“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God in your body and in you spirit, which are God's.”
1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
Fear can cripple a man in an instant. It can cause complete paralysis, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Fear can blind the keenest of men and cause him to cower at life. Fear blinds us to that which God so greatly desires to reveal in the heart of every man- His unconditional love. A love that can overcome every experience, every person, every instant that has sought to steal our joy, our peace, our very lives. Every trauma, every pain, every hurt, every hurtful word, every hurtful action, every chain, every addiction, every need, every void, a love that can heal everything. Love and fear cannot coexist. They will war against one another. Only one can win. And so much of this victory depends on that which you choose to allow to win. There are two enemies warring against one another, and yet, the greatest of these is love. What o man, do you have to fear?
Fear of the unknown?
Fear of not making the right decisions?
Fear of not being in God's will?
Fear of not pleasing others?
Fear of not living up to your own standards?
Or perhaps the standards of others?
The standards society has set before us?
Fear of losing?
Fear of being forsaken?
Fear of being alone?
Let this truth bring comfort to your soul today. You are loved greatly and cared for deeply. You have nothing to fear.
You, my friend, were bought with a very heavy price. You were not cheap. In fact, this price that was paid had already been planned out before time ever existed. If you read in Genesis 3, you had already been talked about and the price that was going to be paid to redeem your life and restore your relationship with God had already been planned.
In Isaiah 53, we see a small glimpse of the pain staking agony it cost someone else to ransom this life of yours. It was nothing short of ugly, disturbing, abominable.
In the four Gospels you read of the lengths that were required of this man not only to be born into this world, but to endure the sting of death for 33 years. None of it was beautiful, it was back-breaking, mind-boggling, unexplainable labor.
Do you realize that Mary, a young teenage girl, endured ridicule and sorrow, to carry and birth a man that was born simply to pay a ransom for you? She didn't even know you, and yet because she loved God, she was willing to show love to another person, you, and give her son as a ransom for your life. 33 years of being alone, homeless, and feeling like an outsider, misunderstood, and yet, He did it for you. He endured 33 years in this sin-ridden world, just to die...for you.
None of this thus far has even taken into account the days leading up to this payment and the hours He spent paying for your life. The lies He endured from Judas, even allowing this traitor at His table to eat with Him. What humility, what love. He had a larger view in mind...and it was you. Your life, your eternity.
What about the sorrow and the drops of blood He sweat in the garden? The deep sorrow He experienced having to be soon separated from His Father, such great pain. And of course the physical pain and mocking He endured. The scoffing, the scourging, the punches, the torn flesh, the swelling, the spitting, the whipping, the nailing, the suffocating, the humiliation. Carrying a splintered, heavy cross, with a back full of open wounds, pouring blood from His head as the crown of thorns weighed heavy upon his brow, able to barely see or perhaps not see at all. A swollen, bloodied face, a marred image, unlike the man the people had praised just days earlier, proclaiming, "Hosanna, Hosanna!" Can you imagine what it felt like to be nailed to a cross, struggling to breath, pushing up on your feet to take a breath with open wounds being pressed against a splintered cross? The mocking from soldiers, the hurling of insults from the crowds, the weeping of your mother at the foot of your cross, the stripping down to your loin cloth, being humiliated, for all to see.
Not to mention, the three days that were spent in Hell, as the battle continued to rage on, even after His death.
But oh that glorious morning when He rose from the grave, how quiet, how peaceful, how glorious it must have been! And all that time, through pain and sorrow, mocking and scourging, fighting and waging war, He had your best interest in mind. He had a greater good in mind...you. Your eternity, your well being, your life.
So tell me friend, are you not a rather expensive and costly commodity? Would this same man, who is your Lord, your God, your Savior, so easily allow you to go astray? Would He give your life over to the things of this world so easily ? Would He allow you to return to your old ways so absent mindedly, without any care?
Fear not my friend, you were bought at a great price. You are a very expensive commodity. You are no longer yours, you are His. And the things that He treasures He loves with everything in Him. Do you question that? Look at the garden of Gethsemane and see how He sweat drops of blood for you because you are highly favored and deeply loved. Weeping and dripping blood for the love He had for you and the love He had for the Father. Great sorrow because of the separation He was about to experience from someone He greatly loved. Read, research, you'll find out about the great distress and heaviness one would have to be under to bleed like this.
You are His, my friend, and He is yours. Stop fearing, trust Him. Trust Him because He is trustworthy. Trust Him because He loves you deeply. Do not fear, instead, absolve to live fearlessly. You have a Father who holds your future in His hands. Fear not, for He is with you. He will not forsake you. He loves you so much that He was willing to spend an eternity planning out how He would redeem you and ransom you from the grave.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that He would lay down His life for His friends."
In the hallways of Century Regional Detention Center, the largest Women's County Jail in the United States, exists a small enclave of four modules labeled as High Power, known to many simply as 2100. Within the walls of these four modules are women who have been accused of or have committed crimes that are worthy of being separated from the majority of the inmates in general population.
A Place Where...
2100 is where I first played worship outside of the walls of my own home. A place where God revealed to me that His plans for me are so much bigger than my own; And that walking in obedience never requires talent, but simply willingness.
A place where God showed me that I could be used, if only I am willing to come to Him as an empty vessel.
A place where I learned that man's ways are not God's ways. That He can do things, even in our own day in age, that we could not ever seek to fathom or understand. "I will make a road in the wilderness," He said in Isaiah 43:19b, "and rivers in the desert."
A place where I learned that God CAN, even when I cannot.
A place where I learned that He is truly alive!
Within the walls of 2100 I met an inmate who had been in High Power for over 7 years. For over 7 years she had been confined to a small module inside an even smaller cell. Only allowed outside of her cell one hour per day, not outside to a yard, but restricted to movement inside the module. To take a shower, to stretch, to function in somewhere other than a jail cell. I often think of these women and wonder how they survive for such long periods of time without exposure to the sun and fresh air. With limited exposure to the human touch and face to face conversation.
I can recall short conversations with an inmate on the lower tier of one of these four modules. They would be short conversations, always in passing, but always about the things of the Lord. Then I began to hear from the Senior Chaplain words of encouragement from an inmate located in 2100. This particular inmate wanted my husband and I to know that she was praying for us. We were humbled. I began to wonder about this person that was seeking God on our behalf and I too began to pray for her. In the Summer of 2014 the Senior Chaplain had relayed a message to me from this inmate. She had a dream that I was speaking at a women's conference. She wanted me to know that she was praying for me. Little did she know it was the desire of my heart. In September of that same year the Lord revealed to me that I would be given a chance to speak at a women's conference behind the walls of Chino State Prison. I must confess, no one knew of what the Lord was about to do. In fact, not even the group who had organized the event. Due to last minute changes and one of the speakers not being cleared to enter the facility I was given a chance to speak. It was one of the most powerful messages I have ever uttered. It was nothing of me, but all of God.
Through this woman God gave me hope. Hope that the work of the Lord is never done in vain. That the preaching of the Gospel and the laboring for souls does not always fall on deaf ears. That even in this day and age people can be saved. "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Through this woman God taught me that He is very much still alive and working. Not only can men be saved, but they can be transformed. "BUT YOU," as the Apostle Paul exhorted the Ephesian Church, "were once dead in your trespasses and sin." (Ephesians 2:1) And yet the Scripture continues on with an even greater exhortation...
"BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)" Ephesians 2:4-5
What a momentous declaration this is! The contrast that we see in the statement "BUT YOU" versus that which we see in these two small words.... "BUT GOD". What we see is a changed life. One redeemed from their sins. One who has been given a second chance at life. One which has been made whole and knew again. Just as the Scripture so beautifully proclaims, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." (1 Corinthians 5:17). A life, a soul, a human being who has been reconciled to God. This gift of salvation. This gift of grace and mercy. This gift of eternal life. This gift of love. This gift of a redeemed and regenerated life that can only truly be understood when you are able to see it with your own eyes. Experience it in your own heart. Now I understand why Paul so admittedly professed to the Church of Corinth, "Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." (1 Corinthians 5:20-21)
Because of this woman in 2100, this redeemed and reconciled life I met behind the walls of High Power, in a cell about the size of my restroom; Because of her I now understand why God's message burns so heavily in my heart! He is alive! He is truly alive! He can take even the most wretched of sinners, like me, and make a man whole again. And THIS is why we labor for the Gospel. Not because they are vain words needing to convince man of an empty message, BUT because they are living words that can revive a man's soul. Give a man a second chance at life, more so, grant a man the gift of eternal life. THIS is why we need to take serious the calling of God upon our lives as ambassadors. We have been called to be men that are willing to plead and implore to the lost on our hands and knees, not only as representatives of Christ, but as Christ Himself is speaking through us: TO BE RECONCILED TO GOD. To be saved. To be healed. To be transformed. To be given a chance to live and breath apart from the confines of Satan himself.
Behind the walls of a Century Regional Detention Center, the largest women's jail in the United States, in the heart of Lynwood, California, in High Power, where most would consider exists women that could never be saved or transformed I met a woman of God. One who has learned what it means to walk with the Lord even while in chains. Through this woman God has taught me the power of prayer and the power of His Word. And because of this woman, two small but powerful words will forever be burned in my soul...BUT GOD....
There is no end to what can exist after those two small words.
A transformed life.
A reconciled marriage.
A body raised from the dead.
A healed soul.
A mountain moved.
Never forget, where there is darkness, dead ends, and endless chasms lies these two words...BUT GOD... there is no end to His power. No end to His love.
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
I recently had the pleasure of meeting a group of women who have been homegirls since they were young girls running the calles of Norwalk. It was a short meeting, one in passing. One that lasted but only a few minutes. Yet, in that short time, made a lasting impact on my soul.
I was fascinated being in the midst of these women. I listened intently to their casual conversations. Shooting the breeze as only close homegirls can do. Back and forth, a word here, a word there. I had a sense that I was amongst women who knew what it was to survive the barrio life, what it felt like to be scarred by the ways of the calles, and what it meant to come out still standing. I had nothing but respect as I found myself in their company. Not only because of who they were or where they came from, but more so, what they came out of. I was taught from a young age to always respect those who came before me, to talk very little, and to pay attention to what is being said. Because from these words come nuggets of wisdom that one could easily miss if he is not observant. That is why King Solomon so wisely said in Proverbs 10:19, "In the multitude of words sin is not lacking; But he who restrains his lips is wise."
As a Chaplain in the Los Angeles County Women's Jail I come across a lot of gente, some young, some old, some broken and stripped by life, some just beginning a new life in Christ. There's a homegirl in the module that I minister in that I like to shoot the breeze with and most often talk about the things of the Lord together. She's from a suburb of LA. She was born in the neighborhood and I suspect lives by its rules. Recently she shared with me that one of the homeboys from the neighborhood was shot and killed. She was visibly broken and upset. We prayed together and sought the Lord for peace and comfort.
The next week she comes back as I am setting up for Bible Study and tells me, "Hey, Chaplain Hernandez, it was my birthday yesterday."
As I was unraveling the chords for the microphone I said, "Oh yeah? Well happy birthday. How old did you turn?"
"38," she tells me.
"Whaaat?," I respond, "I'm a year older than you." And I smile.
She stops and turns around and says, "You know what Chaplain Hernandez?"
I too stop, and stand upright to give my full attention to her, "What's that?"
"Me and you, we should be happy," She says.
"Why's that?" I ask her.
"Because most of the homegirls never make it to our age. And if they do, most of them are spent out of their minds."
It took me a second to respond to her. It took the breath right out of me. What a heavy thought that was. What a heavy burden that is to carry. What a very poignant statement she made in a matter of seconds.
"You're right!" I said, "Praise God." I was too taken back to say anything more.
In the midst of meeting these women who once ran the streets of Norwalk, that statement flooded my mind and bled through every recess of my soul. The women that stood before me were women that had survived this cruel trick we call life. The very few who have fought the battle and have come out alive, even more so, sane. I was taken back by that moment. And reminded of that short conversation between myself and that inmate. Behind the battle scars we carry, both seen and unseen, come a flood of hurt, pain, fear, joy, and even happiness at times. Behind every scar lies a word of wisdom and sometimes a world of regret. These scars bear witness of who we are and what the world has done to mold who we are or maybe who we once were.
Never think for a minute that Job did not bear the scars of his trials, his tribulations, his losses, and his pains. Even when his blessings were returned ten-fold, never think for a minute that these scars did not remain. He had become a different man. "I had only heard about you before," Job said,"But now I have seen you with my own eyes." (Job 42:5) Seeing God changes a man. But what I have come to realize is that the clearest I have ever been able to see God were in the darkest of times. Perhaps it is because the thicker the darkness, the easier it becomes to spot even the smallest glimpse of light. One cannot learn to know or understood God in a most intimate of ways apart from having to bear the scars of life. Scars make us who we are and are able to mold us into all that God desires us to be. They are reminders of battles we have lost and victories we have won. Reminders of places that we should never return to and places that God, only by His hand, has taken us out of.
Scars bear witness that there is yet HOPE.
Scars testify that life still remains. And where life remains, there is hope. A dead man cannot scar, he can only decay. Rotting flesh does not scar, only the living can scar. Why? Because scars are signs of healing, of broken flesh that was reconciled to itself. This, my friend, is why Christ still bore His scars long after the resurrection and still bears them today. This is why in John 20:27 Christ spoke to Thomas, who doubted His resurrection and said “Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don’t be faithless any longer. Believe!”
The scars of Christ were a reminder to the Disciples and HIs followers of the days and hours leading up to His resurrection. Can you not help but buckle under the thought of the fear, the pain, the remorse, the anxiety, the uncertainty, and the deep-seeded sorrow leading up to His crucifixion?. And the emptiness, loneliness, hopelessness, and sheer terror as His body lay lifeless in the grave? Did they even have a faint hope that He might rise from the dead? Probably not. It was probably very few or none, for that matter, that understood Him as He spoke of His resurrection prior to His death. "Destroy this temple," Jesus said in John 2:19, "and in three days I will raise it up again." All hope had been lost. The One who they believed to be God, their Savior, their Messiah had died. Can you imagine the fear and hopelessness that gripped their souls?
And yet, Christ...
even in the midst of such a momentous event, willingly continued to bear the scars as a reminder of His love for us. His undying, undeniable love for us. A love that was willing to suffer and die on a cross. To bear the pain and ugliness of sin upon His shoulders for us. "This is love," as the Bible describes, "not that we loved Him, but that He first loved us." And even more so, "That He sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for us." (1 John 4:10) That's love. Being willing and ready to die a long and painful death for someone who themselves were in the wrong. Knowing that most would remain that way even after the gift was offered up.
As we enter in to the Easter season, the Passion Week, let us not take lightly the scars that we bear. Understand that we were made in God's image, as He too was scarred. And yet, not by His own transgressions, but for ours. Think back at all the scars that you bear, physically and emotionally, and ask God to show you His hand in each of those. It's amazing the insight you will gain as you begin to see your scars, not for what they are, but for what they represent- HOPE. You are alive and can be healed. You are alive and can be reconciled and restored. Saved and made whole again.
"Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, BE RECONCILED TO GOD. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
Trucha, the story of a family broken by the ways of the neighborhood. A family broken by death. And yet, out of this brokenness and death comes life. A familiar story, a familiar way of life for those in the calles. A story of finding light in the midst of darkness, life in the midst of death. A story that reminds us, there’s more to life and death than what we can see.
FEBRUARY 20 @ 6 pm
Pastor Don Antelo
From CC South Montebello
Calvary Chapel Norwalk
14626 Pioneer Blvd
Just uploaded a new testimony to our Testimony page. Check out the testimony of Pastor David Zamora of Living Way Christian Fellowship in Fontana. A testimony of a life being raised from the dead.
I lived in ignorance for an elongated period of time. I assumed that I needed to fight to defend my cultura, to defend the beauty of that which I learned to embrace with fervor from a very young age. I was well-versed in the history of mi gente, in the plight of my people. I was well-versed in the political plight of the modern-day Chicano who fought for unity amongst the gente in order to gain posterity and a strong voice in a white man's world. I fought with fervor to defend that which I felt needed defending.
And then I realized...
Ignorance is bliss. I based my reasoning upon a flawed premise. One that then led me to flawed thinking. What was it that needed defending? What was it that I felt as if I needed to fight for? What was it that laid intrinsically inside of me that I felt I needed to defame the name of the white man and everyone else around me to prove the strength of the Chicano? "The Truth is like a lion." St. Augustine rightfully proclaimed, "You don't have to defend it. Let it loose. It will defend itself." The proof of a man's strength, the worth of his character, and the quality of his convictions comes not through the defaming of others, tearing them down in order to build oneself up."Wise men are not always silent," it is said, "but they know when to be." Stand on your convictions, and only when necessary- speak.
Many people have mistaken the meekness and mildness of Christ to be a weakness. The Grecian citizen of the time found humility to be a non-virtuous quality. A man of few words was considered an unlearned fool. Take the woman caught in the act of adultery in John 8, who the religious men of the day shoved in the midst of the crowd, half dressed and humiliated, accusingly screaming that she should be stoned. And yet we find Christ, the Son of Man, observingly standing on the Truth by saying nothing at all. He made no defense, He did not yell back, even as the Scripture attests in the Greek that they accusingly pointed their fingers in the face of the Son of God, screaming' "What do you say?"
He said nothing at all.
Instead, He let loose the lion, as St. Augustine so eloquently penned. He humbly knelt on the ground and began to write in the dirt. And as the religious men of the day became more accusatory and demanded an answer, He once more knelt down and continued writing. What a humiliating position for the Son of God to kneel in the dirt amidst a group of men He could have easily destroyed these men with His words. And instead...
He remained quiet.
He let the Truth speak for itself.
And as you read the end of the account, God, as always, was the victor. He silenced the crowd without ever saying a word. He lived what He knew to be true, never needing to defend it with words.
Which now brings me to a very real and modern day dilemma....
Our Chicano cultura, the beauty of our barrio, the beauty of our arte, the beauty of our starched Levi's and pristine Pendleton's, the beauty of the lowrider community, and of the smells and sounds of the neighborhood, in short, the beauty of what we have come to know as a normal way of life for many of us, has been popularized and exploited over the past few years. Of most recent, I find that our cultura has become commercialized. The classiness of the iconic cholo and the beauty of the iconic chola has become something that many have been able to replicate better than those who live it. They have become fans of lowriders and Teen Angel, of baby cuffs and starch. They have no idea of what lies behind this look, what it represents, or the respect we must pay to those that came before us. Our cultura has been marred by weak imitations that spend hours upon hours to perfect the look, to buy the right clothes, to say the right words, to drive the right car. And yet, it is emptiness. It is the blind fool crying in the darkness, proclaiming his claim to our cultura, defending his right to belong. Truth recognizes Truth, just as it also recognizes useless imitations. Make no mistake about it, your brown skin or claim to the neighborhood does not solidify you a place in this cultura. It is a right earned, never assumed. It is an inherited way of life passed down from one generation to the next. One in which the imitators will loudly defend, and all the while those who truly are a part will sit and watch the show.
This article was written for is a homegirl I know, one who is near and dear to my heart. She is an artist. One who has grown up in the neighborhood. Who knows and understands the plight of the barrio and therefore, has earned her right to be a part of it. A solid individual, one who I would stand with to defend her character. She is a quiet soul. One who needs not defend her position in life because she has earned it. Not by useless proclamations, not by defamations for all to hear, but by who she is as an individual. She walks the walk. Never needing to live up to the expectations of any man. She is my homegirl, through and through, a solid individual that I am honored to know and blessed to call my friend.
Remember this Amber Tilden...
"A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion."
Burger King Is Better Ay
Dedicated To Those Who Have Gone Before You, Walk Behind You, And Stand Next To You
This is one of my most favorite movie clips of all times. In a matter of sixty seconds it shows the love between two friends who became much more like sisters. Una amiga de alma, one who not only understands that which life has brought you, but can see the good in you, even when you cannot see it in yourself. Homegirls, carnalas. A word spoken, one simple glance, you understand where she's coming from and where she's been. You see a small reminder of your homegirl in the midst of your busy day and you stop for just a second and smile, say a short prayer and move on your way. The struggles, the pain, the confusion, the hurt, the depression, the stress, the disappointment, the utter joys, smiles, tears, and laughter, you share the very joys and sorrows of your life with your homegirl. No judgements made, no strings attached, nothing but amor y respeto for her. Homegirls for life. Never expecting anything in return, but always wanting to give all that you have because you understand the blessings of having a carnala such as this. There is never an effort that needs to be made, never a feeling of obligation to be met, you could live two differemt lives, and yet the minute you find yourselves in each others presence it is like your friendship never skipped a beat. Right back where you found yourself last. Shooting the breeze, sharing about love, life, things that really matter to no one else, big and small. She's your carnala. No need for veils, no need to hide behind the image that we've learned to build up from the minute we took our first breath. No need to make excuses or apologies, you take each other as you are. It's a barrio type of love. One that grows in the hearts of those who have not only seen struggle, but have breathed it, tasted it, and lived it. Carnalas Por Vida, que no? Porque la vida no seria lo mismo sin ti.
A Homegirl's Prayer
Homegirls for life
Through thick and thin
I say a prayer for you
Because I understand where you've been
I can see where you are going
And where you want to be
Lord, I pray that you find her
Just as much as you found me
Homegirls for life
Through thick and thin
Lord, I say a prayer for my homegirl
Teach her how to breath once again
How to live life
Because living requires breath
Teach her how to live again
Free from the sting of death
You prepared a table before my enemies
And one before my friends
The depths of your love for us
Lord, There is no end
You've gone to such great lengths,
My Savior and My Lord,
To show your love for us
Something that this sinful man could never afford
Today I say a prayer for you my homegirl
A smile, a shedding of a tear
I say a prayer for you homegirl
Lord, I pray you draw her near
***Pass this on to your homegirls. Remind them that they are a blessing from God.***
I realize that the title alone would cause the stanchest of Believers to turn their heads and move on from this blog. And yet, if you are daring enough to read on you will discover a very painful lesson I learned over the passed few months.
Instagram. "Capture and Share the World's Moments," it boasts. "Instagram is a fast, beautiful and fun way to share your life with friends and family. Instagram. Created with the intention of capturing life and sharing it with others. And yet, it seems to have done the complete opposite. It has been used by countless individuals as a way to capture a life that they are truly without. One that is fulfilling, meaningful, and freeing. Instagram is addicting, accessible, and subtle. You can easily receive updates on your mobile phone at all hours of the day and night, watching the "lives" of others and wondering why it is that perfectly painted picture of a fulfilling life does not match what you know to be true of yours.According to marketingcharts.com, "The average American spends more than 3 hours a day on social networks." I wonder how much of that time is wasted on Facebook and Instagram. One must wonder, "If my life is so great, then why do I feel as if I need to spend my time watching others lives? If my life is fulfilling, then why am I wasting it on social media networks." Why is it that we feel the need to paint a beautiful life for others to see? Do we need to feel wanted? Loved? Not alone? Why is it that we spend so much time watching others "lives"? What is missing from our own lives that makes me want to watch other lives instead of living in my own?
My journey began in July of this year. My husband and I began a 40-day prayer fast. We gave up certain things in our lives and replaced them with prayer, namely specific foods. In addition to these specific foods, I decided to fast Instagram. It began to weigh heavy on my heart how many times a day I would click on Instagram for "lack of anything better to do". A few seconds here, a few seconds there, which would sometime turn into minutes, and hours. A lack of anything better to do....Quite a disturbing statement from one who claims to have a deep relationship with the Lord, one who says she desires to seek hard after the Lord, and to know Him intimately. Hours wasted on watching others lives when it could have been spent so many other ways. Conversing with my children. Spending time with my husband. Reading. Talking. Studying God's Word. Praying. Pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:16 says , unless you have social media to fill your time. I've read the Scripture from cover to cover and never has it made mention of a lack of anything better to do.
The 40-day prayer fast came and went. I am still learning from it and it was not until 3 months later that I finally downloaded the Instagram app back onto my phone, as of yesterday. What did I find, you may be thinking? I found that nothing has changed. People are still living the same lives. Posting the same type of pictures. Liking the same posts. Life is happening all around us and yet how many of us are stuck trying to create one for ourselves through social networking? Things have changed for me. I realized the terrible cycle I was in, watching others's lives and not living mine. I read an eye opening excerpt from Pastor John MacArthur today that put my life as a Believer into perspective:
"Nothing this world has to offer is more precious than God’s Word. I have a
friend who collects rare Bibles. He owns a wonderful collection, with one Bible
dating back to the fourth century. But my favorite is a Bible from sixteenth-century
England, one of the earliest printed copies of God’s Word. The top third of this
Bible is covered with the blood of its original owner. My friend let me hold it in my
hands, and tears came to my eyes as I leafed through it. How did blood get on the pages of that Bible? When Bloody Mary ruled England, she terrorized Protestants, murdering as many as she could. Her soldiers would spill the person’s blood, then take his Bible and dip it deep into the blood. A few of those Bibles have been preserved and are known as Martyrs’ Bibles. Scientists have tested the paper and confirmed that the dark stains on every page of my friend’s Bible are human blood.
I examined that Bible carefully, page by page. I could see where it was well worn from being studied. There are water stains, as if from tears, and places where a thumb had frayed favorite pages. This was someone’s most valuable possession, and his or her blood is there to prove it." (MacArthur, The Sufficiency of Scripture, 2004)
I wept over these words.
What kind of life have I been living over the past few years? Where have I placed my investments? What or who have I made my gods? Look at the pages of my Bible and there you will find where my true affections lie. Look at the lives of my children and their you will hear of where my precious time is well spent. Look at my knees and there you will find what I do with every waking moment of the day. None of these can bear witness of a life that pours into others. None of these can bear witness of a woman who prays without ceasing, desires the pure milk of the Word above all else, or truly desires children who love the Lord with an unquenchable love. These things that I speak of will bear testimony of one who is selfish and who desires to fulfill her own flesh above all else. One who is truly without love for The Lord, for His Word, for her children, for her husband, for her family, for the eternity of others. Would you like to see where my affections lie? Where my time is spent? It can easily be done if you can pry my phone from my fingers, as it goes everywhere I go. You can easily see by opening my laptop or my iPad. I am a hypocrite. One serving multiple gods, self, while trying to serve the One True and Living God. The God that requires all or none of my affection.
I have wasted my life up until this day. I lack. I have placed self above the Sufficiency of the Word. Today, dear saint, that changes. Today I am resolving to make things different.
Por Vida, For Life.
A moniker that has graced the walls of barrios for decades. From tattoos to T-shirts, Por Vida is something that we have learned to use as a symbol of our affection, of our undying loyalty and carnalismo for one another. A love and loyalty for your old lady, Chano y Chula P/V, a love for your neighborhood, Cuca P/V, a love for your cliqua, Crazy Train Locas P/V, the list can go on and on. But what really is the meaning behind this phrase, this epithet of sorts? Por Vida, For life Ese, what does this really mean?
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines loyalty as "a loyal feeling : a feeling of strong support for someone or something; unswerving in allegiance; faithful in allegiance."
Por Vida, an unswerving, faithful allegiance to someone or something. Supporting someone when they are unable to support themselves. Believing in them when they have lost their way. Having a faithful allegiance to someone when everything around them has proven otherwise. Trusting them when everyone else has given up. Remembering them when they have been forgotten by all. A love that transcends time and place, a loyalty that transcends all wrong done to an individual. " Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)
I have spent my life fighting for the underdog. I have always wanted to believe the good in man. To believe that though a man be without status or monetary riches, he is rich in loyalty and respect. For so long I had the Robin Hood mentality, fight for the poor and underrepresented, and fight against the wealthy mainstream. And yet, as I have grown older I have come to understand the stark reality of life. That even within the neighborhoods, the barrios, the gente, the poor, the underrepresented, the forgotten, the down and out, even amongst the outcasts, loyalty is fleeting. Loyalty is not a case that most men want to plead. Rather we look to fill our flesh, to puff up our ego, and to meet the needs of self, rather than others. Por Vida we say and yet at the convenience of others we have been easily forgotten or perhaps misunderstood. I can count those loyal few on one hand, calling them by name, vividly seeing their faces as we speak of this moniker, for life Ese. They are the very few who have been willing to stand with us when all else have abandoned ship. Those few who we are not ashamed to call out to when we are pressed in on all sides, crushed but not ruined. Those few individuals whose love goes far beyond the outward appearance, but have an undying, unwavering love for you. A love that hopes, a love that trusts, a love that is willing to bear your burden, a love that is willing to see the good, a love that is long suffering and patient, a love that is willing to hold fast in the midst of a tumultuous storm. "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24) Friends, loyal friends, individuals who are worth their weight in gold, are few and far between. Very few will ever be blessed with the ability to encounter such rare individuals. Those individuals of whom you can write their name down and etch "P/V" next to it because they are for life, loyal to the end, never wanting anything from you, but willing to give everything for you.
If we are truthful with ourselves most of us can say with 100% surety that such an individual is rare. And if we have had the blessing of knowing such an individual we crave their presence in our lives. Their very presence calms the storm within, they make you feel invincible and free, their very words spark a fire inside of you and you walk away knowing that you were in the presence of greatness.
What is it about these types of individuals that can breathe life into your heart?
It is the presence of love. You know that they love you without strings attached. You know that they love you and are interested in you as an individual. The real you. The very person you are in the darkness of the hour when no one else is around. The presence of love, agape, a selfless love, dispels the presence of fear in an instance. Where light exists, darkness must flee. Where faith exists, doubting must run. Where life exists, death must bow.
1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter. How often it is used to model the sentimental love of flawed individuals and relationships. And yet, what 1 Corinthians 13 was originally intended for was to communicate the perfect love of Christ in the life of the flawed individual, sinful man. The very name of Christ can so easily be replaced within these verses and still hold completely true:
Christ suffers long and is kind;
Christ does not envy;
Christ does not parade itself,
Christ is not puffed up;
Christ does not behave rudely,
Christ does not seek His own,
Christ is not provoked,
Christ thinks no evil;
Christ does not rejoice in iniquity,
Christ rejoices in the truth;
Christ bears all things,
Christ believes all things,
Christ hopes all things,
Christ endures all things.
Christ never fails.
The very reason why man is so drawn to the loyal few, those that are down For Life, is because they are a reflection of perfect love. A love that was willing to suffer many things (Luke 9:22), a love that suffered rejection, heartache, loneliness, physical abuse, marring, and crucifixion. Not only to allow us life, but also to demonstrate His perfect love for us through the only begotten Son of the Father, Jesus Christ. "But God demonstrated His own love for us, while we were yet sinners He died for us." (Romans 5:8) The crucifixion of Christ was never a mandate, it was a choice. Just as Christ chose to suffer and die that we might have eternal life, so you must choose where your loyalties lie. Whether they be with man or with God, it is a conscious choice every man must make. "Greater love hath no man than this that he would lay down his very life for his friend." (John 15:13)
Burn the ships! We're not going back! Leaving an eternal mark on this world, one calle at a time.