What a beauty!

I like the phrase “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” It denotes a certain subjectivity on the part of the beholder. It implies that it’s up to us to find beauty in what we see. The expression could be paraphrased by saying “It’s up to the beholder to see beauty.” You and I are beholders. It’s up to us to see beauty in life. It’s a choice but I also believe it’s a gift. I know someone who sees beautiful in almost everything and in everyone. I started seeing beauty in things that I would not have considered beautiful years ago. God sees beauty in everything and in everyone. It’s hard to believe that everyone is beautiful to Him but that’s His truth and He owns it. Our primary definition of beauty is a description of physical aesthetics and it refers to what’s pleasing to the eye. Beauty is much more than that however. Inner beauty is important. If we add the expression “Beauty is skin deep” to the one I started my message with, we understand that our eye has to look beyond the physical. If we could all see beauty in everyone, imagine how that would solve the problems of racism and bigotry that exist in the world. Let’s be God’s beholders and promote beauty in everything. 

Hearing of people marching and proclaiming their desire to have an exclusively white state is alarming, disappointing and devastating. It is appalling when you find out that some of them did it in the name of God. What kind of God are they talking about? If Jesus were to walk down the streets with a banner, His message would be the total opposite. He would brandish a banner that says “I created everyone. I see beauty in everyone. Everyone is equal.” He would spread good news of love and acceptance. Hate is not in His vocabulary. He is an advocate of the supremacy of love not the supremacy of a race. We need to choose to see beauty. We need to make an effort to communicate and talk and get to know other people. We shouldn’t judge on physical appearance. We shouldn’t judge period. There is no one better than you and me on this planet. Too many people never got the memo and they spread hate instead because they don’t understand beauty. 

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” (1 Peter 3:3-4). This verse should make us rethink our primary definition of beauty. There is beauty in everyone. Let’s pray that we get that revelation and that we are able to see the inner beauty more than the looks. There is an exercise that I have been doing for years and that I mentioned before. When I am walking around NYC, I look at people around me and say in my head “He loves him. He loves her. He loves this one. He loves that one.” I say to myself that God loves every single person that I see. It doesn’t matter what they look like. God loves them all equally. Friend, I encourage you to try it. It will shift your perspective and it will be a humbling exercise. There is a lot of ugliness in the world that stems from hatred, violence and wickedness but the Lord promised to give us beauty for ashes. Look at the ugliness of the world as the ashes that need to be turned into beauty. Pray for beauty for ashes. Pray for love to reveal beauty to all of us. Speak about the beauty you see. Don’t be shy about it. You will contribute to lessening the racism in this world one beautiful word at a time!

Suggested reading: 1 Samuel 16:7; Romans 7:22; Colossians 3:12

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You can and you will

“You can and you will” is a thought I woke up to one morning. “You can do it and you will do it” is just what I needed to hear to get me through that day. If you overload on God’s positivity, positivity will ooze out of you under the most critical conditions. It won’t matter how hard the obstacles seem ahead of you, you will have the confidence that you will make it. Today I want to reiterate that you can do it and you will do it. You will make it today and you will make it throughout the week. The days ahead of you will present opportunities for you to hold on to the truth that you will have a successful week. Isaiah 43:2 is a promise from the Old Testament that still applies today. It says “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Deep rivers and fires this week don’t stand a chance against you. You can do it and you will!

How comforting it is to know that we can stay afloat in the middle of the deepest oceans! Problems and difficulties can draw holes in our joy that feel like deep bottomless oceans. We try our best to swim and to get to shore but then it’s one problem after another. Remember, friend, God will send you the most reliable buoy there is. It might not look like the one you imagined. It could be a smaller size or a unique shape but if you welcome His help, it will keep you afloat and you will stay safe. See yourself going through this week swimming with confidence and going forward. Don’t picture yourself barely staying afloat and remaining in the same spot. I am talking about making it this week which implies success. You are going to make progress. You are going to move in the right direction, friend. You are meant to succeed so it’s time your mind got on board. God sees it that way and so should you. 

Getting burned by fire is very unpleasant. A betrayal or a conflict with someone can feel like you are getting burned at times. These things are bound to happen but what’s bound to happen as well is that the Lord will hold you tight while you are walking through the fire. The flames might be menacing. You might be feeling the heat but don’t let that intimidate you. Remember Isaiah 43:2. It is a promise for you today and every day. You will experience peace and joy while walking through the fire if you keep trusting. I am surrounded by flames on a regular basis but I have learned to let the Lord put out the fires of life. I turn on the faucet of prayer, I use the sprinklers of praise and God absorbs all the fire on my behalf. You can walk in peace and you will walk in peace. You can be blessed and you will be blessed. You can have a great week and you will have a great week. Don’t get discouraged by the Monday morning blues. God is waterproof and fireproof and He stays with you. Enjoy your great week!

Suggested reading: Isaiah 41:10; Psalm 66:12; Psalm 91:15

When love erases pain

I don’t need to go far to see the pain that humankind is facing. I don’t need to go outside of my circle of friends to see that people are having a hard time. I see individuals who are suffering privately or openly. For some reason this seems to hit me more around this time of the year but I know the struggle is constant. Today I am writing from the heart to say that I know what the pain is. I am writing to say that I also know there is relief available. I am writing to say that the suffering often lasts longer than we wish but peace can come at the least expected time. 

My answer to the pain I see around me is God but not God as seen in theologies, doctrines, man-made ideas or even inside the door of many churches. I am referring to God who comes down to our level to meet us where we are. My personal God interacts with me on a level that defies human interactions. He goes past the color of my skin. He is not concerned about politics. He is not worried about if I like blue more than green. He cares about the condition of my heart and soul. He is concerned about my happiness. Friend, He sees your pain. He understands your suffering. He is not deaf to your cries. You might need to shave off some of the layers that were imposed on Him by people, by ideologies, by the Church sometimes or by your mind. Once you get through the layers and reach the core of who He is, change will come. 

I can say from experience that reaching the core of what Love is all about, transformed my life. I am not the same person I was 4 years ago. I had been a Christian for most of my life but it didn’t mean too much. You see, until you experience true Love and you embrace it, you can miss out on God. I love the Bible, I respect it and I read it all the time but if I don’t read it with the eyes of Love, I could create doctrines that would serve me and not serve the real purpose. The real purpose is to get us to know God and to get closer to Him. Yet we focus on key scriptures that support a harsh and punitive God or that strip Him off His power. I do believe in miracles. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for His miracles and I do believe they are all rooted in Love. Seeing Love as the base for who He is, is a great revelation that leads to freedom from pain. 

I am not belittling your pain by saying “Just believe in Love and your pain will go away.” Believing that God is love gives a boost to our faith and allows us to see Him as Someone who cares enough to deal with our suffering. It helps us trust that He can scrape off the pain on the walls of our heart until we are pain-free and our hearts have a fresh coating of love paint on them. Love can neutralize the power of pain. If you are suffering today, use Love as an eradication tool for your pain. How? Let God demonstrate love through you. Be the Love this crying world needs. Start with your circle of friends and show them what Love can do. Speak the language of love instead of a theological jargon that people won’t relate to. Forget the “Thou shall” and broadcast the “You will make it.” People need to have hope speak to their heart and not condemnation speak to their mind. Be an advocate for Love in your world and your pain will go away in the process. 

Suggested reading: Matthew 5:4; 2 Corinthians 1:3-4; Romans 5:3-4; Romans 8:18

What I learned from the music shuffle mode 

I drove from San Diego to L.A with a friend a couple of days ago. When he played music in the car, he always used the shuffle mode. At first I was resisting the idea of having songs being played in a random order. I thought to myself “Why would we want to listen to these songs in a different order from the order that I am so familiar with?” I am a very sequential and linear person. I like things to go in a particular order that makes sense to my sequential logic. In my mind tracks 1 through 15 should be played in that sequence. Then it dawned on me that God was trying to teach me some valuable lessons that we can all benefit from. First it is important for us to get out of our comfort zone. We need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. God will help us grow more if we step into an unknown zone that keeps us guessing and learning new things. If we stay with what we are used to, we won’t adapt to change easily and change is a norm in life. Change drops on our lap unexpectedly and frequently. Let meshare a few other ideas I gleaned from the shuffle mode. 

God’s ways are higher than our ways. He thinks differently and He does things differently. His logic is not our logic. If we stick to x, y and z all the time, we might be surprised by f, a, m and b. God has an order that can challenge our linear minds. I know His order has challenged my thinking many times and it was always exactly what I needed. I needed to see that my logic didn’t make sense. I needed to open myself to being shaken up a bit. If I keep trying to understand God’s plan for my life by organizing it neatly in my mind, I will miss out or I will fail to sync with His plan. The question is “How flexible are we in our Christian walk?” We can also ask ourselves how willing we are to follow a path that defies our understanding. 

Let the shuffle mode play the music of your life. There are numerous tracks that shouldn’t be in a particular order. The shuffle mode promotes the unexpected. It takes you by surprise and it shows you that you never can predict what’s coming next. This is a great lesson in life. The unpredictable characteristic of life is one that we need to reckon with. The faster we get used to it, the faster we will enjoy the random tracks that life puts on our playlist. The good news is that God holds the whole music set and it doesn’t matter if a song comes on that you didn’t expect. It doesn’t matter that an event in your life pops up and throws your plans off. What matter is that God is never surprised and He can’t be thrown for a loop. Good and bad surprises are a part of life but God remains constant no matter what type of surprise comes your way. Don’t resist the shuffle mode. Don’t dislike it. Embrace the randomness of life knowing that you have what it takes to handle it. God will also shuffle your life by rearranging certain events so they end up being in your favor. What was meant for harm can be changed for good. Trust the Master shuffler. He knows what the next song is!

Suggested reading: Isaiah 55:8-9; Psalm 92:5; Psalm 40:5

If you ever get lost, follow G.O.D

I’ve been back in Southern California for a few days now for vacation. Even though I know the area pretty well, I still rely on my GPS to get me places at times. What I love about my GPS is that when I make a wrong turn, it redirects me and it shows me how to get back on track. God operates the same way. When we make a wrong turn, when we make a mistake, He redirects us and He puts us back on track. We could miss it a million times, He would redirect us a million times. Today, friend, don’t let the wrong turns of life steer you in the wrong direction. You don’t have to keep going the wrong way. You don’t have to be lost and remain lost. G.O.D stands for God’s One Direction. God knows the one direction you should follow and He will bring you back to it time and time again. His one direction is His plan for your life. Trust God. Follow G.O.D. 

My GPS is gentle. When I make a left instead of making a right, it doesn’t yell at me. It doesn’t point at my mistake. It is quiet for a couple of seconds and then it directs me as if nothing had happened. A lot of people think that when they make a wrong turn God is mad at them and He is ready to yell. They shy away from Him and they take steps away from Him. It should be the opposite. When we go the wrong way we should get closer to God. We should recognize that we made a mistake, present it to Him, turn it over to Him and move on. Just like the GPS, He will give us the right directions without highlighting our mistakes. He is very gentle and very loving. There is nothing we can do that will ever turn Him off. There are no mistakes too big and no wrong turn too wide that can separate us from God’s love. 

I get lost sometimes but I keep on going. I keep on heading towards what I perceive to be the right direction. I go straight to God. I don’t look to the right or to the left. I look ahead right at Him. He is the one direction that leads me to my destination. He is the one compass that shows me where the north is when I am mistakingly going south. When in doubt, stick to God’s direction. If you don’t know what direction He is leading you, look in His Word. Ask for directions. Stop and look at His map. Ask God for clarifications and keep going. God’s GPS is safe and secure. It knows all the roads, all the detours and all the hidden paths. If you are lost today, rest assured that you will find your way again. Believe that this is only temporary and the road ahead of you is going to be clear again. The Lord will go before you and He will pave the way to great times and excellent moments in His presence. If you ever get lost, follow G.O.D. His one direction will take you to a land of endless possibilities!

Suggested reading: Psalm 25:4-5; Psalm 27:11; James 1:5

Keep your house clean, keep your mind beautiful 

Yesterday I briefly mentioned how our mind is a beautiful house. It is supposed to be anyway. It should be this peaceful place where we entertain friendly guests but we end up letting unwanted visitors in all the time. I also talked about worry being an annoying guest and the need to “de-personify” worry and to destroy it since it is a pest. There are many pests that try to take root in the house of our mind. Being aware of their toxic influence is helpful. God has the best pesticides you can think of. The key is to access them and to use them all the time. You see, the enemy uses our mind as his playground. He dumps the sand of doubt in our head and he pushes us down the swing of fear as much as he can. Reclaim your house and tear down the playground of misery that he loves to establish on top of our peaceful mind. I want my house to be clean and quiet all the time. I don’t want fear, doubt and their bugging friends to infest the beautiful place that was given to me. Let’s be proactive and let’s make sure we are well-equipped to keep the peace and to maintain a clean environment. 

Doubt is a nuisance that likes to creep in as much as it can. It feeds on fear and it feeds on the need to take matters into our own hands. It’s the pest that contradicts faith and that tries to take it down by questioning everything. Doubt stands in the way. It stands between God and us. Its primary role is to create separation. I like to use past victories as a remedy for doubt. We are not to dwell on the past but remembering how God got us out of a ditch in the past can cause us to push doubt away from our mind. 1 Chronicles 16:15 instructs us to “Remember His covenant forever.” His covenant is permanent and it stays powerful. He promised to come through for us and to bless us. Use the pesticide of remembering the covenant every time doubt shows up. Spray good old memories of past blessings on it and spray the power of the covenant all over your house. 

A clean house has no clutter. Keeping our mind clear is a good way to keep it clean. I find meditative prayer to be a very efficient tool against a cluttered mind. Give it a shot. Meditate on God and on His goodness. Meditate on the positive. We are encouraged to think of what’s pure and what’s good. The more we do it, the cleaner we will keep the house. Meditation allows us to wait on the Lord and to hear from the Lord. What we hear is clean and beautiful. If you meditate daily on the things of the Lord, you will purge the bad and the ugly and keep the good in your house. 

What I am saying today is that we have to continually be cognizant of what goes on in our mind. It is very important because our mind is very independent from our heart and our spirit and we need to renew it a lot otherwise we will find ourselves all over the place. We will vacillate and go back and forth. We will be what they call Christian yo-yos that go up and doubt in their faith. Christians that crumble easily under pressure. The topic of the mind should never go away. Let’s keep our mind pest-free. Prayer is my favorite pesticide. Find out which one is the best for you. Once you know for sure, have it at the ready and use it generously. Keep your house nice and clean. Your spiritual health depends on it. Your life will be so much better and you will walk hand in hand with God’s truth. It’s time to clean, vacuum and dust your house. Keep your mind beautiful!

Suggested reading: 2 Timothy 4:5; Romans 12:2; Philippians 4:8

A worry-free house

Worry is not your friend. Worry is that annoying guy who keeps showing up at your house uninvited. He doesn’t even ring the bell. He comes in without permission. He breaks in. He finds his way into your house by sliding through a back window or through the roof. He is relentless and he is rude. Now in some cases worry has become part of the people you see everyday. You are so used to him that you don’t even notice him anymore. He’s in the background of everything you see. He’s familiar and he is a permanent fixture in your home. Unfriend him. Hit that button on the Facebook of your life. Don’t let him follow you. Reject his friend request. Reject it over and over again. God wouldn’t emphasize the importance of not worrying if it weren’t crucial. Worry can take over your house and before you know it, he is the master of your domain. Take back that control today. Kick him out. Pray him out of your life. Get a spiritual restraining order against worry and live worry-free. 

A vital step against worry is to ban him from your vocabulary. It’s easy to say ” I am worried that…” Stop right there. Don’t glorify him and don’t give him energy by talking about him. If worry is big in your heart, you can squeeze him out by not verbalizing how he is making you feel. Worry has the power to give you strong emotions that can paralyze you. Worry doesn’t play fair but you can play games with him by leaving him out of your conversations. He’s one of those egoistic beings that loves being talked about. Don’t give him that satisfaction!

Another good step is to actually talk to worry. Speak positively about your feelings. You might be going through tumultuous emotions inside but if you speak about how you are not going to worry, it will make a difference. Use faith against worry. When worry is at your door, tell him he is not welcome. Be the one to have a relentless attitude about it. Here is a good statement: “My God tells me not to worry 365 times in His Word. He promised He would never leave me nor forsake me so worry you have no place in my life. The Lord is my Savior and I have no reason to worry. He is taking care of me. Back off”. 

Worry shouldn’t be ignored but one thing you can ignore is his significance. So far I have personified worry but I strongly suggest that you “de-personify” him by treating him as an “it”. Regard worry as a thing. It’s a thing you can deal with easily. It’s that thing that the Lord conquered for you. It can come against you a hundred times a day but it has been conquered a hundred times every day. Pray against it when it shows up. It hates the Lord. It hates anything that has to do with the Cross and what it symbolizes. Stand your ground against it. The Lord will help you. Worry is a pest. God has the best pesticides available. His Word is a destructive pesticide. Combined with faith, it will rid you of worry in a jiffy. When worry comes, focus on the good times. Focus on how good God has been. Your mind is a beautiful house and worry shouldn’t be a dirty painting in there. Keep your house clean!

Suggested reading: Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; Philippians 4:16