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A Mission in Colombia

Wow! How can I begin to describe what my week in Colombia was like???

First off, thank you all for your prayers and support that led me to this amazing week. It was truly the experience of a lifetime (by that I certainly don’t mean it was a vacation of any sort but saw God move in amazing ways each day!). The one thing I had to always keep top of mind was…. DON’T DRINK THE WATER! Ha! But yeah…

What Barranquilla, Colombia is like:

It’s HOT! A city near the coast, it seems to be quite busy all the time in the main parts. The driving and traffic is wild! A large portion of the population walks everywhere, so there are lots of pedestrians all around in the streets. Drivers are extremely aggressive and impatient (Yes,much more so that Houston); it would be quite easy to get hit by a car. The people are crazy open and accommodating. It was quite a culture shock. Everyone just opens their home to some strange American people that want to talk with them. Weird but nice. The food…. oh wow…. So opening day, our leader taught about memorial stones in the Bible, things that represent a memory. I brought back quite a large memorial stone myself… probably an extra 15 pounds! That food is crazy good. It was like this: each meal was better than the last, but the last was better than the current. Wild. I’m convinced they all cook with the exact same spice, and that spice is called “crazydeepflavorloadedjampackedstuffthatmakesfoodtasteamazingnomatterwhatitisandnoonecaneverduplicateit”.

What we were doing:

So the point of this was to: Equip, Evangelize, and Establish. Out team did a few different things: some did Community Transformation, door-to-door evangelizing, passed out eye glasses, provided medical care, etc. As for my group and me, for a couple of days we were strengthening an existing church, then helped establish a new church for the other two days. We went into neighborhoods in groups of five Americans, each teamed with a national (a leader in the respective church that knows the particular neighborhood) and a translator, and we went door-to-door sharing our testimonies and the amazing story of love and forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus. At that point, we invited the people who heard us to the local church for the small groups that were being started so they could learn more about what they had heard and could begin their new lives in Christ.

My daily experience:

Saturday: I experienced the madness that is Colombian traffic but was completely fine with it when I experienced the miracle of Colombian food.

Sunday: My group of four others and myself were taken to a random church to worship with them. It was crazy good. Unannounced to us, we were put on the spot to share with the congregation why we were there and to give our testimonies. This was particularly wonderful for me. You see, I had the idea that I was NOT going to speak Spanish while there until maybe the last day when I was really comfortable with everything. The Holy Spirit had different plans for me…. I stand up in front of this crowd of maybe 50 people, and He was urging me to give my testimony and to share my heart with them all in Spanish. Thank God for giving us the Holy Spirit that guides us! That was one of the most special moments I have ever had in my life…

Monday: Day one of the campaign I met my translator and national along with the pastor of the local church we were helping to establish. What a great heart I saw in each of them! We set out for the first time, and I was crazy nervous! I had never explained the Gospel of Jesus in such a simple yet beautiful way, much less in some door-to-door fashion. I stumbled my way through, and was used to lead a man to Christ. Amazing! I was on fire after that! This process repeated throughout the day, and I saw something like 6 people give their hearts to Jesus. YES!!!

Tuesday: This was the most amazing day of all time….. I was much more comfortable with the process, and this day was really all about teaching the national what to do after I left (this was my last day with Betsy). It was beautiful to see her share her heart and the Gospel with people in her own neighborhood. So special. So just before the end of the day, my small group of three is walking down the street, and usually it is the national that tells us which house to go to. I decided to go to the house on my left, but my translator said to me, “No, Eric, we are going to the white house over here”. Keep in mind that the translators are really just that and therefore don’t make any decisions. She said it in such an authoritative voice, though (14 year old girl by the way). So we crossed the street, and just as we were approaching, a woman opened the door just about to leave. (Of course my thought was “Nice selection, Isabella!”.) This woman, rather reluctantly, let us into her home. She seemed rather disinterested and left music playing as I shared my testimony with her. When I began to share the Gospel, though, she paid much more attention. She quickly turned down the music. As I explained to her that Jesus loves her and wanted to forgive her of all her sins, she kind of smirked and certainly didn’t believe me. This was a good thing, though, because I didn’t want her to believe me. I wanted her to believe God’s Word. I was able to share some verses with her that meant a lot. For some reason, the Holy Spirit told me to tell her the story of the adulteress, prostitute, woman that was brought before Jesus (you know…the time when He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”) I had no idea why, but I did anyway; He knows better than I do, right? As I unfolded the Gospel to her, her heart began to change. She took a phone call from her husband, and I overheard her say, “I’m here at home listening to someone tell me a story… a very beautiful story”. As we continued, she began to weep. Her knees were shaking after I told her that Jesus is offering her His gift of eternal life and of complete forgiveness. It was truly amazing to see the Holy Spirit so alive!! She made the decision to accept Christ! As we tried to pray with her, she physically could not… She was weeping so uncontrollably that she literally could not utter any coherent words. We had to stop and calm her down, to explain to her again that He was faithful and just to forgive her. All three of us contributed in a special way to this woman. I must say that, even though I know Spanish, I was drifting off a lot of times during this (in silent prayer) and Betsy and Isabella were ministering to this woman, so I missed quite a bit of what she was saying. After a while, she was able to pray and accept Christ into her heart! That was so amazing! I just saw this woman who was leaving her home, then completely disinterested, weeping uncontrollably, her body shaking violently and then accepting Christ as her Savior. Wow!!! It was so special.

As my team and I gathered to recap, I was asked if I was the one who ministered to the prostitute. I was very confused and replied, “Not that I know of”. My friend Josh said yes because that’s what my translator had said to him. I immediately left and went to speak with Isabella. As I asked her, she immediately said, “Yes, didn’t you hear her say that?”. I was floored. Before I knew ANY of this, the Holy Spirit had me share the story of a prostitute and the forgiveness of Christ (something I hadn’t and didn’t do in any other home in Colombia). This woman was a prostitute herself! She was overcome with emotion and became physically calm after accepting Christ that afternoon. As I was in silent prayer sporadically, I completely missed those things about her life.

It was beyond astonish how much of a divine appointment that was… I had never and didn’t since share that biblical story. Only in that house, at that time, to that woman. This is the only time my translator told us which house to go into. This was the only house that day that I shared the Gospel with since Betsy was doing it that day, but the Holy Spirit pressed upon me before going in that I share the Gospel to this woman. Everything about this gives me uncontrollable goosebumps, and my eyes fill with tears when I think about this, the Holy Spirit being so alive and active today, the power of redemption through Christ! Wow!! I will type more later for the rest of the week…. this story stops me every time…

With love,

E

… Through an EZ Tag

A couple weeks ago, I was driving on the tollway and just not thinking I guess. Three lanes on the left, clearly marked, are for those with EZ Tags, and all others are for coins and cash. I have an EZ Tag, but I ended up somehow in the coin-only lane. Good thing I had some spare change!

Even though I have the tag and can pass through those lanes, I wasn’t paying attention and had to pay for something I already have paid for! I couldn’t help but realize that we do this all too often! Maybe not on the tollway but in our spiritual lives. As followers of Christ, we have already been bought, and all sins have been paid for (1 Conrinthians 7:23). We don’t have to travel down the road where we have to stop to pay some toll. It’s already been paid by the death of Jesus! Thank God for that.

What I mean is that we too often travel in the wrong lane because we just aren’t paying enough attention. The signs are clearly marked like the wisdom and instruction found in Scripture. If we are reading and heeding (hey, that can be a cool new term: reading and heeding… sorry for the side-note, just thought that was cool!) the signs out there, we so easily veer off into the wrong lanes of hanging out with the wrong friends, doing things we shouldn’t do, being who we USED to be in our B.C. days if you know what I mean. With a proper mindset and staying mindful of the signs so readily available, we can pass through the EZ Tag lane without any problem. Even in Houston traffic, we can pass through a tollway without stopping, delaying arrival to our destination. If we could just grab hold of that and heed the words of our Father, we can stay the course (James 5:11). Psalm 119:1 says that, “You’re blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.” Reading His Word is all the signage we need to stay on the course He has laid out for us. We need not stop and pay some toll for something that’s already been paid for us. Forget all that and walk (or drive haha) in His righteous ways as sons and daughters of the Most High (Galatians 3:26).

What an amazing thing to say, that we stayed on course, in the lane He provided for us. This is not to say it will be easy, far from it! We are told that we will have troubles, but that He has already overcome (John 16:33). Of course we will still have to deal with traffic and crazy drivers and circustances that try to navigate us off course. But, standing firm in the faith (which comes from reading His Word according to Romans 10:17), we can accomplish all that He would have for us. I, for one, can’t wait! As I get more and more sensitive to hearing the right Voice, I can stay on my course and do what He asks of me. If I’m driving a car (nope! I’m a truck guy…) that He has placed His EZ Tag on, I have all I need to navigate this life and do all things tasked to me. I can’t wait to say, along with Paul, that, “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful” (2 Timothy 4:7). Let’s all be encouraged in knowing that all the craziness and madness will still be there, but we have the authority to pass it all by and get to our destination, accomplish our respective works, more easily and quickly.

… Through Sweet Tea

As a server in a restaurant for a number of years, I saw so many glasses of iced tea being sweetened by patrons. Some folks would use just a portion of a packet of a given sweetener per glass while others would empty the caddy that held the packets! I remember learning about saturation in school and knew that, at a certain point, the tea simply couldn’t handle any more sweeteners. This became evidenced as I saw granules floating in the glass that simply would not dissolve. At times, I saw a layer on the bottom of the glass (quite disgusting to think of for me as I prefer my tea unsweetened). Saturation in one definition is defined as “the state of a physical system containing as mush of another substance as is possible.” Tea can handle a certain amount of sugar, and it will sweeten it to that amount. There is a point, though, that you will just be drinking sweetened tea with floating gems of granulated sugar because it simply won’t dissolve; it’s saturated.
In thinking about this, I cannot help but think about the amazing thing: our lives can never be saturated with love! Think about it: have you ever been loved too much? Been cared for in an amount where you had to stop it? I’m not alluding to certain grandmothers that smother (haha), rather that they simply love so much they just want to be around all the time. Not saying that’s the perfect way to display the love but that they simply provide a love that is so vital. Jesus said that, “…by this all men will know that you are My disciples, that you love one another” (John 13:35). This same Man loved you so much that He gave up His life for you (John 15:13). Do you think that Jesus can love you too much? Do you think that there is a point where you have to tell Him to stop, get away from you, and to not tell you or display His love to you? Certainly not!!! You would have to be completely coo-coo for Coco Puffs if you know what I mean!
Because He loves you so much and delights in you (Zephaniah 3:17), it’s important to note that love at its very definition is God, is Jesus. Yeah, I’ll back that claim up: John 10:30 says that Jesus and the Father (God) are One. John 1:1 explains it more clearly, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus is that Word. We see clearly that Jesus is God. 1 John 4:8 tells us that, “God is love.” OK, going back to basic algebra and the principles of equations, the commutative property tells us that if Jesus is God, and God is love, then Jesus is love. As Love, Jesus displayed it all. Every act He performed, every miracle, every message He taught was all about love. This is the same love, the root and very definition of love itself, which He freely gives to us!
I thank God that He can continually pour out His love on me and that, unlike iced tea, I can never be saturated by it! I can always receive more. Moreover, and I’ll close with this, that love can NEVER be taken away!! Read what Paul writes in Romans 8:38-39, some of the most powerful words ever written:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present
nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be
able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
My prayer is that we always receive this love that is given to us and that we display and give away that same love to others. There’s plenty to go around!

… Through Left-footed Driving

With my right leg still out of commission and a desire to get out of this apartment, I decided I would give driving my truck a shot on Sunday morning for church. I used all agility to climb in as it’s quite tall, and I still can’t bend my right leg. That said, I stretched out my useless limb to the passenger seat (thankfully I don’t have bucket seats), got as comfortable as possible and stretched into my seatbelt, rare as that may sound for me. Left-footed driving was on! It’s quite awkward doing this, I must say. The task at hand remained the same, but everything about the pedals and even turning sharp corners in such a position took quite a bit of adjusting to get used to, though I’m still not ready for the Olympics in this skill set. After some time, though, I began to get it, and it’s not so bad. I came to find out that after two weeks of making a fine butt print in my couch cushion that I like getting outside!

On the way home from church, what I realized was so different about driving with my left foot was the pressure with which I pressed the respective pedals. It was all off. Sometimes I would almost peal out, not stop in time, stop too abruptly or just drive slower than my grandma. What I was so used to doing for so many years changed all of a sudden, and I found myself executing a new task.

When the Lord calls us to things, ministries or events for Him, we simply must listen. No matter the task at hand, He calls us to work for His kingdom (Philippians 2:12-13). When the Lord calls you into something new, such as ministries for: children, homeless, un-churched, missions, underprivileged teenagers, drug addicts, the hungry, etc. it is our responsibility as His followers to respond to that call. This is not always easy! He may very well call you into something you aren’t too comfortable with. He did that with me when He led me away from children’s ministry and threw me to the ravenous wolves (technically called “high school kids”, but let’s not argue over semantics haha). It was a different ball game teaching these wolves. They aren’t the sweet kids that most of my corny jokes and seemingly unreal enthusiasm worked so well on. No, there were so many different pressures involved. The ministry I had done for years and that had become so natural to me was gone, and a new chapter had unfolded. Through it all, He was with me and helped guide me. Not saying it was simple, because it wasn’t. It was for His glory though.

When He calls you into something new, or something you are already in, please realize that, just like my driving predicament, different pressures are going to be all around you (2 Corinthians 4:9). Learning from Paul’s example in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9, it may even hurt or make us weak, but we rest in knowing that when we are weak, He is strong and that His joy will be our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Things will come at you from many different angles, particularly when you begin a new ministry. We see this in the life of Jesus. What happened to Him just before His 3-year stint as the Good Teacher? This is when He was tempted most by Satan! This account is in Luke 4:1-13 if you need to brush up on it. The point here is to say that we are called according to His purpose (2 Timothy 1:9). Sometimes this will not be easy; the pressure will be on, and we will probably stop abruptly at times or maybe even peal out by applying the wrong pressures. That’s OK. Keep your hearts in it, knowing you’re doing good works, and keep good, Godly mentors around you always that will hold you up when you are weak (Exodus 17:12). Nothing is too big for God. Read the question He asks in Jeremiah 32:27 “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is anything too difficult for Me?” No matter the pressures, “…live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1) and bless His name through it all.

 

… Through a Motorcycle Wreck

Of course this analogy was coming! A week ago today, I made a rookie mistake and wrecked my motorcycle. 550 pounds landed on my right leg, and I scratched up my shoulder, hip and arm in the process. In this post, we won’t be “Finding Christ Through a Motorcycle Wreck” per say, but rather in my (very slow!) recovery. I have to preface this with one more thing: I don’t rely on anyone. I pay my own bills, work for everything I have ever had and am self-sufficient in every sense. I live alone, so I kind of have to be haha.

After coming back from the hospital on crutches, I quickly realised that I simply cannot do this alone. Any of it. The simplest of tasks requires a massive amount of strenuous effort and quite often help from others. While I am learning a ton about humility in this ordeal, I feel the Lord is really pressing on me about relying on Him (Luke 12:6-7). He cares for me so deeply; He is the perfect Father according to James 1:17 and desires to give good gifts. This is what He has done this week for me! Even though I’m utterly too stubborn to ask for help, family and friends swarmed around me by being the hands and feet of Christ in my time of need.

My dad came over to clean my apartment and make sure I was prepared for the week. My mom, grandma and aunt came and did my grocery shopping and cooked for me. My brother humbly helped me wash my injured leg while in the shower as I couldn’t reach it. A buddy brought me food and helped clean, a new friend came just to hang out for a while, my Sunday school class in unison bombarded me with texts of prayer and encouragement, my other brother and niece came down to visit and with food, my niece kissed my “bobos” and drew me a few sweet pictures, and a relatively new and very dear friend did more than enough by taking me to the hospital, bringing food several times and always was there providing encouragement and prayer on my behalf as well as some much-needed laughter and company. Thank you to all of you!!!

That list can be much more detailed as the people in my life are just amazing! They all did it without complaining, without expectation of something in return. They did it out of love. That really hit me today as I was thinking about it. Christ is so necessary in our everyday functionality of life! He is there when we’re healthy, poor, broken-hearted, over-joyed, sick, and every other emotion or situation in which you may find yourself (Hebrews 13:5)! Psalm 28:7 proclaims that He is our strength in this life, and how true that is! Just as all my friends and family acted in love, so did He when He gave everything to us and for us. Now, through the Holy Spirit that the Christ sent to comfort and guide us, on Him now we can rely (John 14:25). He will be our everything. As Christians, it is in Him that we “…live, move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He will guide every facet of our lives if we let Him. He will pull on the heart-stings of our friends and family to help us in times of need. He will send comfort in times of distress; He will give peace beyond all understanding about any situation you will face (Philippians 4:7).

Even though we may be so stubborn and think we can do it all ourselves…. whether that’s a simple task like cooking or showering or the larger things such as unemployment or serious health issues, He is there for us. It is on Him that we must truly rely. When we allow Him to be involved in our everyday lives, He will create in us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) that will be full of love for Him and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. I implore that each of us not allow God to only be in our lives for a couple of hours on Sunday… what a tragedy! He longs to be close to us. As the Creator, the perfect Father, He wants to dwell in our hearts continuously. Make no mistake, dear friends: we were created to worship Him! We do this not just with songs of praise or tithes but with our everyday actions! Worshipping God means acting on love, helping the needy, being His hands and feet, and letting Him be involved in EVERYTHING!

Thanks again to all my support this week given to me through prefect love. For more detailed accounts of how much we need Him and how amazing His love is for us, close this browser and pick up the words of Christ and Paul. Read Galatians for a quick snapshot, Romans for great detail and any of the Gospels for His actual words. I love You and honor You, Lord; bless Your stubborn people and help us to show that Your perfect love is the only thing on which we can truly rely.

… Through a Five-in One Tool

I do, or used to do, a lot of remodeling work in residential homes. I do roofing, sheetrock, paint, and all kind of flooring. In all these kinds of work, I have one tool that I rely on so much no matter what kind of work I’m doing at the time. It’s called a five-in-one tool, and I think it’s really designed for painters as I find it in the painting aisle at the hardware store. This little, hand-held tool fits well in my back pocket; I’m never on a job without it. I use it as a scraper, pry bar, hammer and even as a type of broom. You folks outside of the construction field probably are lost by now, but just know that whatever I am doing I always rely on that simple tool. Whenever I need something, I reach first for my five-in-one tool.

I think about this tool as the Word of God, the Bible. It’s just such a universal Tool that we can rely on for every situation, no matter what we are going through in life. Like all the different kinds of remodeling work, there is one Tool that we can always reach for, one Tool that is just so vital and so versatile for all the situations that life may throw at us. The Word is used as encouragement for the depressed, enlightenment for the inquisitive, healing for the sick, and power for the weak. It is timeless and beyond comparison. I am often enamored by its relevance in our modern-day society. Today, it may seem insignificant because there are tons of books on tons of topics; there are even hundreds if not thousands of different religious texts. This One, however, is different and so very special. It is used time and again, century after century as a relevant source for the needs of those that decide to read it and apply its principles.

When I am happy, it tells me that my hope is in Him (Psalm 25:21). When I am depressed, it encourages me (Psalm 42:5-6). When I am lonely, it comforts me (2Timothy 4:16-18). When I am tired, it energizes me (Isaiah 40:31). No matter what I am feeling, I know that God is there with me, encouraging me to live according to His will (Jeremiah 29:11).

When I am working, I always keep my five-in-one tool in my back, left pocket; like I said, it’s always my go-to. Big things and little things, I truly rely on that little tool to help me get thejob done. I know its potential, and I always know where to find it. I would encourage you today, that no matter what you may be going through in life at this moment, pick up the Word and let it speak to you. It’s more relevant than we can imagine, and it’s so vital to our success in this “job”. Its timeless principles and endless wisdom will guide your heart to make the right decision for you life. Remain in prayer about situations knowing that the God of creation itself truly cares about you and your desires (Matthew 6:26). He desires to do good to you. Pick up His Tool that is so much more than five-in-one but that is completely universal for anything you may be going through.

I hope this blesses and encourages you!

-Eric

… Through a Cell Phone Charger

I currently have an iPhone 4, and I have five phone chargers. Don’t ask me why. I have them everywhere I could want one: bedroom, living room, computer, truck, and my office at work. The only problem is that I don’t use the darn things! Everytime I plug into one of these chargers, it seems that I’m almost always rocking the 20% mark, and my phone tells me to plug it in because it’s ‘critical’. For the battery life of my phone and for me to use it effectively and to have it ready to go when I need it, I have to keep it charged. Even though I have the chargers almost everywhere I look, I am still not using the things wisely. I know that I use that phone for literally everything, and like almost everyone else I just can’t live without it.

I find that, like my charging my phone, I also need to charge my life. What I mean by that is that I need to stay inspired and in high spirits to continue to live my best, to encourage and motivate others, to have a sense of purpose in life. I can “charge up” with any number of things much like the plethera of phone chargers I have. I can read from one of my five Bibles, read a devotional e-mail sent by numerous groups or pastors, listen to worship songs on Pandora or YouTube, go to a church service or small group study, the list goes on… I’m the kind of person that truly benefits from having all sorts of chargers, and I think most people are the same. I function best when I stay plugged in to the above-mentioned activities and even more. I have found that is tough to start doing these things in any sort of regularity, though, especially with an ever-changing work schedule like mine, because I already have my routine. It works, so why change it? Things are good enough. I can still use my phone at 20%, right? But for how long, really?

You will be amazed at what can change in your life when you make charging your life a priority. When you set down the remote to pray for just a few minutes, wake up ten minutes earlier to read a few Scriptures or forget about your weekly poker game and get into a weekly Bible study, or simply arriving at work a few minutes early to read a few chapters. These things may seem like chores at first, like they did to me, but I can assure you that once you prioritize those things and use your “free time” to do all your other hobbies, you will be amazed at what the Lord can do with your life; you will be amazed at what He can help you to accomplish. And I will surely tell you that there is no such feeling of accomplishment as to accomplish a task given to you by the Creator. Staying plugged into Him on a regular basis really has no downside other than maybe missing out on a few tv shows that you probably don’t even like anyway but keep stacking up on your DVR. What’s the worst that could happen? You get too blessed? Learn too much about Christ? Get too inspired? Plug in regularly in some way. As I said, you will be amazed at what will change in your life for the better, and you’ll surely look back to wonder what took you so long, why you continued to prolong your blessing.