A Time to Mourn

zpage082For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

~ Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

In our Nation and with me personally it was been a rough few weeks. From the heart breaking news of the Church shooting in Charleston, the Church fires in the South, last weeks Supreme Court decision on redefining marriage and the passing away of my MawMaw last weekend. How do we process all of this? How do we respond? To what do we cling to? In the day and age of social media, you don’t have to look far to see how people are responding to these incidents, you also don’t have to look far to see what people have put their hope in trust in,.

Church family, can I remind you that this is not our home, our citizenship belongs in Heaven. The bible continually reminds us of this truth, and that things will become far worse before they get better. But Church Family, there is coming a day when all things will be made new. That’s where we are to place our hope, that is what we are to cling to. Our hope isn’t in a judicial system, a president, a nation, or the false notion that we live in a Christian Nation. Our hope is in Him who reigns, He wasn’t asleep  during last Friday’s decision, He wasn’t away when our brothers and sisters were shot down while crying out to Him, and He isn’t up for reelection next year. He is on His throne, and we have the promise that He is coming back; will He find us faithful?

As I’ve thought through responding to all of this, as I’ve mourned the death of a MawMaw that I loved tremendously, I found myself studying the Letters to the Churches in Revelation 2-3, to teach last weekend. And in it I found hope, and in it I was encouraged to fight one and endure.

You see in it, all seven letters follow the same flow: Christ introduces Himself with a specific attribute to the condition of that church; He address the current condition of that church; calls for a response; and then offers a promise for the Conquerer (the one who endures to the end, or overcomer some of your bibles may say). It’s in this last section that I found hope, you see these letters were written to seven specific churches, but they also are written to the universal church, as they represent characteristics of churches. So what does the Lord have for those who endure to the end, to those who conquerer?

To the one who Conquerers:

  • I (the Lord) will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God (Rev. 2:7
  • Will not be hurt by the second death (Rev. 2:11)
  • I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it (Rev. 2:17)
  • I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father (Rev. 2:27)
  • Will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father ad before His angels (Rev. 3:5)
  • I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and the name of my God, and the name of the City of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven and my own name (Rev. 3:12)
  • I will grant him to sit on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on His Throne (Rev. 3:21)

Church family fight on, as we are pushed to the margins, as we are ridiculed, endure. In the end will gain so much more home with the Lord, then we are asked to endure for for a short season. Whether we live 20 years or 120 years, that is short compared to entirety.

Remember, nations will fail you, judicial systems will fail you, presidents will fail you, but Christ Jesus will never fail you, and He has promised that He will be with us until the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).

And thats a promise we can hold on to!

Constant Voice of Encouragement

IMG_456519113-2“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord”

~ Ephesians 6:4

My all time favorite movie, Gladiator, begins with this epic battle scene, in which we see Maximus riding a horse before his men who are about to enter the battle yelling out,  “Hold the Line! Stay with me!” A reminder to them to stay steady, trust their training, trust their plan, don’t waiver or give up. As I thought about writing something for Fathers Day, this scene popped into my head, you see in my life my dad has played the role of Maximus, always reminding me to “hold the line!”

Through the years this has played out in various different ways, most recently as I went through a season in my life where I found myself unemployed for several months, my dad was the constant in my life reminding me daily that everything we face and go through is all prep work. Whatever we face the Lord is teaching us something and preparing us for something in the future. My dad would also constantly tell me this season is rough, but learn what the Lord is trying to teach you, or you may have to go through it again.

I have learned so much from him, here are a few things I am thankful for this Fathers Day:

  • How to be a Man of God – My dad is one of the most Godly men I know, and I have seen over 33 years that this isn’t an act, the man you see at church, work or where ever is the same man I saw at home. I have seen him spend time on his knees before the Lord, I have seen him bypass lesser things to spend time in God’s Word preparing to preach.
  • How to be a Godly Husband and Father – When I read in the Word of God what the Lord would call a man to be as a husband and father and examine my dad’s life, it lines up.
  • How to Work Hard – My dad is one of the hardest workers I know. Between working at a refinery, being a pastor and also having lawn care business, he is always going and working, and willing to help anyone out who may need it.
  • How to Set Priorities – In a day in age when we are all being pulled in a million different directions, and priorities are always changing, I have seen my dad set the Lord as priority over everything in our families life and that has remained constant. Sometimes that meant driving over an hour to church on Sundays and Wednesdays (even if a school night) and never missing. Sometimes that meant if I was playing in a sport and practice or a game was scheduled on Wednesday or Sunday that I was going to miss, and this wouldn’t be discussed. All these years later I don’t remember missing practice or games, but I remember that the Lord was priority over all in our families house, and for that I am thankful.
  • How to Faithfully Love and Shepherd a Flock – For a majority of my life my dad has played some role in ministry, as my youth pastor and for the past 11 years as a pastor. And in this I have seen him faithfully love the flock the Lord has placed before him. I have seen him weep over them, pray over them, proclaim the truth to them. To be bold and take stands because that’s what the Word would call him to do; and to spend time alone with the Lord to be refueled to pour himself out all over again. And in this he has also taught me that we are all a small part of the Lord’s greater flock. To remember this and pray for those of other churches and celebrate what the Lord is doing in their midst as well as ours.

Through the ups and downs of life, my dad has always been that constant voice of encouragement to me, always pointing me towards Christ, and for that I am thankful. Happy Fathers Day!


Dad, I have learned so much about my Heavenly Father, simply by watching you. Thank you! 

Promises for the Weary

FullSizeRender-6“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…. For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the One who helps you.”

~ Isaiah 41:10;13

 

Perhaps you are like me, when things get hard, your first reaction is to buckle down, grit your teeth and fix it. Whatever the situation may be, you foolishly think, “I got this, I don’t need help!” Or perhaps you are the opposite and when life gets hard and you crumble wondering how will you ever survive this, thinking, “What will I do?“. Where one is over-confident, the other has no confidence in themselves and both lead to stress and weariness, but the good news of the Gospel is that there is help and strength for both.

The Lord has been reminding me lately, over and over in His Word that He is in control of everything, and He gives strength to those who are weak. It is through mediating on His Word and on His promises that I have found myself less stressed lately. I know this isn’t a mind-blowing idea, but perhaps like me, we are prone to forget this, and life happens and we tense up or we crumble before running to the One who holds everything in His hand, to the One who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10).

Because of Christ is in us, we are free: from stress, from anxiety, free to run to Him for peace, hope and strength.


Both the over-confident and the one with no confidence find strength at the foot of Christ!

 

Recent reminders from His Word I have read: 

Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with their whole heart

~ Psalm 119:2

Your faithfulness endures to all generations; You have established the earth and it stands fast

~ Psalm 119:90

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path

~ Psalm 119:105

In my distress I called to the Lord and He answered me

~ Psalm 120:1

I lift up my eyes to the hills, from where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

~ Psalm 121:1

I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears

~ Isaiah 38:5b

To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens 

~ Psalm 123:1

Our Help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth

~ Psalm 124:8 


These are some of the promises the Lord has been showing me lately, reminding me simply of who He is, and who I am. When we properly see Him, we can find rest and strength that only comes from Him.


“Remember, it is not your weakness that will get in the way of God’s working through you, but your delusions of strength. His strength is made perfect in our weakness! Point to His strength by being willing to admit your weakness.”
~ Paul David Tripp, Pastor

 

PawPaw, You Gave Me More Than You Know

photo 2

 

Rudolph Elizondo Sr. (1921-2015) 


Today, my PawPaw went home to be with the Lord, after 93 long fruitful and faithful years. Although sad, we rejoice! We rejoice because although his earthly tent has passed, he has been clothed in a heavenly one that will never perish (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints
~ Psalm 116:15

I’m thankful for him!

I’m thankful for his legacy he has left us. The above picture is how I will always remember him, reading the Word spending time with His Savior.

I’m thankful for the way he taught us to love each other and the Lord.

I’m thankful for for the time we got with him and how up until the last day he was aware of us and knew us.

I’m thankful that in an age when marriage isn’t viewed as highly as it ought to be, that him and my MawMaw set the example for our family by being married for 72 years! (thats not a typo)

I’m thankful for his loving smile and how he always wanted the family to have fun and love each other.

And I’m thankful that I got to see him one more time two weeks ago.


Two weeks ago me and my sisters made our way back home to Bridge City for my nieces 1st birthday and our first stop, as it has been the past few years, was to see my PawPaw. When I saw him, I knew it was close, I knew the Lord would soon be calling him home. I’m so thankful the Lord allowed me one more weekend to see him. He was frail and weak, but sat there holding my sisters hand smiling, telling stories, asking how MawMaw was doing and telling us how much he loved us and how great it was to see us.  Two days later as we were making our way back home we went to see him and he had a gift for my sisters, two small  stuffed easter bunnies. One of my aunts had bought them for him to give away and he immediately knew who would get them, my sisters, his granddaughters, the “Two Most Beautiful Girls in the World,” as he called them, and was always ready to argue if you didn’t agree. He told me he was sorry he didn’t have anything for me, but lovingly joked that I was just the girls driver, bringing them to see their PawPaw. As we were leaving I hugged him told him I loved him, he smiled and again told me sorry he didn’t have anything for me but that I knew that he loved me; and I told him he had already given me more than enough.


PawPaw, You Gave Me More Than You Know


 

Here is what I have learned from my PawPaw (reposted from a previous post):

Life Lessons from My PawPaw

I would like to introduce you to my PawPaw, a man who I am blessed to have in my life and is always a joy to be around. Over the past few weeks with all the holidays I was able to spend a lot of time with him and my MawMaw at their house near my parents. Times like this are times I cherish and am so thankful for to sit with and talk with them and a lot of the time simply sit there and listen, listen to stories of how they met, listen to them joke with each other, or listen to the latest news that my MawMaw just read in the National Enquirer (she loves these stories).  These times are precious cause I know I won’t always have them, my PawPaw is 92 and although his goal is to catch Moses at 120 years old, (a joke he has had for the past 10 plus years and one I’m starting to think may actually happen) he is slowing down some along with my MawMaw who is 90. As I spent time with them over the last month and began to think of their legacy in our family and what I have learned from them over the years. This is not an exhausted list by any means, just a few of my first thoughts as I have dwelled on this.

  1. The Importance of Faith – The picture above is how I found my PawPaw one day I stopped by to say hi. He was sitting on his spot on the couch doing what he has done nearly everyday for the past 30 years, reading his Bible, as my MawMaw took a nap. He came to know the Lord while in his 60’s as the Lord saw fit to use my dad to lead him to the Lord. And since that day my PawPaw has forever been changed, after spending the first 60 years of his life trying to be good enough, the Lord opened his eyes to His love and grace. My PawPaw was worn his Bible out since then, and every time I go by there he tells me about what he read that day. One of the highlights of our time together over Christmas break, was sitting there with my 92-year-old PawPaw sat there and told me a list of answered prayers the Lord had answered this month for him, how some people may not believe in Christ, but he knows that when he prays to Him that the Lord answers him. On Christmas he told us, “This family is built on love and joy. Love for Christ and love for others.”
  2. The Importance of the Individual – This may be one of the biggest things I have noticed about my PawPaw, and that is he makes everyone feel important and as if you are the only one he is talking to. If you were to come with me and my family to meet them, he would talk to you directly and include you in everything. You would leave feeling like you are part of the family and not just some stranger who was tagging alone. And he has been this way it seems like his whole life, he was a car salesman most of his life, and even today we run into people who when they hear my dad’s name (he is a junior) they ask if his dad sold cars because they bought a car from him and remember how he helped them and how he got them into the car they wanted. I’ve purchased two vehicles in my life and couldn’t tell you the names of the salesman I dealt with.
  3. The Importance of Being a Witness – Any opportunity my PawPaw gets to point to Christ he takes it. Recently when at the doctor about to be released to go home, all the doctors and all the nurses were in his room (see point above, people are drawn to him) and they were asking him about being married for 71 years and whats the secret, his answer short, simple and powerful, “Jesus Christ.” Even at 92, and no longer able to be out and about he is still being a witness to anyone and everyone he may come in contact with, whether family member, doctor, nurse, or home health nurse that comes to check on him, he will tell you the main thing in his life and the secret to his joy is Christ.
  4. The Importance of a Never Changing Joy – My PawPaw is 92, and rides a scooter to get around in the house and has to basically sit on the couch all day long watching a TV he may or may not hear that well, but you would never know it. He is always joyful, regardless of the circumstances, and happy to see you. Never once can I recall him every complaining about his or my MawMaw’s circumstances. Through hospital trips, losing a home to a hurricane, having your car taken from you, zero complaints. Always joyful, always joking around, always thanking the Lord for what he has.
  5. The Importance of Family – My Grandparents have been married 71 years and are still in love. In an age where more than 50% of marriages end in divorce, my Grandparents have made it through, most people would be happy to live for 71 years and they have been married 71. It’s an amazing thing to see and witness and one that the world is astonished by, leading to questions as mentioned above, “How?” And the answer is always the same, “Jesus Christ,” Christ has sustained them. My MawMaw recently told my dad that no matter what family is family, they will make mistakes but the Lord tells us that whoever is without sin to throw the first stones, so no matter what you love your family cause that’s what the Lord has told us to do. And they have loved us all well, through ups and downs their love has remained constant.

This is just some of the many things that I have noticed in my PawPaw and MawMaw’s lives, and a small part of the legacy they are leaving our family. I am incredibly grateful for all that the Lord has used them to show me about living out His Word, and loving others. I cherish the moments the Lord continues to allow me to sit with them and just talk and listen. These times are precious and whether I get a few more years of these opportunities, or they make it to Moses and I get another 25+ years with them, these are the things I will hold onto.


“This family is built on love and joy. Love for Christ and love for others.”

Prayer Life Defined?

images“Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God.” 

~ Colossians 4:12

Several years ago I was working on an application to go on a mission trip to Haiti, and the question I struggled with the most was, “Describe your prayer life.” Part of the difficulty of this question was that I was currently having my prayer life rocked by Sprugeon’s “The Power of Prayer in a Believer’s Life” as the Lord was continually using Spurgeon to crumble up my small thoughts and ideas on prayer and punt them away.  Another difficulty was just how do you put into words your prayer life. If we are honest and you are like me there are times when our prayer life is like a mighty rushing river and at times when it is barely a stream making its way down the mountain.


How would you describe your prayer life?


For the past few years whenever I think of prayer, and reevaluate my current prayer life, I often think of this verse towards the end of Paul’s letter to the Colossians. I love the way Paul describes Epaphras’ prayer life as one that is always struggling on the Church of Colossae’s behalf.  Here we see that Paul has taken notice of Epaphras’ prayer life and has noticed that it is one of battle, and not simply for himself but for the Church of Colossae. Perhaps a better question for the mission trip application would be,


“How would others describe your prayer life?” 


Are we known to be prayer warriors? Do others know that when you say, “I’ll be praying for you,” that we mean it and will be joining in the fight in prayer on their behalf, or are they simply empty words we offer? As Piper says in Let the Nations Be Glad, “We cannot know what prayer is for until we know that life is war!” In this life as believers we are in a war and the enemy is not flesh and blood, but is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12) and as we battle we are to pray at all times (Ephesians 6:18).

As we put on the full Armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) let us not forget to enter the battle in prayer at all times. For the sake of our local church, for the sake of churches in our cities and the greater Church worldwide, let us always be struggling on their behalf in our prayers.

 “True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that – it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of heaven and earth” ~ Spurgeon 

Related Posts:


#PrayforYourPastor

“Must be nice to only work 3 hours a week!”

“What do you really do all day?”

“Oh you are a part-time pastor!”

With these statements and many more like them we reveal how difficult we feel that of being a pastor really is. After all we really only see them “at work” on Sunday’s and perhaps on Wednesdays, for an hour or two at a time; what do they do the rest of the week? Read the Bible? Play Golf? Fish? Sleep in? Who knows, while we are clocking in and out and putting in 40+ hours a week at our job, what is our pastor doing? So we kid with them about what they do all day, prehaps only as a joke or as a coverup when we really want to know.

As the son of a pastor, and someone who has been in ministry or close to those in ministry most of my life, can I beg you to pray constantly for your pastors, elders and deacons the Lord has placed as overseers and shepherds in your life. Theres a weight involved in being a pastor that is heavy and the burden for those people in their church that is unbearable at times. Your pastor isn’t a super-Christian that doesn’t face life’s difficulties, stresses, temptations and hurts. Your pastor needs wisdom, discernment, endurance and strength that can only come from the Lord if they are ever going to accomplish that which the Lord has called them too.

Some things to remember when wondering what your pastor does all day:

  • Thanks to the advance/curse of technology they are on call and reachable 24/7 – there is no “part-time” ministry
  • Rarely when someone says “Hey pastor can we talk” is it good news or to thank them
  • Pastors constantly step into the worse of life’s circumstances that are affecting the people of their congregation
  • They are not only trying to faithfully lead their families, but also a whole congregation of people
  • Bearing the weight of James 3:1
  • When they aren’t meeting with someone they are thinking of their next counseling session
  • The weight of reading, studying and preparing to teach the Word of God

A lot of this post comes from reading the following last night:

“From a variety of sources, ranging from the Fuller Institute to the Barna Research Group and Pastoral Care, Inc., we find these sobering numbers:

– 90 percent of pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week

– 80 percent believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families

– 90 percent feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands

– 80 percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged

– 90 percent of pastors say the ministry is completely different than what they thought it would be like before they entered the ministry

– 50 percent feel unable to meet the demands of the job

– 70 percent of pastors constantly fight depression

– 70 percent say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started

– 70 percent do not have someone they consider a close friend

– 40 percent report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month

– 33 percent confess having engaged in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church

– 50 percent of pastors feel so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living

– 70 percent of pastors feel grossly underpaid

– 50 percent of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years

– Only 1 out of every 10 ministers will actually retire as a minister in some form”

~ From Jared Wilson in The Pastor’s Justification

I share these stats as a means to show the stresses and thoughts some of our pastors face.  And to ask us to constantly hold our pastors and staffs up before the Lord in prayer, asking the Lord to sustain them, encourage them and help them be faithful to their calling, that can only be completed by the Grace of God.

Your pastor loves you and is constantly thinking of you and the congregation, lets not neglect to lift them up in prayer as they faithfully lead us.

Purpose Behind the Tests

IMG_445447583Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
~James 1:2-4

I don’t think it is a bold statement to say that many of us, if not all of us hate tests. Whether we are in school and knowing a test is coming up, or worse it’s an unannounced test; or as an adult we find ourself going through a difficult season of life. Tests make us uncomfortable, stress us out, and no matter how well we may have prepared beforehand they tend to make us a little uneasy and nervous. But how often do we think of the purpose of the test, that the test is doing something; a quick google search showed that test:

  1. Identify What the Tester Has Learned
  2. Identify the Testers Weaknesses and Strentghs

The Test Is Doing Something


 

Yes, tests in life make us uneasy, are difficult, but there is a purpose in them, and it isn’t that God is mean and finds joy in watching us suffer or be stressed out but that He is growing and sanctifying us in the process. This passage in James tells us that trials produce steadfastness, these trials in our life help us remain steadfast in our faith. Or as Paul says in Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
~ Romans 5:1-5

Suffering produces endurance, which produces character that produces hope! How?

One thing I have been learning recently is that it is easy to say, “Yes Lord I fully trust You” and harder to live it out. But you see in the moments when we face those tests that require us to trust on Him and lean into Him, we now have evidence of not only His provision but also our trust and faith in Him. Which can also reveal those weaknesses in our life and areas where we don’t fully trust Him. Until this is reveled to us,  and we remain blind to it, He is unable to go to work in the area of doubt or unbelief.

David was able to go out against Goliath, because in his life he had seen the Lord provide and move time and time again, whether it was a bear or a lion that came after his sheep; the Lord had delivered him. He had hope that Lord who had protected him many times in the past and delivered him was able to do so again. Without facing tests prior to this, David never would have had any hope, but would have gone out there feeling nervous, uneasy and stressed.

Not saying that tests in life should be easy and stressless, but that there is a purpose in them, and that when we grasp this it allows is to breathe a little easier knowing that He is working in us and hasn’t forgotten us. That purpose is that we will know Him and trust Him more, not simply with our words but with our lives.

“Let your cares drive you to God. I shall not mind if you have many of them if each one leads you to prayer. If every fret makes you lean more on the Beloved, it will be a benefit.” ~ Charles Spurgeon

 

And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~
~James 1:4