I say that because this goes against everything that we feel and have been raised to feel. We’ve been raised to stick with our own and appreciate our own but we haven’t been raised to learn about the next man.

A friend of mine used to use the phrase “Birds of a feather flock together”. This is a mindset that Christ followers have to break.

If the issues of race and prejudice are going to change in our culture, it first has to change in the church.

Galatians 3:28:(NLT)

“28 There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

 

(*1 quote credited to (credit to http://espn.go.com/dallas/nba/story/_/id/10968237/mark-cuban-dallas-mavericks-discusses-own-prejudices-how-handles-them)

Peace…

I don’t know about you but I can use some of that in my life right now. Let me explain…

I have had a variety of life changing activity occur in the past three months.

1. My lead pastor left the church where I serve as Family pastor.

2. My son was born.

3. I turned 30.

I know that these don’t sound like a big deal but in my schedule it has been.

Between taking on extra responsibilities at our church, caring after my new born son who I am head over heels in love with, and hitting the big three-oh my life has gotten a bit out of whack.

For example: my mind is currently thinking about our Christmas series, Christmas eve service, potential plans for Seminary, and other life changing decisions that my wife and I are working through right now. So when I say that I can use some peace, I really mean it.

Peace is something that we all strive for and desire. That’s why I am excited that it is the Advent season and that during this time of year I am able to focus on peace, the peace which comes straight from God. He being the author of peace has given us peace through the birth of His Son.

In this hectic season of life I am grateful that I can cling to passages like Philippians 4:6-7 which says “6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.”

This passage is a reminder that if I take all of my concerns and fears and present them to God in prayer and thank Him for all that He has already done, that I will then experience His peace.

I am thankful that I can seek this peace that I desire and find it in Him.

What about you? What do you do to find peace during this season of life?

Hope…

This week began the Advent season. Advent is a time of celebration for those who belong to Jesus. It is a season of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. It is when we step back from all of the commercialism that life has to offer and we truly meditate on what it meant for God to send His Son to us. I am thrilled that God did this for me and that Jesus is in my heart but I’ve always struggled with the meaning of hope

Is hope the same thing as want?

A lot of the time the things that I want are the same things that I hope I get.

For example, I hope that I can get some new clothes for Christmas. I also want  new clothes for Christmas. So I am a little bit confused I guess as to what the true definition of hope really is. My concern is that most of us get the word hope confused with the word want. Some of us might not see the wrong in this but when we think of what we want, it is typically something that benefits us as an individual and I don’t think that’s what hope really means. I’m not saying that having hope can’t bless us but what I am saying is that I don’t want us to hope in things that are that… Just things.

So to help clarify my confusion, I did what any normal person would do, I looked up the word hope in the dictionary and here’s what I got. Hope : to want something to happen or be true and think that it could happen or be true. 

So that’s what hope is?

To want something to happen or be true and to think that it can happen or be true? I don’t think that’s the best or only way to define what hope is though. I think that hope is more than that. I think that hope has to come with a promise. Such as if someone makes a promise to you, that should give you hope that it may come to pass. 

Like the time when I was in third grade and I wanted a pair of Reebok Pumps and my dad told me that if I got 3 E’s on my report card that he would get them for me. I ended up getting the E’s and my dad honored his promise to me.

I also think about the Israelites and the promises that God gave to them especially the one in Isaiah 9:6 which says:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

After this promise was given they waited in eager expectation for a King to come and rescue them from bondage. How amazing it was that God honored His words and brought us Jesus, who is the true hope of the world.

What about you? Any struggles with the word hope? I’d love to hear about it.

The big 3-0…

“Col 3:1-4  Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.”

So I turned 30 years old last week.

I can’t believe that I wrote that sentence.

Turning 30 years old may not seem to be a big deal to some people but for me it is. You see my 20’s were amazing. It started when I found Jesus which has transformed everything about me. I then went to bible college which has shaped me into the man of God that I am today. I also had tons of great experiences with people that I wouldn’t change for anything. I then met my wife and began an amazing marriage, and I traveled all over the country. It’s safe to say that my 20’s were great to me.

Now I find myself at 30 and I feel like now is time for me to grow up. While my 20’s were about finding who I am and pursuing every opportunity that came my way, my 30’s have to be about chasing my dreams and carving out my niche in life.

So as I begin my 30’s I am beginning to understand why so many people believe that life really does begin at 30. I have a new title that has been added to my name. The title of Father. I have a beautiful son who I am head over heels in love and who has shaped me so much already. I also have a deep desire to encourage people on a daily basis.

My 20’s were a blessing and they helped shape who I am today, but my 30’s will not only continue to shape me but will also shape my marriage with my wife and the life of our son. That to me is very intimidating… Not only am I responsible for my life but I am now responsible for the lives of others.

It’s times like this when I lean on the above passage of scripture to encourage me to know that as long as I keep my eyes set on Jesus I will be lead through this life not by myself, but with Him. Doing life with Jesus is a big encouragement and blessing, one that I find strength and hope in.

Any one else share in this same struggle or have a similar one?