No Holds Barred

Recently, I was recommended to listen to the album Beyond Control by Kings Kaleidoscope. While the album is very different from what I’m used to, what stood out to me was the transparency of the artists. These are not just songs written to be played on Christian radios and churches. They’re songs written straight from the hearts of the artist. The lyrics display their triumphs and struggles they’re dealing with as Christian men. This song is displayed so well in their song Prayer. While the lyrics are a bit controversial, I truly admire the transparency and how the artist displays how he feels in his heart with no holds barred. It really inspired me and caused me to ask myself, am I open to others with how I really feel or what I’m going through? 

Truth is, a lot of times, I fail to be really be tranparent with others about how I feel or what I’m going through. I’ll often give the answer that I’m supposed to give or the answer people expect to hear from me. While doing this may protect my reputation and how people think of me, I sell myself short of the freedom that comes with truly expressing yourself. It’s like being locked in a cage for a long period of time and when someone finally gives you the keys to your long awaited freedom, you reject it. Its what I sell myself short of and I’m sure I’m not the only one. So when we choose to stay silent when given a chance to speak, what do we really sell our selves short of?

1. Your Freedom

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another, that you may be healed…” – James 5:16 

Transparency and confession brings freedom as it is the start of the healing process. Holding back our struggles and not confessing how we feel or what we’ve been going through only keeps you in bondage and enslaved to your struggles. Transparency jump starts the healing process. The more you express yourself, the less you will feel alone. Which leads me to the next point…

2. Bringing Others to their Freedom

 “…The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” – James 5:16

I love people and I am always humbled and honored when presented with the opportunity to make an impact on another person’s life. By being transparent, you have a chance to make an impact on someone’s life, through your weakness. I guarantee you, you are not the only one struggling or going through what you are going through and you are not the only one who feels who you feel. Someone else either has or still is going through it. Your transparency may trigger them to be transparent as well and will help them to understand that they’re not alone in their struggles. You and that other person can go through the healing process together and help and pray each other through. As the verse above states, prayer has “great POWER.” Your transparency has the power not only to lead yourself, but others to their freedom. 

 Transparency will kill the loneliness that you feel. It will kill off the lie that you’re in this alone. You’re not. There are people out there who have gone through or are still going through the same thing. I experienced this during this past winter. I met with a group of men in a small group where we discussed some struggles that we deal with as men. While I will not disclose what was said in the group, I will express that I admitted some struggles that I was pretty ashamed of. While I thought admitting this would change their perception of me, I was hit with something I did not expect. Instead of hearing advice on how to deal with this struggle, I saw a bunch of men nod in agreement that they struggle with the same thing. I express to you enough how comforting it was to know that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. There was other men, young and old, who were fighting the same battle I was and we all knew that the first step we would have to take to get to our freedom was by being transparent about what we were going through. 

For those reading, I don’t know what you’re going through and what you may be holding back, but I can tell you from my own experience, there is no greater feeling than being able to have someone or multiple people that you can truly express how you feel and what you are going through. Transparency can help bring you to your freedom and by you being, you may be able to bring someone else to their freedom as well. Don’t stay in a cage while the keys are in your hands. Your freedom is waiting.

Eyes Up

It was a cloudy, cool Saturday afternoon. I walked down the steps of Westchester County Center after walking across the stage of graduation to receive my Bachelor’s Degree. I searched for my family through a sea of black and gold only to see them waiting for me at the bottom with smiles across their faces. Part of the reason why I worked so hard these past four years was to make them proud and I was so happy I was able to do it for them. We took a ton of photos together and decided on a place to eat after. As they all walked ahead, I stood behind and looked back. I looked back and saw everyone else taking photos as my family and I were. But as  I looked back, I was reminded of everything I went through leading up to this point. The entire four years was rough but this last year by far was the toughest I had to face. I thought of the heartbreak, the lack of motivation and focus I had to fight through to get here. My fall semester of my senior year, I maxed out and took 18 credits so that I would be able to graduate on time. After losing track of a class and the assignments that were given, I ended up failing a class at a time where I needed to pass everything.  The only way I was going to be able to graduate this coming May, was if I overloaded and took 20 credits the next semester, which I ended up doing. On top of that, I had plans to go on a trip to Israel last December that would’ve not only helped reduce the number of credits I needed to take during my last semester, but would give me the opportunity to visit the Holy Land that I read about daily in my Bible.  But those plans were ruined when my tuition rose to the point where my family and I struggled to pay it and all the money we had raised for Israel had to go towards tuition. My graduation was in doubt. I became overwhelmed to the point where I got on my knees and asked God, why? Why was this all happening at a time where I desperately needed things to go right. Then I was reminded of this verse:

“As long as he sought the Lord, God gave him success.” – 2 Chronicles 26:5 NIV

This verse was already familiar to me. It was a verse I had memorized since the very first day I came across it. But it had become so crucial during this season. The verse comes from the story of Uzziah. Uzziah was a man who became king at sixteen years old and ended up having a fifty-two year reign. The Bible says that he “did what was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Chronicles 26:4 NKJV) and says as long as he sought God, He would give him success and make him prosper. Of course later on, Uzziah becomes prideful and loses everything for it but when he did seek God and did what was right in His sight, God indeed gave him success. He gave Uzziah fame, fortune and an a great amount of strength just as long as Uzziah continued to seek him.
Reading this verse reminded me, that as long as I sought God, He would lead me to success. But what this verse doesn’t do is that it doesn’t guarantee that the road to success would be easy. There would need to be some battles fought to get there. Uzziah was only sixteen years old when he became king. I cannot imagine the things the battles he must have gone through in order to finally to receive prosperity promised from God. For me, the battles became so overwhelming that there were times I doubted if God was going to come through for me or not. I questioned why He had me in such a predicament at such a crucial time. But then I remembered his promise that as long as I sought Him, He would lead me to success. Success not defined by my terms but by His terms. As difficult as it was, I continued to seek God through the battles and fights I faced, and He gave me the energy and endurance to push through and on May 7th, 2016 I finally graduated even when the odds were not in my favor. Despite all the battles I had to face, I believe I got to this achievement because I sought God through it all.
For those reading this, I don’t know what you may going through. I don’t know what battles you might be facing. But what I do know is that God guarantees success to those who seek Him. His success may not be exactly what we consider success but I promise you that it is so much greater. Continue to seek Him despite how bad the battles look and He will equip you with everything that you need to push through and ultimately lead you to success. During my final semester, I had a conversation with a professor and she told me this:
“Circumstances chance. People change. Life changes. But Jesus and His Word never change. Fix your eyes on Him and you will stand strong through it all.”
The battles you might be facing today might be rough and if you haven’t faced any yet, I guarantee you that some will come your way. But remember that as long as you seek after God, He will get you what you need to stand strong through the battles you face and ultimately, will bring you to success. Success not defined by our terms, but a greater success that is defined by His terms. Keep your eye up and on Him and He will lead you to where you need to be.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

My favorite time of the year has to be the holiday season. We get three holidays in a little over month! It can’t get better than that! But best holiday out of the three, at least in my opinion, has to be Christmas. I just love seeing all the decorations, lights, as well as catching the “25 Days of Christmas” special on ABC Family! I especially love Christmas music! I can listen to it all day. Once it hits December 1st, my radio is always tuned to 106.7 FM as they play Christmas music all day, everyday until Christmas. And of course I could never forget why we even celebrate Christmas. I am forever grateful for God’s ultimate gift of Jesus to our world. For without him, we’d be nothing and would have nothing to celebrate. Christmas is also a time where we can reflect on our lives. It is a time where we reflect and evaluate our lives, asking ourselves “Am I where I want to be right now?” It’s a time where we reflect on our past, look to the future and evaluate our present. Its when we look at our Past, Future, and Present. Sound familiar? I thought so!

Ghost of Christmas Past

Christmas is a time where can reflect on our past. And for some of us, if not most of us, our past can be haunting. It can be difficult to ignore or even forget. It’s the elephant in the room. It is like a ghost that no one else knows it’s there but you. Although the past is behind us, we should not doubt it’s power. For the past has the power to destroy your future. This can only happen if we allow it.

One example of this comes way back, only weeks before the first Christmas. It comes from a man named Zechariah.

In the time of Herod king of Judea there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron.Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.” – Luke 1:5-7

According to Scripture, both Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “righteous in the sight of God.” They followed all the commandments and for the most part, did not do anything wrong. But as obedient and faithful as they were, they were not able to receive the one thing they truly desired: a child. But then this happened:

“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth,15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:11-17

An angel appears to Zechariah and tells him that despite their very old age and their countless attempts at having a child, they were finally going to have a child. Zechariah responds just like the way any one of us would:

“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” – Luke 1:18

The key phrase here is “How can I be sure of this?” In that question lies doubt. And that doubt formed from the past. Zechariah and Elizabeth have had so many past failed attempts. At their old age, who knows how many times they could have failed. The older they got, the more they lost their hope. So when they got the news from the angel that they were going to have a child, the past of their failed attempts came to haunt them and they couldn’t help but question the angel. Their past made them question God’s will for their lives.

This Christmas, I know there are a countless number of broken hearts out there. Hearts broken because of past failures, past hurts, past hardships and past sin. Christmas is a just a time where they are just reminded of it. It’s a time where they are forced to reflect on a past we try so hard to forget but it always seems to haunt us, especially around Christmas. Although the past is behind us, it has the power to break our future. More specifically, it can affect God’s plan for our lives.

Our haunting past can cause us to doubt God’s plan for our future. It happened to Zechariah. His past failed attempts of having a child caused him to doubt what God had in store for him. We can look at our past and lose our hope. We think to ourselves, if God never blessed us then, why would he bless us now? But God has a timing for everything. He may not had given what we wanted in the past but that doesn’t mean he will not bless you in the future. If it’s a part of his will of course. God’s timing is perfect because he is perfect and he knows you better than you know yourself.  He will bless you when he feels if necessary. So don’t lose hope. The best thing we can do is praise him in the process.

“Trust in the Lordwith all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding”

Proverbs 3:5 

Another aspect of a haunting past can be our past hurts and hardships. There have many times we have been hurt, let down or even heartbroken. Every time we are reminded of it, it breaks us even more and causes to lose sight of what really matters. We do not know why heartbreak happens and I’m sure all of us would like to go without it, but we have to remember that no matter what happens, God is always in control. He has a reason for everything. It may have taken heartbreak to get us out of wrong relationships. It may have taken hurt to build up your character. God knows all things. And that brokenness you are feeling, will all go away once you give it all to God. He is the only one capable enough to hold your heart.

“Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken. ” – Psalm 55:22

A haunting past can not consist of past hurts, failures and hardships, but it can also consist of reminders of past sin. I myself can attest to this. When I think of my past sin, I can’t help but think of myself as unworthy. I can’t help but look at God’s blessings on my life and ask him, why? What did I ever do to even deserve an ounce of what you’ve given me? But it’s then, when he reminds me of grace. He reminds me that although I failed him, he still loves me, he still has a plan for me and my failures has never affected the calling he has for my life. Past sin can cause us to doubt God’s will for our lives. We think of ourselves as unworthy and think God will never come through for us after what we’ve done. But he can! I know because he did it to me! And if he did it for me, surely he can do it for you! There’s no grading system for sin. It’s all the same! And God’s grace washes every bit of it. So the next time your past sin tries to haunt you, remind yourselves that God already took care of it. Because with sincere repentance comes instant forgiveness. As long as you are sincere about forgiveness, God will give you forgiveness.

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

Our past has the power to hold us back from the future. It has the power to cause us to doubt God’s will and plan for our lives. Although our past may be a dark place, it is now a part of your testimony. It has no hold on you unless you let it. You have the power to overcome the haunting of the past. When you see it creeping up on you, remind yourself God’s will goes beyond it. This Christmas, as you are bound to reflect on the past, don’t be ashamed of it but look at it as how much God has brought you through. This Christmas, break the Ghost of Christmas Past and embrace God’s grace and where he will take you too.

 

Relaunch

re·launch

[v. ree-lawnch, –lahnchn. ree-lawnch, -lahnch]

              1.  to launch again; start or get going.
 
 
 
Why start a blog post with the definition of relaunch? Because it is an appropriate word to describe my life at this moment. The year of 2013 has been the hardest years that I can remember. I am exhausted and feel like I have never been farther from God. My spiritual fuel meter has been running on E. Yet God has still kept me. Yet he still has blessed me. Yet he still continues to open doors for me. But ask me have how I have shown gratitude for this? By simply taking the blessings and not giving God any glory.
This is by far one of the hardest posts I have ever had to write. I had thoughts on retiring Footprints In Concrete for good. How can I ever speak, preach or teach anyone on anything when I don’t even have my life together? How could I ever tell someone to persistently pray when I can go a week without even saying a five minute prayer to God? How could I tell others not to be afraid of offending people when I hide the very truth that my life is based of off? It’s simple. I myself couldn’t, but God could. Because God doesn’t choose the ones equipped. He equips those he chooses.
And he equips them with the best weapon of them all:Grace.
The problem I have is that I focus too much on the things I do not do for God instead of just loving him. I focused too much on what I came up short of instead of living on grace. Instead of sinking in an ocean of grace, I started to sink in an ocean of my failures. I started to accept my blessings as if they were just coincidences because I thought of myself as unworthy of God’s bleassings. It was not until God made me realize through various messages and poeple, that I am destined to fail but my failures is what will lead me to my greatness. And that is what grace is all about. When you experience falilures to launch, grace is what helps you relaunch.
I have decided that it was time to relaunch. Time to launch again. Time to get going. Not only for this blog, but for my life. I realize now that I will experience many failures down the road but grace will always give me the ability to start over. It is never to late for Jesus to come and save the day with his grace. You are never too far into sin to escape it through grace. Instead sinking an ocean of failure, I will choose to sink in an ocean of grace. Today is the day for a relaunch!

Hope

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 NIV)

Imagine yourself in a courtroom. You are on trial because you have broken almost every law in the book. Your predicted sentence is the death penalty. The jury is shouting at the judge for your death. The judge is about to officially declare your sentence. She quiets the jury down and as she is about to slam the mallet to declare your sentence, she tells the guards, “Bring him in.” Walking through the court doors is her innocent two year old son. As tears fall down her face, she tells you “I see a hope and a future for you and I wouldn’t want to see you die when you have so much ahead of you.” Sobbing, the judge slams the mallet and declares that her innocent two year son will take the penalty for the crimes that you committed and orders him sentenced to death.

As gruesome and confusing as this story may sound, it is a true story. Not with a judge or a two year old boy but with an awe powerful, omnipotent God and his one of only perfect son. What makes this story even better is that in three days, Christ rose from the dead. He is Alive.

We have heard this story a countless number of times. In matter of fact, we have a national holiday just to commemorate it(the government will never admit to this). As many times as we’ve heard this, a lot of us do not take it as serious as it should be. A lot of us look at it as if its another fairy tale story to help us feel good. I know I have. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

You will never be able to get what Jesus did for you, unless you can actually understand why he did it and the severity of what he did. Sacrificing a son is not easy. Just think about this. Would you ever sacrifice your innocent son or daughter so a bunch of criminals can be released from their charges? Honestly speaking, I know I wouldn’t. But God did. And he did it willingly. Why? Because he loved us that much.

The Bible says that “the penalty for sin is death.” What is sin? A bad act. What is considered sin? Anything from along the lines of stealing a pencil to checking out that girl to murder. It is impossible not to sin, therefore it was impossible to avoid death. (KeyWord: Was) But Jesus changed all that. God willingly did not spare his son but allowed Jesus take up a cross and suffer one of the most brutal forms of torture known to man. Why? So you wouldn’t have to go through that. He went through that in order for you to have a chance to avoid eternal damnation. He did that because he saw a hope and a future in you. He didn’t have to. He was innocent and had no sin. We should’ve been the ones to carry that heavy cross and have steel nails pierced through us. What Jesus did wasn’t justice for he was innocent. But he threw justice out the window for one moment and sacrificed himself because he thought that we wrote something worth dying for. Because of Jesus, the cross is no longer a sign of torture. It is now a sign of hope. That my friends, is real love.

Lessons From An Ant

During my first year in college, I realized I had a problem that I never knew about, but had existed for a long time. I’m sure almost every student can stand with me in this one. The problem that I discovered in me was that was and currently am a HUGE procrastinator. All through high school, I would wait till the day before an assignment was due to take time and actually do it. I got by doing that in high school but I’m paying for it in college. In matter of fact, I actually failed a class because of it during my first semester. Just like Paul called himself the “chief” of all sinners, I can call myself the chief of procrastination. I thought procrastination was harmless, until I came across this…

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest. How long will you lie there, you sluggard? When will you get up from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.” (Proverbs 6:6-11 NIV)

When I came across this verse, I felt so convicted and felt as if I’ve failed God in this area of my life. God was merciful enough to open a door for me to even attend school yet I save everything for the last minute and just “wing” assignments. I realized that I wasn’t treasuring what I was blessed enough to receive and be entrusted with. But can procrastination in our education become the start of a severe conflict in our lives? Can there be times when we actually procrastinate God? I love the illustration that Proverbs 6 in using an ant. Whenever I drop a piece of food outdoors, within minutes I see a ton of ant working together to bring that piece of food to their home. Instead of waiting till days before the winter season, they cut to the chase and gather their provisions for have at beforehand.

It we can kill the problem of procrastination now, imagine how much better our future could be. Not only will it help our education but it can help our lives as a whole. If we just do what’s asked of us now, instead of waiting till the deadline, we can kill the deadly habit of procrastination now. Proverbs 6 says that just with a little procrastination poverty will come like a “thief” and scarcity like an “armed man.”

Not procrastinating on killing procrastination (see what I did there) will not only help our lives but our relationship with God. If we accomplish what God asks of us now, it would be harder for sin as a whole to enter our lives because we are completing the will of God exactly when he asks us to. Whether its through prayer, reading our word or just spending time with God. If we put God first and not procrastinate what he asks us to do, imagine how much stronger we would be in our faith and our love for God. Don’t procrastinate on killing procrastination. Kill it today because it has the potential to ruin your tomorrow.

Eyes on the Prize

There’s a lot of excitement in the sports world this week with the Superbowl coming up this Sunday (Feb. 3). It should be an interesting game. Football is by far one of the most exciting sports to watch. When I watch a game of football, one of the things that I pay attention to is how hard some of these players are getting hit. I can’t help but flinch when I hear the impact of some of these hits and tackles. I think I would’ve died if I had been hit even half as hard as some of these NFL players get hit. But these hits don’t phase these guys because of all the training they put themselves through. These guys spend all year working out to stay fit and condition themselves for the upcoming season. They even practice getting hit hard so when game time comes, those hits won’t phase them. What motivates them to train this hard? It’s the dream that one day they will raise that Lombardi trophy and have that big championship ring on their finger.

One of the toughest things we can ever face are times of trials. Especially for us Christians. If I can be honest with all of you, whenever times of trial occur in my life, I can sometimes catch myself questioning my faith. When I first accepted Christ into my life, I thought from then on, everything was going to be all good and dandy. I thought that as long as I walked in the will of the father, I would never be put through times of trial or suffering. This is the mindset of many believers and new believers alike. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, the Bible even tells us that there WILL be troubles:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

One person who was very well experienced with times of trial and suffering was Paul The Apostle. Paul went through from being arrested and thrown into prison to being shipwrecked a total of three times. If any of us would have gone through half the things Paul went through, we have found every reason to just give up. But Paul doesn’t do that. Why? Because he prepared himself for it and he had a motivation.

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27 NIV)

Paul knew that suffering was going to occur so he trained himself to be able to withstand it. Not saying that we should literally punch ourselves but that we should prepare ourselves. Prepare ourselves through prayer and reading the Word so when these times of trials and suffering decide to hit us hard, our faith won’t be phased by them. We need to put ourselves through “strict training” so when game time comes, we are ready.

Paul also withstood through the times of suffering because he was motivated to. You see we are not running this race we call life for a trophy or a ring. We are running this race to one day be with the Father in heaven for eternity. The reason we fight this fight is to get to the place where for the rest of eternity, we won’t have to deal with pain, sickness, heartache, etc. That’s our prize that should motivate us to keep on fighting even when we get hit hard by times of trials. When we keep our eyes on the prize, times of trial will not phase you. Suffering will become the least of or worries because we know that this season of trial is just temporary in exchange for a life in heaven that’s eternal. That’s a prize that requires strict training but will be worth it when you’re standing in front of Jesus and he will say “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” I’ll go through any kinds of suffering just to hear those words from Jesus himself.

The Force Unleashed

One of my favorite songs to worship to is “Like An Avalanche” by Hillsong United. The song just helps usher in the presence of God so well. We recently worshipped to this song at a Friday night youth  service at my church known as Generation Lit Up. Lit Up is full of passionate teens who decide to give up their Friday nights to be in the presence of God and learn more about him. As I was worshiping and singing this song, I started to really pay attention the lyrics of the song. As much as I heard the song, I had no clue why it was named “Like An Avalanche.” In my mind I started to dissect the first chorus:

“And I find myself on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche

 

Nothing compares to this love love love
Burning in my heart”

It was then when I realized what the lyrics actually meant and I immediately began to cry. Comparing grace to an avalanche sounds a little weird at first. Why is it that grace is being compared to an avalanche? The New American Oxford Dictionary states that an avalanche is “a sudden arrival or occurrence of something in overwhelming quantities. If you think of the physical stature of an avalanche, it’s when a slope of a mountain becomes so unstable that it begins to collapse taking everything in it’s path. Its one of the most destructive forces known to man.

The force of an avalanche is so strong that it destroys everything in its path. That’s exactly like God’s grace. The force of God’s grace is so strong that it will destroy everything in its path. When you become caught in the avalanche of grace, the force is so strong that it will destroy every trouble, every hurt, every insecurity, every sin, every sorrow, etc. Grace destroys that and wipes it away as if it was never there. When I realized this I began to cry because its not something we deserve but it was given to us anyway. God’s love is that strong for us that he would give us an undeserving grace even though we let him down every single day. You can’t get more gracious than that.

Take a look at the some of the people in the Bible. Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, denied Jesus three times when he was asked if he knew him or not. God’s grace was sufficient for him and the force of grace was so strong that it wiped out Peter’s transgressions and he ended up preaching to crowds where thousands would be saved. Saul was a man who persecuted Christians. God’s grace was sufficient for him as well and the force of grace was so strong that Saul, who was renamed to Paul, began to preach the very message he tried to kill off. That is how powerful the force of  God’s grace is that it can change lives so dramatically. But in order for them to be transformed so dramatically, there was a point where they had to accept the force of grace.

Some of us have chose not to accept the force of grace. Some of us believe that our sin is too big for grace to cover. But when we finally accept the powerful avalanche of grace to fall on our lives, you will begin to see all those sins, troubles, pain, and sorrows that you thought were too big for grace to be destroyed in the avalanche of grace as if they were never there. Once you begin to let the force of grace become unleashed upon your life, you will no longer deal with the burden of sin, you will see chains unleashed, bondages broken. Sin is no match to grace. All that can be yours if you just allow the force of grace to be unleashed upon your life. Will you accept it today?

Star Struck

Today’s  blog post is by guest blogger Samantha Ramos. Samantha is a very dear friend of mine who I’ve known for over ten years. She is currently a junior at Muhlenburg College in Allentown, Pennsylvania. Hope you are blessed by her words today:

Earlier this month, I got word that there was going to be a meteor shower. For those of you who do not know what a meteor shower is, it is a bunch of shooting stars throughout the sky. I had never seen a shooting star before, unless you count the ones in movies. Never seeing one I imagined a dark sky filled with very bright lights. I immediately became excited and got one of my friends, who had also never seen a shooting star, to come with me and we found a spot to stare into the sky near the dorm buildings. Glancing upwards, the stars seemed so close, as if we could reach them by climbing a nearby tree. We waited for a while and did not see any stars move, let alone shoot across the sky. After some time, my friend was lucky enough to see one, but I missed it. She described it as a faint light shooting across a small distance. After she told me she saw it, I became determined to see one. I must admit I felt a twinge of jealousy since she had been able to witness something so beautiful. However, I did not let that stop me, I wanted to witness a similar moment, and I did not want to leave until I did. After all, it is not every day a girl from Brooklyn gets to see a shooting star, being that skyscrapers, helicopters, and airplanes raiding the skies mostly block the Brooklyn sky. Wanting to see this beauty I verbally said, “Jesus, can I please see a shooting star?” A moment later, I turned to face the opposite side of where we were standing, and I looked up. I glanced upwards, immediately I saw it, a huge light shoot across the sky. I was in awe! Not only did God answer my prayer, but also there was no denying that I had seen that shooting star since it was so bright!

Patience does not come easily for me, but this was a rare moments when I actually did not mind waiting. I could have left after saying my mini prayer, or I could have gotten annoyed by the length of time I had to wait before I saw the star. Instead, I believed that God would answer my request and patiently waited while staying focused on the sky. I mean I had to stay focused on the sky, for what is faith without works. I could believe but if I never made myself available to the night skies how would I have seen this shooting star? I was able to experience a small piece of God’s glory, and that star was more amazing than any star I could have pictured in my head. In fact, the amount of time I had to wait did not even matter, since I was blown away by the shooting star. See, when we have faith and put our hope in Christ he can blow our mind. I doubt that David, when told he would be a king imagined all the great things he did recorded in the bible or that Noah, when told to build an ark imagined saving mankind and being able to have a hand in a fresh start. Just as I never imagined when asking to see a shooting star that it would be as beauteous as I remember, such a beauty that it’s hard to explain.

After reflecting on that moment, I was reminded that there is power in prayer. That it is necessary to believe that God is going to answer, and while waiting for him to answer, there is a necessity to stay focused on Him. Most importantly, remember when God answers, it is better than anything you could have ever imagined!

No Need For A Sonogram

Today’s guest blog post comes from one of my best friends, Marvin Castillo. Marvin lives in Brooklyn, New York and is a sophomore at the New York City College of Technology. He has a powerful and awesome testimony and I hope all are blessed by his words today:

The flashing lights in Times square….the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York” playing after a win on 161st in The Bronx….the screams coming from The Cyclone in southern Brooklyn. As you can guess already, I’m from New York City but this isn’t about Me or where I’m from but of the man who brought me into his family.

“he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” – Ephesians 1:5

I grew up raised by a single Mother along with my older brother. Life was rough not having a father figure around but even harder many days struggling just to get by financially and emotionally. As I got older and started high school, pornography was introduced to me and little by little it was becoming an addiction. Aside from this addiction that no one knew about, everyday was a constant battle and I always had the fear of what exactly my future held. Who would I become? How was my life going to turn out? What importance would I be to anyone?

I was becoming insecure and afraid of what my future would hold. I mean sure it couldn’t be that bad…but would have been enough to satisfy what I thought it should be. I knew there was a void and something I needed but didn’t know what it was. I would go to a Catholic church on Sundays because it would make me feel good and I mean its the right thing to do right? …but still nothing changed until one day a very close friend invited me to his church. As I got to church I notice this wasn’t like a catholic church but more like a family and the pastor’s message hit me so hard that day, it had me crying at the alter. As my week started, I noticed that his time around, something was different. I kept remembering the message I heard on Sunday replaying through my head about Gods Love and Christ Sacrifice and True life found in him. Eventually I started going back to this church every Sunday and I gave my life to Jesus believing and accepting who I was and who I was meant to be. I Was reborn and found peace, hope and joy.

It was a encounter and experience that words can’t describe. I wanted everyone to experience it if they hadn’t yet. One of my main focuses was my mother being saved. With Faith it would happen and God answered my prayer! My mother and brother had gotten saved. Now it was all good but as time went by, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Going through those hard times I would just pray for life and strength for us all. Why would this happen? Why would God allow this? Later down the road, my mother passed away but the first thought that came to my mind was “she made it”. I knew she was in a better place and I had a peace I couldn’t understand.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

That was when Christ became so real for me. My life has never been the same. Sure there was grieving and sadness but it was ending with hope to reunite again. With my porn addiction coming to an end and my mindset slowly changing, my struggles from the past were gone. Everyday is a battle, a fight, a struggle. But I know who I belong to and that this was what I needed my whole life. I was born to serve, Love, and Glorify God and that’s what I plan on doing till his return. From a world mindset of what it means to be a real man to a renewed mindset of who’s the real Man! I look forward to whats in store for me and I’ll walk this road along with my Creator, Savior, and Father!

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5

Whatever your going through or have gone through just remember that God sent himself in form of a Man through Jesus to experience everyday human emotions to know exactly what your going through to help you, save you, and Love you leading to salvation and redemption through that Cross!!