Ladies and Gentlemen, Let’s get ready to Rumble!!!


Growing up in Puerto Rico I used to love to fight. I became an amateur boxer as a teen just to add to the “reputation.” Shortly after 1991, as I made Jacksonville home, I started studying various styles of Martial Arts; it was a more civilized and in a sense, legal way, of getting some of this fighting steam out of me. I have been involved in many fights in my life, but nothing can even come close to the intensity of fighting the good fight of faith.

“FIGHT the good FIGHT of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12)

The assault against our faith is brutal in our secular society today. For many politicians and celebrities in Hollywood for example, it is almost a career killer to declare their faith in Jesus Christ publicly. Stating that you are pro-life or that you believe in the sanctity of marriage between a men and a woman is in fact a career risk that not many are willing to take. You will be mocked, ridiculed and lied about. The liberal media will fashion a distorted public image of you with the intention of destroying your reputation that will be next to impossible to rehabilitate. They will find ways to dig things out of your past with the sole intention of discrediting you as a true Christian and label you as a hypocrite. It is indeed a bloody fight. The Bible tells us in Ephesians 6:12:

“For we WRESTLE not against flesh and blood…”

The word “wrestle” here implies that you are fighting an enemy whose objective is to choke you to death as he sits on top of you! Neither boxing, Kickboxing or even Ultimate Fighting can compare to the nature of this brutal clash. Your enemy is bold; he is not doing a “drive by shooting” on you; he enjoys being on top of you choking and   watching you as you die!

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy…” (John 10:10)

I must also admit that not all of the fights I engage in were good. A good fight for us is the one we can be declared winners of at the end. I myself lost a few while I also got seriously hurt. The good news about this fight of faith is that, if we don’t quit, our victory is guaranty. The Apostle Paul, who fought bloody battles himself, encouraged us with these words:

“I have fought a good FIGHT, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith:” (I Timothy 4:7)

No one is taking away from the fact that the blows are real and very painful at times; but do not be discouraged; you and I will win this fight if we persevere until the end. So, ladies and gentlemen let’s get ready to rumble!

Empathy and Christian Counseling in Jacksonville


How many of us have found ourselves in a position where we really need to talk to someone and all we get is somebody that can’t wait for you to finish, so that they can go on with their business? Sometimes you get an “I will be praying for you,” but you already know that, that person will not even be thinking about you as soon as the conversation is over. Others shout and tell you, “All you need is God,” or “All the answers you need are in the Bible; read it!” Others actually take the time to pray for you and that is as far as their service to you goes. You go to church, you hear a good sermon, but then you go back home and not only do the issues remain there, but you still find yourself without the tangible and practical tools to deal with the problem.  

Empathy is defined as, “The ability to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings or difficulties.” Empathy is also defined as, “The capacity to feel another person’s experience,” (Anger Management for the Twenty First Century by PhD Anthony Fiore and PhD Ari Novick). Empathy, my friends, is a deep emotional connection to what others are going through. You may say, “Well Angel that is just another secular approach.” Let me answer that statement by quoting Romans 12:15:

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”

Many of us envy those that rejoice and don’t want to be bothered with those that weep (Too much drama!). James 5:16 remind us to “Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed…” Do you ever wonder why healing is not taking place in the majority of our churches in America? Perhaps we are not confessing our issues, our sins and our problems to one another. Without that confession there is no healing! It is that simple! So the real question here is, why are we not confessing our issues, our sins and our problems to one another? Because there is no empathy. Why add to our pain by talking to someone that does not care about what we are going through?

This is the reason why counseling is becoming so popular. More and more, people are realizing that therapy is not only for crazy people, but therapy is helping “normal” folk deal with their issues. It is in therapy that many find that one-on-one attention and are not only finding empathy, but also practical and effective ways to deal with their challenges. Now, I don’t deny the power of God to resolve any issue in a moment; however, many times things are not resolved in a moment. I believe that the reason for that is that God does not want us to become spiritually lazy. God encourages us in His Word to “Work out our own salvation.” (Philippians 2:12)   Yes, there is a place for us to do our part and there is a place for us to help one another. There are issues that can be resolved within a sermon, others that can be resolved with a word of encouragement and/or a prayer; others with a sound Biblical advice. There are however, others that need to go through a therapeutic process.  It is not a coincidence that Dr. Phil is so popular! People have issues and they are looking for help. I encourage you today to look for help; this city is filled with many extraordinary therapist that are ready to give you an atmosphere of empathy as well as the wisdom that you need to help you resolve, be set free, or to better cope with issues that are outside of your control. My respect, love and admiration to the therapist in our beautiful River City… Keep up the good work, we need you!

 

When Faith does not Move Mountains


The preacher prayed for the sick and the sick quickly recovered. The man on TV supernaturally sees a man heal from a neck injury he suffered many years ago. The missionary in Mexico has incredible documented miracles as the death rise to embrace the beauty of life again. The mother prayed for her child and successfully rebukes the fever out of him. A husband is heard in the middle of night crying out to God as he intercedes for his wife in prayer. His wife goes back to the doctor the next day and the malign tumor is gone as the doctors watched astonished. Behind these and many other testimonies is the faith of many brothers and sisters around the world.

            But what happens when the miracle you eagerly prayed for did not come to pass? Shall we blame the lack of faith of the one praying; or perhaps the person receiving the prayer did not have enough confidence. These arguments can be made accurate. However, to make a quick judgment concerning these matters is a Biblical error.

            Faith has two dimensions; one is the charismatic, full of action, exciting and with plenty of great testimonies. It is the faith we all would like to have and testify about. However, the other dimension of faith is deeper and requires a greater maturity. It is the aspect of faith that takes you from believing in a miracle, to trusting God in-spite of the visible results. It is the faith of David as he stood up from weeping and fasting before the Lord for the life of his new born child who was destined to die as the result of David’s adulterous sin. That faith assisted him to stand and worship the Lord as the news was given to the king that his son was now dead. It is the faith that inspired the Prophet Habakkuk to sing:

“Though the fig tree may not blossom, Nor fruit be on the vines; Though the labor of the olive may fail, And the fields yield no food; Though the flock may be cut off from the fold, And there be no herd in the stalls—
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation”. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

            It is the faith of the Apostle Paul as he prayed for his own healing; the Lord answered him by saying: “…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.” The Apostle Paul then added in this same verse:  “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” What power is Paul talking about? How can the word “power” be used when the miracle he was expecting did not take place? Because Paul moved in the power of the dimension of faith that trusts God in-spite of what his eyes were able to see or not. This my friends, is the faith that does not move mountains, but moves our hearts closer to God; this is the faith that matures and grows us spiritually, the faith that moves us from spoiled children to grateful men and women who love God no matter what!

 

An Early Walk in Jacksonville Beach


I went to the beach this morning; I needed to hear from God! It was so early that it was still dark. The sound of the sea; I was not able to see; walking and hoping that there were no holes in the sand; It was a little scary I must admit! Just like some of the challenges we face! But I knew that the sun was coming out; that it was a matter of time. And then; little by little, even as I was not able to see the sun, I started seeing light… just like faith I heard the Lord say: “We can’t see God, but He is there every step of the way.” I have problems, many problems; challenges that I can’t resolve and a pain that does not go away, but the Light is coming for sure, the Light is coming… The Sun finally came out; it was so beautiful. The sound of the sea was not scary anymore; I was now able to see. I don’t know how, but some way, somehow, everything is already well. I am healthy, I am alive, I am blessed, my hope still dances in my heart and I am ready for another day.

Yo Devil, One More Round!


I remember watching the movie “Rocky V” as Rocky spend a great deal of time training the young hungry boxer by the name of, Tommy. Somehow, someway, they ended up fighting in the heart of the streets of Philadelphia. It was an old fashion street fight. For the most part, it was not going well for the older Rocky, but as hopes dropped, Rocky started remembering his glory days of the past; the great battles he won against greater fighters and the words of his trainer and mentor Mickey. Suddenly, as his opponent was arrogantly walking away; as everyone concluded that the show was over, Rocky, in his peculiar voice yelled, “Yo Tommy, one more round!”  They went on to play the music and with a renewed strength, the old Rocky got all his vigor back and as people shouted for the old champ, Rocky ridiculed the odds of his years and gave Tommy an old fashion butt whipping!

            Maybe today is one of those days that you absolutely feel like giving up. The struggle has been brutal. You are getting it from the north, the south, the east and from the west. You even have some friendly fire in the mix of all. The point that I am trying to make is that many of us need to get that same attitude when it comes down to the attacks of the devil. We need to start remembering our own testimonies and the many times the Lord has brought us out victorious from those bloody battles.

            Do you remember; after that car accident you were suppose to be dead? Remember that disease that was supposed to kill you? Remember that you were not supposed to walk again? Remember how your child was supposed to be long gone, but now he is serving the Lord after your many prayers and tears? Remember, when nobody expected you to get that promotion? Remember how the Lord told you to turn left, when you really wanted to turn right and your life was spare by one second? I am sure you have something to remember right now! Get up and yell, “Yo devil, one more round!”

            If your marriage is in trouble and you feel like it’s over, yell, “Yo devil, one more round!” If your children are acting crazy and engaging in evil and painful things, yell, “Yo devil, one more round!” If the doctor is giving you a bad report; if everybody is talking about you; if your wife left you; if your friends betrayed you; if you find yourself tired and depress, yell, “Yo devil, one more round!” John 4:4 gives you the perfect left jab when it says, “…greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Then you can come back with a quick right cross when Isaiah 54:17 tells us that, “No weapon that is formed against us shall prosper…” The attacks of the evil one will never be successful! Even in your pain, you are winning. Even if you lose, you are gaining. Even if you are down, you are up. Even if you are wounded, you are healed. Even if you die… you will be in glory with Jesus!

            Yes, you may feel old and slow; you may have gained some extra pounds; your reflexes may not be as sharp; your stamina may not seem to be the same, and you may not kick as high as you use to. Yet, within you there is always that one more round that gives God all the glory; that totally disqualifies you from getting any credit. That one more round that makes it obvious that it was neither by your might nor by your power that you became victorious. It becomes a strong reminder that within you, there is the strength of the Holy Spirit. The Force behind the creation, the Force behind the miracles of Moses, the Force behind Samson’s power, the Force behind the songs of liberation of David, the Force behind the wisdom of Salomon, the Force behind the courage of the mighty prophets, the Force of every man and every woman that ever trusted God and the Force that keeps you standing today!

            Oh yes, because it is not in our own strength that we fight, but in the strength that is within us; fear not my brother, fear not my sister… yell, “Yo devil! One more round!” Get up from that side walk; get up from your misery, stand up and fight like a warrior, don’t be afraid, for the Lord of lords and the King of kings is with you… yell “Yo devil, one more round!

            Stay faithful in your ministry; keep singing, keep praising, keep praying, keep loving, keep preaching, keep teaching, keep worshipping, keep writing, keep telling people about Jesus, keep pressing on… Yes! That’s what I’m talking about! Stand up in defiance against evil. Yes, stand in your best fighting stance and yell, “Yo devil, one more round! For it is written that at the sound of the last trumpet you and I will be the ones with our hands lifted-up as a symbol of victory and as a sign of worship and reverence to our Father; for we are a generation of over-comers; a mighty army against our foes and the favorites of our Father who gives us the boldness to yell, “Yo devil! One more round!

When the Mountains Seem So High and the Valleys Seem So Low!


The desert melts our souls with the troubles of the heat of the day. At night, the coldness of our tormented minds consumes us. Have you ever been there? So many worries, so many thoughts! It is the place where nobody knows; the place of no pretends, the place of no distractions and the place where your reality can’t be ignored. The night seems so long! “Help me Lord?” It is all our lips can utter. Have you ever been there? It is a place where your titles, your personality, your network and intelligent can’t help you. It is a place that marks the total end of you! The problems are so dark and far from the light of a possible solution. The hope of a happy ending seems so distant. Have you ever been there? In the night I hear a thunderous whisper that breaks the silent of the early mornings: “How did I get here Lord? Why Lord? Where are you? Speak to me!” When depression breaks in your home like a burglar in the night to stare and mock everything that you stand for when in the fellowship of your friends. Sleep can’t come soon enough! Have you ever been there?

Then we remember that somewhere we saw a passage of scripture that says: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” As tears escape from your eyes, you remember that old sermon from your pastor that did not make much sense to you at the time, but they are the very words that cause hope to stop his departure. At the time you could not wait for the Church service to be over with, so that you could go watch the Jaguars game, but now, they are the very words that caused strength to return. As your tears refreshed your soul, the illogical trust of faith and the irrational power of the peace of your heavenly Daddy watch over you as your eyes close for the night. Have you ever been there?

I don’t know what you’re facing today? I don’t know and will never pretend to understand the magnitude of your pain, but know that somehow some way, the Lord is with you; even when the mountains seem so high and the valleys seem so low!

What do we Really Deserve?


“The best Medicine against Many of our Headaches”

 

            I am learning that the “bad things” we face in life; whether self inflicted, a product of demonic attacks or the testings of the Lord; are all designed to bring out the junk that is already in our hearts. We waste too much time blaming others and making excuses for our exposed ugliness, but at the end of the day, it is God bringing our hidden “stuff” to light in order change us. We fail to understand that we must die to ourselves. This is not an option, this is not a recommendation; it is indeed a Biblical MUST! It is so easy to adapt a victim mentality when faced with troubles and injustices. Many times we use those uncomfortable experiences to justify our carnality based on what we have been through. However, when we look at things through the glass of the word of God and not through the glass of our opinions or the cultural values of our society, we run into a very rude awakening. It is then that we find ourselves so full of self and so far away from Biblical truth that we adapt value systems that are totally against the truth of God. It is that value system that sets us up for great failures and disappointments as we begin to live away from the righteousness and holiness of God.

            Very often we hear people saying: “I deserve this and I deserve that,” so they go after those things with all of their hearts. We even set expectations on what people should and should not do for us. James 4:1-3 reminds us the danger of these selfish desires and expectations:

“Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

             So what do we deserve? The answer to this question is the root of many of our troubles or the declaration of our freedom. Because “…we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” according to Romans 3:23; we deserve eternal punishment according to Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death…” When we get an understanding of what we really deserve we can no longer use the sins committed against us as an excuse to whine and act like now we have a green light to do and say whatever we want. America is filled with an entitlement mentality based on the social injustices committed in the past; these behaviors are expected from the none-Christian community. We as Christians however, must understand that whatever injustices we face, whatever bad marriage we are engaged in, whatever position we did not get, whatever rumors are spread about us, whatever discrimination we suffered, whatever tragedy we endure, whatever unjust accusations we find ourselves victims of and whatever ugly thing you can think of, these things are nothing compared to what we really deserve. My brother, my sister, we deserve ETERNAL PUNISHMENT.

 

What Are You Waiting For?


What good is it if the boxer spends hours in the gym, but never competes; never even engages in a sparring session? What good is it if the baseball player only plays catch; or if the quarterback never throws the ball? So then, what good is it, if a Christian is doing nothing for the expansion of God’s Kingdom? It amazes me how mystical we are when it comes down to serving God. We jump into a job in a minute just because it pays us a little more, we engage in ungodly relationships just because she or he looks good. We even move out of a city or even a country looking for better opportunities without much thought. However, when it comes down to serving God in any capacity… “Oh, we are not ready,” is what we commonly say!

What are we waiting for? A revival? A move of God? The next wave? To get this or that straight in our lives? For our troubles to go away? For our characters to be fix? If you are waiting on these things, you will never serve God! How long did Jesus wait before using His disciples for the expansion of God’s Kingdom? Think about it!

Now, I understand that the boxer doesn’t go for the world’s title on his first fight; that we don’t become professional baseball players and NFL stars overnight. We all have to go through the amateur process, get a little stronger, be involved with the minor leagues first, etc. The point is that these professional athletes did not become stars by dedicating their lives to the art of the “Couch Potato,” they all started somewhere.

“His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things…’ (Matthew 25:21)

Wake up and do something! Stop the excuses, stop talking so much, stop criticizing without giving tangible and practical solutions, stop complaining and stop acting like Monday-night-quarterbacks. Ministry is not only a privilege, but ministry is also a personal responsibility as we respond gratefully to the goodness of our God in our lives. It is the “loving your neighbor” thing, remember? Take a good look at your talents and start right there! Your talents and abilities are the path that will take you to your ultimate calling. If you are doing nothing for the Kingdom of God, your faith is dead!

“For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” (James 2:26)

The Indescribable Love and Faithfulness of God


Do you doubt God’s love for you? Are you convinced of His love and faithfulness towards a fallen humanity? Consider these facts from God’s Word:

     In the Garden of Eden, God showed us His idea of the true “Good Life”. He told us to be fruitful, to conquer, to enjoy, to care for, and to have dominion over the Garden.

     Through Adam, mankind opened the door for the Enemy to battle our minds, striking our heels and affecting our stride. From the beginning, God provided a window for us to view His redemptive plan for repairing the tragedy of a fallen humanity.

     Through Noah, God gave us the rainbow as a symbol that He would not give up on His quest to bring salvation to mankind. No matter what we do, the rainbow still stands as a supernatural symbol of hope, reminding us that God is still working in us and through us.

     Through Abraham, God showed us the power of one man’s faith. In His awesomeness, God gave us a new and peculiar nation and made them an object of His favor. It is through Israel that God’s blessing continues to be released to the world, even today.

     Through Moses, God revealed His high standards, His power, His expectations and His heart. Through His precious law, His ways were made clearer to mankind. He provided humanity with wonderful blessings and terrifying curses, and gave us the choice of which path to take. His law shows humanity the bleak existence we have without Him, but his immeasurable love stands as a banner of hope for those who accept Him.

     Through David, God established His kingdom forever and announced to the world the coming of the King of kings. When all hope was almost vanished, and the descendants of David were no more, Jesus opened the Covenant to the world.

     Through Christ, the veil of the old is broken and the new wine is served. Through the Holy Spirit, the law is no longer external, but speaking softly in our minds and written in our hearts. We can now see for ourselves the magnitude and splendor of our God, and His indescribable love and faithfulness.

Do you Consider Yourself a Leader?


 “Two Fundamental Characteristics of an Effective Leader”

            In this article we will be able to see that being a leader goes beyond telling people what do. We will be able to see that just having people following you is not enough.

         Many followers are satisfied with this concept of just following somebody, because it takes away the responsibility that they also have to do their part in God’s Kingdom. This mentality seems to also satisfy many of our current leaders as they are comfortable with the idea of members over disciples.

             All seems to be about the number of members and the size of the building. It is perhaps the reason why in our churches we have so many brothers and sisters doing absolutely nothing with their God-given talents.

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.” Mathew 4:18-20 (KJV)

Let’s consider the following points:

1.    An effective leader is able to see in people the potential that few are able to see.

 

        Jesus reached out to a completely disqualified group of folks according to the world’s standards. Why? Because Jesus was able to see beyond their current condition.

 

2.    An effective leader invests in the process of building up people to the realization of their call in life. 

 

            Many leaders feel that all they need to prove in order to show that they are leaders is to have people following them.  As we look closely at these kinds of leaders we quickly notice that they have a new group of people following them by the month, as others leave them by the week. They are unable to keep followers for too long. Why? Because these leaders are emphasizing in the “Follow Me Mentality;” the “Serve Me Mentality,” the, “It’s all About Me Mentality” and the “I tell you what to do Mentality.”

          Jesus did not only say, “Follow me.” Jesus said, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus invested in these men and out of twelve disciples He kept eleven, who were faithful to Him until the very end. Even through the many persecutions and hatred from the world, they stood faithful until the end.

            We conclude then, that the greatest evidence of an effective leader is found in the productivity of his/her spiritual children; not in the number of followers and the size of your building. If you are a leader reading this article today, asks yourself this question: If you die today, who is ready to take your place? Jesus’ disciples shined the brightest after Jesus was gone; but they shined with God’s glory; the only glory that counts.

          You can’t be an effective leader if you are intimidated by your disciples; you can’t be an effective leader if you are jealous of your spiritual sons and daughters; if you are afraid of letting them go. A mature leader understands that all glory belongs to our God. Jesus understood these principles and was not afraid of saying…

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”

John 14:12 (KJV)