Though the Rain Comes…

At some point in our walk as Christians, we may have heard the phrase “praise God in the midst of the storm,” but have we ever thought about thanking Him in that same situation?

It’s a grey, rainy day in Bavaria, and there are few things more miserable to me than having to ride a bike in the rain. So of course, that’s what I had to do today. At the beginning of the ride, the drops were falling very lightly and only here and there. Ten minutes later, however, it started to drizzle consistently, the sky producing heavier drops. I started to do something I’ve done before: Ask Jesus to stop the rain. It’s worked in the past, so I thought “why not now?” Well, this time, it didn’t work. But I did not dwell on what God didn’t do. Instead, I thought about how perhaps the rain was necessary for the plants and trees and crops around me. So I thanked God for the very rain I had tried to drive away minutes earlier. And you know what happened in that moment?

The rain stopped.

I found this interesting, so I asked Jesus to explain. I felt as if He was saying “David, sometimes you have to meet Me where I’m at so you can see things through My lens. I promise I’m never far during these times.”
The rest of the bike ride I kept dwelling on that, and I guess I came to the conclusion that thankfulness is for good and bad. Like, sure, we can worship God when things get bad, but can we genuinely thank Him during the storms? The Bible says to enter His courts with thanksgiving. I honestly believe that if our first action when coming to the Lord is to thank Him, we’ll see the fruits in a totally refreshing way. Our thankfulness can move mountains as much as our faith can.

So wherever you are right now, whatever you’re going through, just thank Him. And I don’t mean just to find the good in your life and thank Him for that, but lump it all together. Say “Lord, this difficulty that I’m going through really sucks, but thank You for trusting me to get through it. Thank You for seeing my strengths and weaknesses and making them all stronger.” Or whatever else. Just be honest with the Lord and totally thankful and watch your own attitude change before the skies even clear.

~David

Thoughts On: Kingdom Mentality

It’s funny how God works. Earlier this morning, as I was out pulling weeds in the garden, I kept thinking to myself “I haven’t written a blog post this week, and I said I was going to make the ‘Thoughts on’ thing weekly. But what should I even write about?” Well, I was just having a conversation about “Kingdom mentality,” and got inspired to write this. So look no further than this post for my thoughts on Kingdom mentality, ladies and gents.

For many years, I was raised as a “realist,” which is something that happens to most people. As a young child, you’re encouraged to be whatever you like. You want to be a firefighter? A wrestler? An astronaut? Sure thing, kid! Dream big!
But then you reach an age where you have to “grow up.” Suddenly, mommy and daddy and teacher go from saying “dream big” to “think realistically.” We’re eventually told that perhaps we should think smaller, that maybe our deepest desires and dreams aren’t so realistic because they’re so difficult to achieve, or that they won’t bring us enough money. This is most commonly seen with artistically-inclined individuals. The “starving artist” mindset is all too common, to the point where artists sometimes loathe when they are asked “so what are you studying?” I’ve had those moments as well, most commonly within my own family. But what does God say about dreaming big?

Jesus’ teachings are the biggest reason I allow myself to have big dreams and follow my passions. He said that to inherit the Kingdom of God, we have to be like the little children, the little children who delight in anything and everything and are overtaken by their imagination, the little children who never worry about the future, thinking that their parents will be there to guide them. The reality of this world forces them to abandon all these things as they get older.

Now, before I proceed, I want to make one thing clear in all of this: I am not saying that the reality of this world isn’t a real reality. The purpose of this post is to distinguish between the world’s reality and God’s reality. That being said, let’s continue.

Jesus also said “you have not because you ask not.” Now, while this doesn’t imply that God is a magical genie granting every wish we ask Him for, it does imply that we can ask God for anything. As we fall in love with God, we begin to desire the very things that are on His heart, and out of this love we can ask for anything and see it happen.
This is why I have met about a hundred people who do see anything and everything happen. People who have fallen so deeply in love with God that they see their dreams of the sick being healed, the deaf hearing, the blind seeing, the dead coming back to life, and many more being realized. Their relationship with God has inspired them to dream bigger than they ever thought possible. Through God they have have seen greatness happen in the lives of strangers and loved ones alike while also seeing radical greatness come to fruition in their own lives.

So how does one go from just hoping they’ll just be able to make it through an eight-hour work day to seeing the dead raised? The key is a complete and utter shift in perspective.

One more thing Jesus told us to do was to “take up your cross and follow Me.” Every day we must make a conscious effort to crucify our fleshly desires, yes, but along with that we must also crucify our worldly mindset. What good is it to be a new creation in Christ if we’re still thinking like the old person? Jesus’ mentality was not of this world, He did the things He saw His Father doing. And wouldn’t you know it, I guess God was healing tons of people, because that’s just what Jesus did.

See, He didn’t go around to the sick people and say “aw man, dude, that sucks. I’ll be praying for you, and I hope God does something cool in your life.” No way! Jesus lived out Gandhi’s famous quote thousands of years before he was even born: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Jesus taught us to bring Heaven to Earth, and this is the essence of the Kingdom mentality.

It is a daily struggle of mine to think in this way. To change my thoughts from “I hope this ends up happening” to saying “this WILL happen!” Negativity is a contagious disease, and I want no part of that sickness. In the conversation I mentioned earlier, I was called out for saying “I’m broke.” Though I said it partially in jest, it was pointed out to me that saying such a thing is not “Kingdom thinking.” The Kingdom of God is a treasure we are all entitled to. It is our inheritance as sons and daughters of God. But the best part is that the inheritance isn’t ours once we die, it’s ours right at this moment! Jesus died for us, making the inheritance possible through our adoption. So now the question is, if the “Kingdom of God is at hand” like Jesus said (literally at hand; it’s at our fingertips!), and we have the God-given authority to do as Jesus did and even greater things, why do we waste our time allowing our thoughts to wander through the wasteland of worldly reality?

If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading, and I hope this has helped in some way. I just want to encourage you today to ditch the mentality of “that’s impossible” in favor of God’s “I’m possible.” I want to encourage you to fall so madly in love with God that when you’re in line at Wal-Mart, you’re thanking God for every individual around you because you know He loves them. I pray you would have supernatural encounters in your everyday life. Add some fun to your world by ushering in the Kingdom of God wherever worldly mindsets reign. Be the change you want to see in this world by partnering with God and flooding your surroundings with love.

Love wins.
~David

Anthem of Bravery

I’ve decided that Bethel Live’s new song, You Make Me Brave, is my anthem for this current season of my life.

As my time in Germany nears its end, I find myself uncertain about the future. What’s going to happen when I move back to Florida? How quickly will I be able to find a job? Will I be working multiple jobs? How soon will I have a car? How much time will I be able to spend with my girlfriend? Will I be able to go back to school? Will I be able to afford my own place? Will I be able to get involved with a church?
All these questions and more swirl around my head like an angry, buzzing bee, demanding my attention while I try to run and hide. The truth is, uncertainty scares me.

But God.

God has not given me a spirit of fear. And the more I listen to the song You Make Me Brave, the less powerful my fear becomes. I sing and proclaim these words over myself, with holy chills all over:
You make me brave,
You make me brave;
You call me from the shore into the waves

I adore the ocean as a poetic device; it’s just so perfect. We’ve only explored 5% of our oceans. Just for comparison, we have better maps of the moon and Mars than of our own ocean floor. The waters are full of uncertainty and terrifying things. Seas can be calm, or they can be fierce and powerful, dragging you down and stealing the very air your body holds so precious.

But God.

Jesus not only calmed the waters, He walked on them. He has full authority over the things we fear most. But what’s even crazier than that is that He gives us the same authority. Peter tried to walk on the water towards Jesus, but he doubted and fell in. Jesus immediately pulled him out. We are Peter. We try this crazy, impossible task of walking on the water, of trying to meet Jesus where He is, but we sink. When we sink, however, Jesus rushes to pull us out; He doesn’t stay where He is, He meets us where we are once we’ve made the effort. He rescues us and says “don’t doubt! Let’s try it again.”
That’s the beauty of Jesus. All we need to do is show initiative, and He joyful joins us the rest of the way.

In this season, He’s calling me from the comfort of the shore out into the uncertain ocean. I’m probably going to sink a few times. I’ll probably want to swim back to the shore. I’ll probably complain about how cold and unrelenting the water is.

But God.

He knows my heart, and He loves me anyway. I know He’ll be there to pull me to safety and say “come, let’s do it together.”

He makes me brave.

Thoughts on: Worship

(I’m starting a series called “Thoughts on,” and hope to be posting one weekly. If you have any topics you’d wish for me to share my thoughts on, please leave them in the comments. Thanks!)

Yesterday, during an insanely long Skype session with my girlfriend, she commented on the sound of the birds singing in the background, saying, “aw, listen to the birdies! Singing songs to Jesus.” I added to that with a thought about how birds worship God just by being; by doing what they were created to do.

It got me thinking enough to sit here and write a blog post about it. God takes delight in sweet little birds chirping every minute of the daylight, building their nests, feeding their young, and flying about. Their instinctual actions alone are worship unto their Creator. But let’s think on a grander scale: All of nature, not just birds, worship God daily. In the book of Luke, chapter 19, verse 40, Jesus tells the ones asking him to silence the shouts of worship surrounding Him “I tell you, if these keep silent, the very stones will cry out.” This verse leads me down a couple of trails:

1) Every atom of creation, from living to nonliving, to planets, stars, and the universe itself, all longs to worship its Creator. My thought is that simply by existing and performing the tasks God assigned to them, they worship Him in their splendor. Perhaps I’m taking creative liberty with this, since it’s not specifically written in the Bible, but God has created everything to have a purpose; He doesn’t make useless things. Everything created worships its Creator by simply doing what it does naturally (although I’d contest this with carnivorous species, as I don’t believe death was in God’s original plan for the world, but that’s a different topic). Humans are different though. We’re different in every aspect.
Humans don’t necessarily worship just by being, instead we’ve been given the choice of worshiping. For this reason, our worship is sweeter to our Father than any other creature’s, even the angels. We so move His heart, and nothing else in all of creation can claim that honor. This leads me to…

2) Creation longs to worship as we do. As I read Luke 19:40, a strange thought comes to my mind: “Rocks can’t cry out! Why would Jesus say such a thing?” Then I get to wondering if the Author of truth wasn’t just speaking the truth. Perhaps the stones would cry out in worship if no human on earth did. Maybe not just the stones, but every other single thing in the universe would as well. Perhaps this thought elevates us as human beings too much (although I don’t see how you can get any higher than being a “son of God,” which in itself elevates us to a mind-blowing place of honor), but I am of the opinion that stones, animals, stars, galaxies and every subatomic particle in existences longs to worship God as we do, but they are forced to hold back due to our place among created things. How the mountains and forests and nebulae long to shout with joy and praise to the Lord of all, but are required to remain silent so long as there is but one human whose thoughts are for the Lord, whose heart beats for Him, whose breath praises He who made it all.

No matter what the truth is, we can know this truth: God delights in the praises of His people. Never underestimate or put off your worship time. You can move His heart more powerfully than even the most beautiful angel. In fact, you move His heart so much that He left the paradise of Heaven to live among us and give Himself as a sacrifice so that we may delight in Him for all of eternity.

You are loved.
~David

Buddy Jesus

When I became a Christian, I was only nine years old; I hardly knew basic multiplication, but somehow I was convinced I knew I wanted to be a Christian.

I’ll be honest, I had no clue of Who God is, and I in no way understood the severity of Christ’s sacrifice for me. But I’d been going to church for a few months at that point and it seemed like the right thing to do. I immediately became an apologist, looking for ways to defend my faith and learning as much as I could about evolution and false religions so I could stand up to them. I “learned” plenty (“learned” in quotations because I no longer view Jack Chick as a credible source) about all these things, but failed to learn more about God. It didn’t help that I was part of a legalistic Hispanic church. For many years I talked about God’s love, all while fearing that I would go to Hell for the slightest mistake.

I left that church around my junior year of high school and started attending a more modern one; a church that truly wanted you to “come as you are.” I loved the fresh approach and made it my home church. In my first year of college, I found a group in the area that met on Tuesday nights comprised of people from all over the Miami area who came solely to pour their hearts out to God in worship. There was normally a short teaching after the music, but that took me a while to get into; it was just too radical for what I’d known all my life.

Grace.
Radical love.
Forgiveness.
The power of God.

The music drew me back every week, and in due time I found myself taking notes during the teachings and beginning to apply these new ideas to my life. The idea that God loved us all no matter what we’ve done or who we are. The idea that His grace is bigger than I could ever comprehend. The idea that we need to forgive as God forgives. The idea that God still heals today.

It’s like these people were reading the Bible or something.

My mind was being blown on a weekly basis, and I was coming to realize that I had put God in a box my whole Christian life. And, as the saying goes, “if you put God in a box, it doesn’t matter how big your box is, you’ve got a small God.” My God had been a spiteful, angry, vindictive God, ready to strike us down with a lightning bolt should we sin. If I fell asleep while praying, I’d fall on my face first thing in the morning to beg forgiveness.

Jesus wasn’t the Lover of my soul, He was just an angry dude I followed so I wouldn’t go to Hell.

My Tuesday night group, which eventually became a church I attended regularly, opened my eyes to the true beauty of God, and how unspeakably amazing He is.
Now, I’ll be honest again: Since I arrived in Germany, I’ve been lazy with my relationship with the Lord. I’ve neglected quiet times, worship times, prayer times, reading times, and tons of other things I used to do with Him.

Yesterday, I’d had enough. I made a playlist of worship music/ambient music to pray with and just sat on the floor to pour my heart out. This is where I have to admit that sometimes I still struggle with solemn, sad-faced Jesus. I knew I’d been slacking in my relationship and I would picture Him as disappointed any time I thought of it. But when I sat down to spend time with Him yesterday, within those first few seconds, an image formed itself in my mind:
Jesus was sitting across from me on the floor, Indian-style, and He was smiling. I heard Him say “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Tears came instantly, as my heart could not contain the understanding of the unmerited grace that had just been shown to me. He wasn’t angry. He wasn’t sad. He didn’t look like the depressing, helpless Jesus on the cross we see in churches. No, instead He was smiling an incredibly warm and welcoming smile, the kind that lets you know you’re loved and not the least bit in trouble.

I said all that to make this point: God is in love with you. He absolutely adores you. If you haven’t spent some time with Him lately, it’s never too late. He’s just waiting to hang out with His favorite person (that’s you!).

“God is not the way you think He is, He’s the way He is!” – Robin McMillan

The Return

A couple of weeks back, my laptop, which was given to me last summer and was already several years old, gave out on me. Thank God for tax refunds, as now I have a brand new one sitting in my lap. I may now resume blogging.

During my computer-less days, I re-read The Great Gatsby, which inspired me to write. So I wrote some poems. Nothing golden, really, but something at least. But now I’m ready to begin a writing process again. Here’s to the near future!

Also, in non-computer-related news, I’m excited to announce that I’m off to Paris for the first time next week. My posting may be delayed if I can’t find consistent WiFi, but we can hope, right?

Blessings,
David