Exhortations…

In the Dominican we were having a conversation at the dinner table about what makes people do what they do. Lori allred mentioned to me that we usually display reciprocal traits. Or to put it more plainly…We love others, how we want to be loved.

I laughed and said, so I am always patting people on the back because I am looking for one myself?? We just chuckled and the conversation moved on.

She does not know me well enough to realize that I wasn’t offended by where the conversation turned. On the contrary, I probably do resemble that remark. It got me to thinking about what makes me who I am.

In the past eight years there has been a lot of self introspection. A lot of looking back trying to learn. Not becuase I want to focus on the past. But only becuase I do not want to repeat it.

I want to preface what i am about to say by noting that we are all accountable for our own actions. We have predispositions and quirks of character that are based on past experiences, yet in the end it is we who choose how we let those manifest. I do believe without much self reflection and prayer you are more likely to simply go in the direction you are pushed.

It is no secret that my dad and I never had the relationship either of us wanted. There was this power struggle that never seemed to stop. He had this idea of who he wanted me to be. But I was never interested in that. In my early twenties pool had came along and I was enamored by the glamour of living life on the road. With taking off and seeing how far I could go.

I wanted to see how far I could fly.

It was a huge thorn in his side and we had many arguments about it. He couldn’t stand the choices I was making and to he honest some of them were simply to spite him. But I did have this gift. I could play pool. I asked him many times… why dad, why would God give me this gift if he didnt want me to use it?

He could not answer that.

All he could see was the pool room and the trappings that came along with it.

I wanted to show him that for me it was totally different. Playing pool for me was like creating a work of art. To look out over the table and just know how it was all going to play out. I could literally see where each of the balls would go before I even made the first shot. It was a powerful feeling coming to the table and knowing that you were in control. Knowing your opponent could not win unless you faltered.

I was really good at something, and everyone seemed to be enamored by that fact but him. I desperately fought for his approval through the game of pool that I never got.

I mean he tried. He really did. He came to see me a few times the year before he died. But it was always with a sense of caution. Never letting on to me whether he was pleased or not. I know the lifestyle I was leading and one of a gambler was one he despised. I know the way I went about trying to get his attention was the wrong way.

His approval. I wanted it so bad. But I wanted it my way. On my terms. That pat on the back telling me I was good. Telling me that I was worthy of his love.

By the time he got sick it was all such a mess. Yes I had come back to work for him and I am grateful for that, but it was still out of sorts. All the junk was still there. It never really ever seemed to get resolved. I guess that is why I seem to write about him so much.

Maybe I do still reach out to him with my writing looking for that validation that I never got. Maybe it is what drives me.

But now everything is different. As a Christian I have a new Father who has a new plan for my life. A perfect one. But sometimes I want to show Him i can do it my way, and it doesn’t work. I am sure I frustrate Him at times.

But His grace. Oh how sweet it is. His mercy of who I am blows my mind. He loves me anyways.

Unlike my earthly father, I know God’s love is perfect. I do not have to strive to show Him in some alternate way. I just need to do as I am told and follow His will. Not because He doesn’t care about my gifts or talents or abilities. But because He knows what is best for me. He knows how to use them best if only I will trust Him with them.

I know why I started to write.

I was looking for that pat on the back that I never got.

But now God is calling. He is asking me to give it to Him. To use my strengths for His glory. In times and places that others need my encouragement.

People tell me I have a way with words. People tell me I should write a book. People tell me i should be something more than just a salesman.

But if I go a seeking their attention in the same twisted way that I did my fathers then it will never work.

I have to give my gifts and talents and abilities to God and let Him steer the ship of my life. And when the time is right, and when He feels like I am ready to accept the responsibility that comes along with it, He will bless them. In His way. What that looks like only He knows.

It may be a book one day. It might just be that I can finally be the role model that my kids need me to be. His plans for my life may be grandiose or they may just be simple. Whatever it looks like, it will always be better with Him at the healm of the story.

I have found the love of God. I cannot explain how good He is to me even

when I do not deserve it. I understand now to rest in Him is the only pathway to peace.

What that looks like in my life is to submit myself and my gifts at His altar and let Him handle the rest.

Moments of Mercy…

I came to Christ seven years ago and what a journey it has been. When I get out of whack I know it is when God is trying to teach me something.

There have been times in the past few years…when I have looked at this world through judgmental eyes. When I have put people in boxes of unforgiveness.

God has been dealing with me a lot about it this year.

Making me realize the depth of my own sinfulness. Even now. O wretched man that I am.

But it’s all to teach a valuable lesson. To grow I must see how gracious and merciful God has been in my life, so I can share that with others.

God is sovereign. He either allows or appoints every interaction in our lives. I realize now that He could have allowed things to go one way or another many times.

There is a moment God has been bringing to my mind lately. It is nothing I am proud of, or really even want to share. But God has laid it on my heart. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

It was seventeen years ago, and in the darkest days of my life. After the death of my father, my family had been broken. But instead of finding solace in them or God…I chose to go out and deal with it on my own. I took off chasing a dream of becoming a professional pool player, but the biggest part of it was escaping the reality of the pain I was in.

During that time I had gotten involved with some pretty unsavory characters. For the longest I was the guy that would never take anything to “help” my game. But one night after playing twenty hours straight a guy offered me adderal, a stimulant, to help keep me awake. It wasn’t long before that turned into doing other speed pills and then cocaine. Within a few months I was not only doing drugs, I was selling them.

Was I some thug or gangster??? Of course not. But I knew enough people, in enough places that lived the party lifestyle to pay my way and survive. And to finance my own growing problem.

It is funny when you are “in the life” you don’t even see the problem with having a $100 a day cocaine habit.

There was this one night that I can remember very vividly. It was the closest I ever came to going to jail for a life-altering period of time.

I was at a 24 hour pool room and it is 4:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and wanted to get back to my apartment down by Cumberland Mall.

I go to my car and pull to the edge of the parking lot. Pulling out was a four lane highway which is Wade-Green road. In the dead of night there was but one single car in either direction. I waited patiently as it approached…

A sheriff.

When I saw him it literally took my breath away. I turned down the radio to gather my thoughts. He looked me right in the eyes as he drove by. I felt his concern.

It just so happens in the trunk of my car is a shoe box full of cocaine. The icing on the cake is the .380 I have under the seat. I knew that if I got pulled over it was a certainty I was going to jail for a very long time.

As a matter of fact I already knew the sentence.

10 years mandatory for being pulled over with a gun and a trafficking charge hung in the balance.

My mind raced. Paranoid. Delusional. I knew that I couldn’t just sit there. I had to go. With no cars on the road there is no legitimate reason I would not pull out.

So I waited… at least as long as I thought I could. Until he was almost out of sight down the straightaway.

And then I eased out, and to the right. Because of the police presence on that stretch, I used to call it “the gauntlet.” It was about two miles between the place and the interstate.

I was about to run the gauntlet for the next ten years of my life.

Slowly I accelerated and got up to the speed limit. I could still see him in my horizon, so I slowed to about 5 mph below the limit as I made my way toward the interstate.

But somehow I was still gaining on him. By this time my heart began to beat out of my chest.

What have I done! Surely he’s going to pull me over. Every inch of the road seemed like a mile.

Moments crawled by it seemed as little by little I got closer to I-75. And the more I closed in on him.

If the interstate would have been another 1000 feet I would have overtaken him.

And then it happened.

At the exact same second that I put on my blinker…. he slammed on his brakes. I mean exactly. A perfectly precise moment where he couldn’t possibly have thought my action was a reaction to his.

There he was stopped all alone on the bridge going over I-75 on Wade Green waiting for me.

It was a moment I will remember for a lifetime.

Time had stopped… but my car kept going. The perfect move had been made at the perfect time. I glided to the right and down the ramp.

It was then that I saw him kick it. And I did too. I got up to seventy and got down the interstate as fast as I could. Fully expecting at any time to see those blue lights in my mirror. I knew he was coming. Judgment was coming.

It was what I deserved.

But it never happened. I never saw him again. I got home safely and it was over.

So why on earth would I ever share such a story?

I think God has been bringing it back to my mind. That moment of mercy that I received.

In His sovereignty still in control of even a worthless sinner’s destiny. He gave me mercy that night instead of judgment.

But the reality is.

Only God has that right.

Only He can decide who deserves judgment. Certainly he has tools to accomplish these things. That sheriff had every right to pull me over and throw me in jail.

But God showed me mercy.

And in the span of eternity and God’s time I am only five seconds away from the man I was that night.

Yes as a Christian I am now a new creation!! I am born again.

But without God’s goodness, and His grace, and His mercy of this sinful condition I am in, I am nothing.

So I have been prayerfully asking God…why do you keep bringing me back to this moment??

I believe the answer is simple.

It’s not because He wants me to dwell on it. Or to live in the past. But it’s a lesson I just can’t seem to learn any other way. So He took me back to a moment I don’t ever want to remember, let alone talk about it to make me understand one simple truth.

I do not need your judgment.

I do not need your snide comments about people that are lost and dying and going to Hell.

Not from you.

Give them grace and mercy and forgiveness to become something better than even they could ever imagine.

Tell them about my goodness.

And love them, like I loved you.

When you were unloveable.

Romans 5:8

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died fMercy…

I came to Christ seven years ago and what a journey it has been. When I get out of whack I know it is when God is trying to teach me something.

There have been times in the past few years…when I have looked at this world through judgmental eyes. When I have put people in boxes of unforgiveness.

God has been dealing with me a lot about it this year.

Making me realize the depth of my own sinfulness. Even now. O wretched man that I am.

But it’s all to teach a valuable lesson. To grow I must see how gracious and merciful God has been in my life, so I can share that with others.

God is sovereign. He either allows or appoints every interaction in our lives. I realize now that He could have allowed things to go one way or another many times.

There is a moment God has been bringing to my mind lately. It is nothing I am proud of, or really even want to share. But God has laid it on my heart. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

It was seventeen years ago, and in the darkest days of my life. After the death of my father, my family had been broken. But instead of finding solace in them or God…I chose to go out and deal with it on my own. I took off chasing a dream of becoming a professional pool player, but the biggest part of it was escaping the reality of the pain I was in.

During that time I had gotten involved with some pretty unsavory characters. For the longest I was the guy that would never take anything to “help” my game. But one night after playing twenty hours straight a guy offered me adderal, a stimulant, to help keep me awake. It wasn’t long before that turned into doing other speed pills and then cocaine. Within a few months I was not only doing drugs, I was selling them.

Was I some thug or gangster??? Of course not. But I knew enough people, in enough places that lived the party lifestyle to pay my way and survive. And to finance my own growing problem.

It is funny when you are “in the life” you don’t even see the problem with having a $100 a day cocaine habit.

There was this one night that I can remember very vividly. It was the closest I ever came to going to jail for a life-altering period of time.

I was at a 24 hour pool room and it is 4:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and wanted to get back to my apartment down by Cumberland Mall.

I go to my car and pull to the edge of the parking lot. Pulling out was a four lane highway which is Wade-Green road. In the dead of night there was but one single car in either direction. I waited patiently as it approached…

A sheriff.

When I saw him it literally took my breath away. I turned down the radio to gather my thoughts. He looked me right in the eyes as he drove by. I felt his concern.

It just so happens in the trunk of my car is a shoe box full of cocaine. The icing on the cake is the .380 I have under the seat. I knew that if I got pulled over it was a certainty I was going to jail for a very long time.

As a matter of fact I already knew the sentence.

10 years mandatory for being pulled over with a gun and a trafficking charge hung in the balance.

My mind raced. Paranoid. Delusional. I knew that I couldn’t just sit there. I had to go. With no cars on the road there is no legitimate reason I would not pull out.

So I waited… at least as long as I thought I could. Until he was almost out of sight down the straightaway.

And then I eased out, and to the right. Because of the police presence on that stretch, I used to call it “the gauntlet.” It was about two miles between the place and the interstate.

I was about to run the gauntlet for the next ten years of my life.

Slowly I accelerated and got up to the speed limit. I could still see him in my horizon, so I slowed to about 5 mph below the limit as I made my way toward the interstate.

But somehow I was still gaining on him. By this time my heart began to beat out of my chest.

What have I done! Surely he’s going to pull me over. Every inch of the road seemed like a mile.

Moments crawled by it seemed as little by little I got closer to I-75. And the more I closed in on him.

If the interstate would have been another 1000 feet I would have overtaken him.

And then it happened.

At the exact same second that I put on my blinker…. he slammed on his brakes. I mean exactly. A perfectly precise moment where he couldn’t possibly have thought my action was a reaction to his.

There he was stopped all alone on the bridge going over I-75 on Wade Green waiting for me.

It was a moment I will remember for a lifetime.

Time had stopped… but my car kept going. The perfect move had been made at the perfect time. I glided to the right and down the ramp.

It was then that I saw him kick it. And I did too. I got up to seventy and got down the interstate as fast as I could. Fully expecting at any time to see those blue lights in my mirror. I knew he was coming. Judgment was coming.

It was what I deserved.

But it never happened. I never saw him again. I got home safely and it was over.

So why on earth would I ever share such a story?

I think God has been bringing it back to my mind. That moment of mercy that I received.

In His sovereignty still in control of even a worthless sinner’s destiny. He gave me mercy that night instead of judgment.

But the reality is.

Only God has that right.

Only He can decide who deserves judgment. Certainly he has tools to accomplish these things. That sheriff had every right to pull me over and throw me in jail.

But God showed me mercy.

And in the span of eternity and God’s time I am only five seconds away from the man I was that night.

Yes as a Christian I am now a new creation!! I am born again.

But without God’s goodness, and His grace, and His mercy of this sinful condition I am in, I am nothing.

So I have been prayerfully asking God…why do you keep bringing me back to this moment??

I believe the answer is simple.

It’s not because He wants me to dwell on it. Or to live in the past. But it’s a lesson I just can’t seem to learn any other way. So He took me back to a moment I don’t ever want to remember, let alone talk about it to make me understand one simple truth.

I do not need your judgment.

I do not need your snide comments about people that are lost and dying and going to Hell.

Not from you.

Give them grace and mercy and forgiveness to become something better than even they could ever imagine.

Tell them about my goodness.

And love them, like I loved you.

When you were unloveable.

Romans 5:8

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

I came to Christ seven years ago and what a journey it has been. When I get out of whack I know it is when God is trying to teach me something.

There have been times in the past few years…when I have looked at this world through judgmental eyes. When I have put people in boxes of unforgiveness.

God has been dealing with me a lot about it this year.

Making me realize the depth of my own sinfulness. Even now. O wretched man that I am.

But it’s all to teach a valuable lesson. To grow I must see how gracious and merciful God has been in my life, so I can share that with others.

God is sovereign. He either allows or appoints every interaction in our lives. I realize now that He could have allowed things to go one way or another many times.

There is a moment God has been bringing to my mind lately. It is nothing I am proud of, or really even want to share. But God has laid it on my heart. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

It was seventeen years ago, and in the darkest days of my life. After the death of my father, my family had been broken. But instead of finding solace in them or God…I chose to go out and deal with it on my own. I took off chasing a dream of becoming a professional pool player, but the biggest part of it was escaping the reality of the pain I was in.

During that time I had gotten involved with some pretty unsavory characters. For the longest I was the guy that would never take anything to “help” my game. But one night after playing twenty hours straight a guy offered me adderal, a stimulant, to help keep me awake. It wasn’t long before that turned into doing other speed pills and then cocaine. Within a few months I was not only doing drugs, I was selling them.

Was I some thug or gangster??? Of course not. But I knew enough people, in enough places that lived the party lifestyle to pay my way and survive. And to finance my own growing problem.

It is funny when you are “in the life” you don’t even see the problem with having a $100 a day cocaine habit.

There was this one night that I can remember very vividly. It was the closest I ever came to going to jail for a life-altering period of time.

I was at a 24 hour pool room and it is 4:30 in the morning. I was exhausted and wanted to get back to my apartment down by Cumberland Mall.

I go to my car and pull to the edge of the parking lot. Pulling out was a four lane highway which is Wade-Green road. In the dead of night there was but one single car in either direction. I waited patiently as it approached…

A sheriff.

When I saw him it literally took my breath away. I turned down the radio to gather my thoughts. He looked me right in the eyes as he drove by. I felt his concern.

It just so happens in the trunk of my car is a shoe box full of cocaine. The icing on the cake is the .380 I have under the seat. I knew that if I got pulled over it was a certainty I was going to jail for a very long time.

As a matter of fact I already knew the sentence.

10 years mandatory for being pulled over with a gun and a trafficking charge hung in the balance.

My mind raced. Paranoid. Delusional. I knew that I couldn’t just sit there. I had to go. With no cars on the road there is no legitimate reason I would not pull out.

So I waited… at least as long as I thought I could. Until he was almost out of sight down the straightaway.

And then I eased out, and to the right. Because of the police presence on that stretch, I used to call it “the gauntlet.” It was about two miles between the place and the interstate.

I was about to run the gauntlet for the next ten years of my life.

Slowly I accelerated and got up to the speed limit. I could still see him in my horizon, so I slowed to about 5 mph below the limit as I made my way toward the interstate.

But somehow I was still gaining on him. By this time my heart began to beat out of my chest.

What have I done! Surely he’s going to pull me over. Every inch of the road seemed like a mile.

Moments crawled by it seemed as little by little I got closer to I-75. And the more I closed in on him.

If the interstate would have been another 1000 feet I would have overtaken him.

And then it happened.

At the exact same second that I put on my blinker…. he slammed on his brakes. I mean exactly. A perfectly precise moment where he couldn’t possibly have thought my action was a reaction to his.

There he was stopped all alone on the bridge going over I-75 on Wade Green waiting for me.

It was a moment I will remember for a lifetime.

Time had stopped… but my car kept going. The perfect move had been made at the perfect time. I glided to the right and down the ramp.

It was then that I saw him kick it. And I did too. I got up to seventy and got down the interstate as fast as I could. Fully expecting at any time to see those blue lights in my mirror. I knew he was coming. Judgment was coming.

It was what I deserved.

But it never happened. I never saw him again. I got home safely and it was over.

So why on earth would I ever share such a story?

I think God has been bringing it back to my mind. That moment of mercy that I received.

In His sovereignty still in control of even a worthless sinner’s destiny. He gave me mercy that night instead of judgment.

But the reality is.

Only God has that right.

Only He can decide who deserves judgment. Certainly he has tools to accomplish these things. That sheriff had every right to pull me over and throw me in jail.

But God showed me mercy.

And in the span of eternity and God’s time I am only five seconds away from the man I was that night.

Yes as a Christian I am now a new creation!! I am born again.

But without God’s goodness, and His grace, and His mercy of this sinful condition I am in, I am nothing.

So I have been prayerfully asking God…why do you keep bringing me back to this moment??

I believe the answer is simple.

It’s not because He wants me to dwell on it. Or to live in the past. But it’s a lesson I just can’t seem to learn any other way. So He took me back to a moment I don’t ever want to remember, let alone talk about it to make me understand one simple truth.

I do not need your judgment.

I do not need your snide comments about people that are lost and dying and going to Hell.

Not from you.

Give them grace and mercy and forgiveness to become something better than even they could ever imagine.

Tell them about my goodness.

And love them, like I loved you.

When you were unloveable.

Romans 5:8

8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

Why do we go??

We are preparing to go back to the DR on October 20. Here is my journal from our last trip. Sorry for the length but I felt led to share.

Dominican Field Report…03/25- 03/31, 2017

This was a small group but packed with people that were mission-minded. Phil Bennett was the team leader. It’s hard to hide his heart for God. He is always searching for the right way to speak the truth in love. His wife Kim accompanies us also. She has a boisterous personality and makes friends instantly with anyone she meets. Tori is their daughter and it is her first trip. She seems to be up to the task at hand. Todd Parker is here again, and it is also his third trip. You can see and feel the love he has for this place. Andrew Mantha is here for the third time, as well as myself. He is a young man around twenty years old. We have become good friends, and have developed this Paul/Timothy sort of relationship. He has a heart for missions. I can definitely see him on the mission field one day. Rounding out the group is Tim Claprood. It is his first trip. I don’t know much about him but he is willing to serve and that’s all we can ask of anyone.

While we are partnered with a few churches in the D.R., mainly Pastor Braulio’s, Pastor Samuel’s and Pastor Israel’s, our contact and go to person here is a lady named Milca. She choreograph’s every place we will go. Every move we make this week will be set in motion by her management and Gods direction.

DAY 1
We arrive on Saturday to Milca and her friend Fanny waiting for us at the airport. We collect our things and hop onto the bus. About an hour away we get to our room and get settled in. We take a swim and then go to dinner. We are all tired from the day of travel.

Day 2

Sunday was filled with worship. First we traveled to pastor Braulio’s church. It is a very large church in the center of Santo Domingo. We spent two hours there listening to singing and then get a short message by the grandson of Braulio. Braulio is usually here but on this trip he happens to be in Israel. Afterwards we ate lunch that they provided. Every meal here is given with love and care. Home-cooked and served by our gracious hosts.

In the afternoon we rested for awhile before going to pastor Samuel’s church in the evening. He always accompanies us in the field so we like to attend his service and worship with him. They also fix a meal for us that is basically like a Sunday dinner at grandmas house.

Day 3

Monday is when the real work begins. We start the day at 7 am with breakfast and leave the hotel at 8. Today our team leader, Phil falls ill with a stomach bug. It’s his fifth mission here, and this would be his first “sick day”. It happens and there is nothing you can do about it. It requires that you stay back in order not to hinder the mission. On the way we always stop at Braulio’s church as a rally point. Phil asks me to come up with a small devotional so I read from 1 Corinthians 3:5-7.

My point was simple. We are the workers but it is God that gives the increase. He is the one that does the real work in the hearts and the lives of the people we talk to. This is a mission where some plant, some water, but God gives the increase. Give Him the glory always.

Around 9 we take off to the field and the medical mission. It’s about a 30-45 minute bus ride into the other side of the city. This mission is basically in a downtown area that is densely populated. Setting up we begin with spiritual stations where we evangelize and are the first contact for the people. After that they go to “triage” where their physical needs are assessed and then they wait to see the doctor. After the doctor the last stage would be the pharmacy where we dispense the meds we have brought with us. At all stations is usually a translator. They are invaluable to us as they are our connection to the people. Mostly they are students at the local college who have a heart for missions.

With Phil down, Todd steps into the leadership position. So he has to wander and fill in as needed. Tim gets assigned to work with me to begin. He has no experience in evangelism, so it seemed like a good idea to partner up so he could see how it goes. After about an hour he went and began working at his own station. The work load was very heavy.

In total we saw at least fifteen at my station today. My translators name was Roudy. He was a courteous young gentlemen. You could tell he was “thinker” type and we got along well. There were a few that “said” they were Christian, but I had my doubts. We shared the gospel and prayed with them anyways. There was one whom was a verified Christian. She wore it well… Proclaiming confidence in the fact that Jesus was in her heart and was the source of her salvation. There were three “memorable” meetings for me today. The first was a 65 year old man that thought he had “missed his chance” with the gospel. We assured him that in Gods eyes it was never too late. A man called at the eleventh hour got to see the same heaven as the one who accepted Christ earlier in life.

The next was an older lady, I can’t remember her name. As we spoke you could see the hurt and the pain in her eyes. Her soul was hurting and you could just feel it as we talked and prayed. You could see the weight being lifted off her heart as she prayed and accepted Christ.

And then there was Beatrice. She was 23 and it was immediately noticeable that God was knocking on her heart. Her eyes were like sieves and the tears no matter how hard she tried could not be held back. My translator and I both were moved to tears by the end of our presentation. It was no doubt when I got to the end and asked did she want to receive Christ. The biggest smile then slipped across her face and broke through the tears. It is all so humbling when you see someone reach out to God in that intimate moment.

It never gets old.

In the afternoon the medical station runs its course and we go nearby to pastor Israel’s church to eat lunch. It is a small church but very quaint and nice. They also treat us very well. We rest and then come back around four to minister to the children of the neighborhood and to have our first of three discipleship classes. Today Todd Parker leads and when we begin only about 3 are there but then it grows to about 10-12 by the time it is over. He does a good job.

After that we begin to walk the neighborhood and invite people to the movie that starts at @6. After a few mission trips here I’m beginning to learn that Dominican time is always relative, lol.

After the first day in the field we were exhausted. As always we came back to Pastor Braulios church for dinner where we are well fed. Every meal is home cooked to perfection. From there a short bus ride back to the hotel where we go to the room and head straight to bed.

Day 4

Tuesday morning I get up about five and read my bible. Today I will be teaching lesson two at the discipleship and need to study John 4. I will be teaching about the woman at the well and her new found faith. Breakfast at seven and then out the door at eight. We arrive and I am blessed with the assignment of being in a spiritual station again. Today I work with Nathaly. She’s a sweet college student with a nice temperament and the ability to “fix” a lot of what I’m saying. The team of translators are the backbone of the trip. Without them we are useless, and they are imperative to the mission.

At the beginning it’s always hard till you find your rhythm. Then you sort of figure out what “works” with each translator. The right way to say things so that the idea you are presenting to them never gets lost. Things such as my testimony and things of that nature may come out wrong if not spoken carefully. Of course the gospel is the gospel and the translators know it well. But it is best to start each session with small talk and to generally get to know the people. They are very perceptive and can detect when you are just putting a “sales pitch” on them. You must find a way to connect and care about each of them as they come through. One way or another you have to show them the love of Christ. Even though by the end of the morning you will probably forget there names. I always remember the faces.

I never forget them.

Today was a little tougher. I believe I saw between 12-15. I lost count. I don’t like to keep up with numbers here too much. Yes it is nice to know that you are winning souls to Christ but I don’t want it to become some sort of vain competition where all I focus on are numbers. A few were Christians already. We had two that just said plain no. Amazingly enough I had a 94 year old woman come through my station today. She was with her 67 year old daughter. Honestly I could see the daughter heart melting as I told her about Jesus. How much He loved us no matter what. But I didn’t think her mom was paying too much attention. But I kept going anyways. By the end of my presentation she had begin to sit up in her chair. When I ask did she want to accept Christ she said… Yes!! Yes!! It was an amazing moment.

But today’s moment for me was the last guy. His name was Henri’. When he walked around the corner honestly I almost got up. I hadn’t moved out of my chair in over three or four hours. I was tired. I was worn out. Honestly it felt like I had nothing more to give. And he looked so intimidating. Looking at him I could see the hurt and the anger in his eyes. He had this pain about him. And it rested in the body of a 32 year old man that was 6’3 250 lbs of rock and muscle. Arms tatted from years of life on the street.

I wasn’t judging him, but his physical presence was very overwhelming.

But God told me… look at his eyes and nothing else. In there I could see so much pain. So much anger. So much heartbreak. So i sat back down.

We asked him why he was there and he said he had never been to a doctor and wanted to get his blood pressure checked. Then we asked if we could talk to him about God. Sometime I ask the people about God to see what they know about Jesus and what direction I should head into. As we talked I began to share with him my story. About being lost most of my life and looking for answers and things to fill my heart in all the wrong places.

It was then that he asked… but why would a good God let bad things happen to good people?? His father had passed away last year. I knew that this was a divine meeting arranged in heaven.

I told him about the story of my dad. How he was the best guy I knew and that he had went to the doctor and they had given him 3 months to live. How in my mind back then that it seemed so hard to swallow.

But that when I got saved and accepted Christ that God slowly began to give me understanding about how our time is limited. And no matter how much time God gives us here it is still short in light of eternity. Also I shared with him even though I miss my dad I will see him again in heaven one day.

There are some days in life that seem meaningless. There are days when I don’t know exactly where I’m supposed to be. On this day and at this time there was no doubt whatsoever that I was right where God wanted me to be. I’m so thankful I didn’t shy away from the opportunity to talk to this young man.

Further and further along I could see God breaking him down. Just working on him and his heart getting ready for that moment in eternity we must all make a choice.

Honestly when I looked across and asked… will you accept Christ today?? I wasn’t for sure if he would give in. Yes he was visually shaken but that doesn’t mean they will accept. I know the spiritual battle that he was going through… as your flesh screams to run while your heart cries out to Jesus.

A broken smile came across his face as he said… yes I will accept Christ today. So we prayed an then he prayed and confessed with his mouth and asked Jesus to come into his heart. To save him from his sin.

It was an awesome experience. One that I will never forget.

After that we went to lunch again at Israel’s church. It was good and quick and we got to rest for awhile. The translators always come up with games and fun things to do. They laugh and enjoy themselves and are always singing and having fun.

At four we go back and I teach the lesson 2 of the discipleship. It goes well.

By this time it’s time to get back on the bus and head back to Braulio’s for dinner. Tonight there is more traffic and it takes us about an hour and a half to get back. Once again it’s great food. We enjoy and laugh and eat and just hang for a while. Then head back to the room. Todd comes over and we spend the next few hours talking and cutting up.

Day 5

Wed morning comes quick. Up at six, read my bible a little. Then off to breakfast. Before we know it we are back in the field again. Today I start in the spiritual station, and Marcelle is my translator. She is sweet, and I take a moment to take her through “my style” . It occurred to me it would be a good idea to let her know what I would expect from her before we began.

Also I like to reassure each translator that “my words” or “her words” are really not that important as much as the faith that we speak with them. I tell her if God moves… you go. Talk all you need or lead a prayer. Never wait on me if you feel God guiding you in another direction.

We only saw a few but the one this morning that I remember was Julian. He was 27 years old and seemed like he wasn’t listening. But the more we talked the more I could see God and the Holy Spirit working on the inside. Working on his heart. Some people might think they have a “poker face”… but the eyes never lie. Whoever came up with the saying, the eyes are the windows of the soul were absolutely correct. He accepted Christ that day.

After a few more people, Andrew and I switched roles and I moved to the pharmacy. I was working with a Dominican lady name “Fanny” I didn’t have a translator so it was a little difficult. We tried to make small talk in between people but the few words I know in Spanish only take me so far. From her demeanor and her actions you can tell Fanny is a nurturing soul. She’s dispenses the medicine with a smile and a warm heart. It doesn’t take long to realize I’m pretty useless back here today. But it’s ok. It’s been a rather eventful week.

Soon it was lunch time. Once again we headed to pastor Israel’s church. Today we had a long lunch break. Maybe it just felt that way because it was nearing the end of the work week. One more discipleship lesson and meeting with the kids and we were pretty much done.

Today I challenged Sammie, pastor Samuel’s son to a arm wrestling match. Just a friendly competition. We went at it awhile before we called it a draw. It was fun. I’m not sure his age…17-18? But it seems like he grows about a foot each trip. I’m thinking he’s about 6’3 this time! He has also been helping to translate. His English is getting pretty good.

As lunch is going on I’m pretty sure Israel is evangelizing to a kid that has came in off the street, or praying for him, or something. He’s usually doing something of that nature but you don’t notice. He’s not a “look at me, look at me” kind of person. He is very laid back, yet when the work comes in he just steps up and does it.

Before we leave I thank him for allowing us to use his church as our lunch hangout. I ask him for a picture to show him respect for what he’s done for the mission.

Heading back to the site Tory and I lead the children’s activity for the day, as Andrew teaches the final discipleship lesson…. well Tory lead and shared the story of Peter while I handed out beads, lol. But it was good. I liked the way that she asked questions as she went along to the children. It was an easy way to get an idea how much of the material was sinking in.

Soon enough the lessons were over and it was time for the movie to begin. At 6 each night they had a movie about Jesus, and then they would present the gospel after. Because of our distance and the travel we had ahead of us, we would leave as it started and begin the journey back. Each night we would enjoy dinner at the church and then head back to the hotel.

Tonight there was a certain somberness at the dinner. We all realize the work is over. It’s tonight that it hits me how hard this work must be for the translators. So many teams that come and go. Of course you don’t make friends with everyone…but some you do. In the intimate setting of sharing the gospel you become close. They open themselves up to us each time… and then we are gone.

It can’t be easy.

I admire them for their dedication to the cause of Christ. Nicole, Joseph, Ray, Nathaly, Star, Tana, Elias, the list of people I have worked with is many. I smile when I think of them. I know there are too many to list here. I love them all. They are truly my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Day 6

Thursday is more a less a “free day” we go to old town and hangout. Santo Domingo is a very interesting place to visit. So many sites to see we choose a few. Also we do some shopping. We eat lunch at a local restaurant and I get the fish. It is awesome. You can’t hide the taste of freshness!

Leaving we head back to the room. We spend a few hours hanging out before suiting up for the last hoorah. One final dinner together as a team. Of course the meal is great as always. Milca always finds somebody to sing happy birthday to, and have a cake.. lol. After that we share a few testimonies about what God has done this week through, and for us.

Roudy stands and gives his testimony and he begins to talk about Beatrice. As soon as he begins I can feel the emotions welling up inside. His testimony was confirmation for me of just how real this moment was in her life. He had been in contact with her and she was telling him in the days since we had met how much God was already beginning to change her. It was amazing to hear about it from another angle. From how he saw it. It made it come alive that much more for me.

Day 7

Today is another travel day… as i sit at the airport and wait on the plane I begin to reconcile all the things I have been a part of this week. My natural mind begins to wonder about all the ones that have accepted Christ. We pointed them in the direction of the church we were planting as well as Pastor Israel’s.

I worry about them.

But it is then that I felt the Holy Spirit whisper softly in my ear… The ones that truly accept belong to me. I will lead, guide, and direct them to where they need to go. You did what I asked you to do on this mission… you shared the love and hope of Jesus Christ.

Now leave the rest up to me..

The Law Of The Harvest…

Last Monday I was asked to step into the manager’s office at Pugmire Ford. It was my first week and I had sold three cars. It seemed like things were going pretty well. But by the look on the his face I knew something was up. He said, we have to let you go man, corporate policy. You didn’t pass the background check. They found some things on your driving record from way back that they can’t get over.

It is Ford’s policy.

I sat in stunned silence as my friend finished. I knew he had put in a good word for me. I know he did his best to get around it. There were no hard feelings as I gathered my stuff and exited the building. Basically I was just in shock.

A deep sense of sadness began to wash over me. Regret and shame began their invasion on the peace my soul. They asked for a seven year driving report. I was happy to supply it considering it was one page with basically my name on it. Insurance on the car I own is $70 a month for full coverage. Why would I think it would be a problem on theirs?? Why would I go back over 10 years to dredge up things I thought no longer applied?

But, here I am. The wave of yesteryear has washed over me. The law of the harvest has came into effect. I have reaped what I have sown and it is painful. The feeling of letting down every one around me is overwhelming. That I have to write or talk about this is even more so. For two weeks I have been getting calls and texts about coming to see me and buying a car.

But really this post is not about all that.

It is about another law. A greater law found in moments like these. Where life pushes you into the boundaries of the flesh and the spirit and they begin to collide. Something greater that supersedes the law of the harvest.

The law of grace and mercy.

It is the law in my heart that says, I know the man that you were yesterday, I know the man you are today, and I know the man you will be tomorrow. I knew every mistake you would ever make… and I still died for you. I love you.

Not that you could go on sinning.
Not that these moments in your life wouldn’t exist.
They have to because you have earned them.

The law of the harvest is real. You do reap what you sow according to how God sees fit. A past is a heavy burden to carry at times, but not impossible. I will never be totally free of it till I step onto the other side.

But it is certainly nothing when compared to the weight of the sin that Jesus carried on my behalf. On behalf of us all.

It’s funny I don’t feel like the person that they read about in their reports. I know I have weaknesses and faults and God only knows how many times I have failed Him in the past eight years.

But He is pushing me to become something more through Him. And I believe the key to becoming the man He needs me to be is found in moments like these.

Moments where the flesh and the spirit clash. Moments where it seems hopeless and you feel lost. Moments where the flesh yearns for ways to console itself above all else.

But today I choose the spirit. I choose to walk in the truth and light instead of the lie that the devil whispers in my ear.

Yes I know who I used to be.
But now I know who I am.

I have to rest in that and let God take care of it from here.

2 Corinthians 12:9

9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

I am Adopted…

And if you are a Christian, you are adopted too. You are adopted into the brotherhood of Christ.

(Romans 8:15-16

15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: )

So when you made the decision to follow Him… all else becomes a secondary characteristic.

Yes we have cultural differences, and we do worship differently. But those things should not be our bond.

What unites us is our faith in one king.

What should define us… is our love for Jesus Christ. A brotherhood that cannot be broken. Of course it can be strained at times. We are all human and face growing pains. But our bond is one that supersedes color, or should. When you choose Jesus you give up the right to say “white” pride. Or black “pride”.

There is only red pride.

Because we have been washed in the power of the blood. Jesus should become more important than skin tones. He didn’t come and die and wash your sin away to make you feel good about being white or black or red or yellow or anything in between.

The Bible tells us time and time again. There is no good thing in this flesh… so why on earth should we have pride in anything that comes with it??

(Acts 10:34-35

34 Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: 35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. )

So if I have no pride in this flesh then obviously I have no “right” to treat anyone any certain way, except how Jesus would tell me to.

Are we perfect.. of course not! I’m sure we have all done things in ignorance in the past. The point is now… today. We have the power of the Holy Spirit within us to change the world.

We are fighting a war that simply cannot be won with hate. It is only the love of Christ that can change the hearts of men…

I know. Because He changed mine.

Matthew 22:36-39

36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38 This is the first and great commandment.
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

1 Corinthians 1:10

10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Psalm 133:1

1 Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

The New Religion…

Atheism is on the rise. For millenia men have debated on who God was. On His attributes. But times they are a changing. What once was an obvious assumption… life cannot come from nothingness, has been challenged by the elite minded.

Today a college professor is getting ready for class with the agenda of dismantling your child’s faith. They are preparing themselves to challenge all things theism and bully them into believing how silly it is for them to believe in God. They can’t wait to hit them with a zinger that will try and rock the foundations of their faith.

I mean all the smart people are atheists right??

For a large part of my life I would say my beliefs were agnostic. I know the “arguments” well. Even now I don’t suppose to have all the answers.

But I have seen one thing for certain. There are blind followers on both sides. People who follow simply because they think it is what they are supposed to do.

Dear Christian it is time. It is time to get the head and the heart on the same page. Do you know why it is that you belive what you believe?? Have you even read this book that you put your faith in? Do you actually sit down and study about things that have eternal impact?

There is a fine line between debate, and being argumentative, and simply standing up for the truth. I get that. It will be hard to manage the course. It will be hard to use the wisdom of God in your life without getting puffed up about it. It has happened to me. God has dealt with it.

But we have to engage where God leads us. We have to be open to those opportunities.

The war is on. They are trying to disassemble our faith with their reason and we must stand up to them. Why?? Because the sheep are watching. I have been in discussions where maybe not the person I was talking to but someone else would message me and ask me to share my testimony. To share my faith with them.

In eight years as a Christian I have seen what the world, and satan wants to do. He wants to shut me up at all costs. He wants to get me involved in secret sins to neutralize my witness. He wants me to get lost in meaningless conversations, instead of engaging in places where Christ leads.

I have failed so much in these last few years… but I will not shut up. I will not give up on telling the world about Jesus any way possible. Every day I will tell them about your goodness. I will tell them about your grace and mercy of my sinful condition.

Dear Christian we are in a war that means to only silence us. Prepare yourself and your loved ones for the battle ahead. As the knowledge of the world grows, our knowledge of the WORD should grow right alongside of it.

It is our only defense.

Ecclesiastes 7:12

12 For wisdom is a defence, and money is a defence: but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom giveth life to them that have it.

2 Timothy 2:24-26

24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will.

Finding Love…

From a philosophical standpoint… if there was 100% certain evidence that God was there according to science. Then what would be the point of the game of life??

True love is a choice. When you choose to love someone it is the greatest gift they can receive. It is the kind of love our creator seeks from us.

If God was based only on certain evidence that we “see”…we would be bound by the “evidence” to “love” our creator by reason alone. It would hardly be a choice.

God seeks those who choose to love Him based on faith.

#apologetics #christian #faithoverreason

Where is your faith rooted…

I was talking with a guy the other day when out of the blue he blatantly informed me that the Bible was a sham. He then went on to tell me about how a lot of different things had happened through history. He even went back as far back as the third century and then this and that…it all sounded very logical. He made it all sound so right.

I said well that’s nice. So where did you get all this information?? He said oh I read it in a book. It’s groundbreaking really… And then he proceeded to give me the author and title.

I said, oh so you want to discredit my book with your book?

He said huh???

I said well that’s what your doing. You have put your faith in a book and I have put my faith in one. And not only that…but I have put my faith in the author of it. My author is God. Yours is a man.

We all gather our faith from somewhere. We all put our trust in something. But in the end there is only one credible source.

What is your faith in today??

A small miracle…

So yesterday while my wife was shopping Karis dropped her “blanky”. This satin blanket has been through makenna and now Karis over the last few years. The emotions and experiences attached to that blanket were too numerous to name. Although it is just a material object, it holds great sentimental value to us. Our greatest fear because it was so ragged, would be that if anyone found it they would simply, throw it away.

Summer had traced her steps and came to the realization that it had to have been dropped in Target. They were shopping to buy the kids a toy with their Christmas money around 4. So we called the store and there was no sign of it.

When I got home I was informed of everything that had happened. We ate dinner and I guess I thought… well maybe this isn’t a bad thing. Karis will be 3 in April and it’s probably time to ween her off of it anyway.

Well around eight that tune had changed. Karis was heartbroken!! I thought well if I am going to have to listen to her cry all night the least I could do would be to go back down there and take a look.

So off I went. When I got there I looked through every buggy in the parking lot. Then I walked inside and talked to customer service. No luck. So I text summer and asked her to which department’s had she been in.

Electronics, toys, shoes, and make-up. Up and down the aisles of those departments I roamed for the next 30 minutes. Back and forth and up and down… no dice.

I was about ready to give up when I thought… you know I have not prayed about this. So I stopped, closed my eyes right there in the store and said a little prayer.

“Father… I know it is a small thing, I know it is not a big deal deal in the scheme of life… but I am asking you for your help in finding this blanket. And I am asking for your help in Jesus name, amen. “

I had pretty much made my rounds again and I was thinking about going back to customer service and offering a reward. Maybe it would turn up in the next few days…But as I was walking past the card section I saw the return cart for the kids stuff. Something told me to turn and go that way. I walked down that aisle to the lady and looked at her stuff.. nope she hadn’t seen it, either. By now it was near closing time and most of the associates were working putting stuff back on the shelfs.

But the shoe department was right there and I thought why not… and would you believe it as I walked around the corner, there it was!!!

Almost five hours later. Sitting on the ground in plain view!!

I will not lie and say I didn’t get all choked up.

Sometimes we are so worried about the big things in life we forget that our father in heaven cares about and loves us in all things. He doesn’t mind us asking for help, even with the small stuff!!

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