Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

The Greatest Gift’s I Have Received…

Posted: December 20, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts
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I love Christmas! I love the way the house smells as family gathers around for a feast. I love the music that plays and the smiles it brings. I love the memories Christmas brings to memory and the opportunities to make new ones. I love gifts…I mean who doesn’t. But, gifts can also fail to make Christmas.

I remember when I was 8 years old, I wanted a a toy really bad and never got it. I probably cried. I don’t remember if I did, or maybe I hope I didn’t cry and I suppress the fact that I did cry. Well, I guess we will never know. Either way, that toy would probably be put to shame today. (Who remembers wanting a Ultimate Warrior action figure you stuck your finger in the back to make fight?)

The best gifts I have ever received are the ones that you cannot buy and you cannot take away. In no particular order I am grateful for gifts I didn’t earn and never bought. Things like:

  • Jesus and the reality that there is nothing I can do to earn His love any more, and there is nothing that I could do to make Him love me any less. He freely loves and sacrificed Himself for me despite my rights and wrongs.
  • My wife who has seen the best and worst in me and is committed to loving me. She is my love, friend, counselor, and biggest support. I love you Linds! Cherishing and appreciating you in a way that says “Thank you!” is something I hope I accomplish in more and more meaningful ways. I have the rest of our lives to display my love for you- and I look forward to it! Growing old together is going to be fun.
  • My family who has made and shaped who I am. I love the oldest to the youngest and am grateful for the ways you have influenced my life. I am thankful for the hard work ethic my mother and father displayed for me. My brothers and sister who are always there to enter into my joy and comfort me in my sorrow. I am glad to have all the nephews that I have- they all have contributed to my happiness in more ways that I can say. I love my niece, she is the only niece and therefore my favorite by default. I am proud to be a Cabrera because of you.
  • My son who is always up for a nerf gun fight, hiking, or some sort of imaginary battle against orcs and goblins. He is an 8 yr old ball of energy and he always has some joke to make me laugh. I am glad that I get to live like a kid again because of you, buddy! I am glad that I am your dad, your friend, and your point man when we have to breach the living room as if it were a Navy SEAL mission.
  • My Friends are way too many to mention. But I couldn’t be more grateful for the great group of people God has given us. My church, gym, and neighborhoods have given me a lot of friends to be thankful for. Thank you all for filling my house and allowing me to fill yours with memories, laughter, and food!

It is so easy to get caught up in what you want, need (or think you need), and/or get someone else. It is easy to think that what you need is one more thing. It is difficult to be content.  Truth is, it’s going to get old sooner or later. What doesn’t get old is the things you could never buy for someone at a store. Memories last longer than toys, clothes, and gadgets. Make this season a season where your gift is an extension of the gifts you already have more than it is a season of things you want.

What are some of the gifts you could never buy that you are grateful for?

A Welcome Letter From Brooklyn on our Moving Weekend

Posted: July 29, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts
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My wife and I have recently moved to the Gaithersburg area in order to plant a campus ministry at the college campus of Rockville MC ( I will be making a post on that later).

We had a ton of help, lots of hands, and have been welcomed by our home church with a lot of love and kindness. This has been an exhausting, but great weekend for us. This move could not be any more encouraging. I love that my family is closer. I love that my church is closer. I love that friends are closer.

Today, I woke up to one of the coolest welcome letters by a little cutie named Brooklyn. She is about 4 months of joy, chubbiness, and fun. Lindsay and I have  a lot of our friends and are glad to be closer to them.

Dear Uncle  Angel and Auntie Lindsay –

My mommy told me yesterday that you were not having a fun weekend… she said something about putting lots of stuffs into boxes and then into cars (do the boxes need a carseat like me? Do they falls asleep in the car like me?) and then driving a long way to put the boxes someplace new. I don’t really understand why all that’s not fun – I love the car! – but mommy thought that maybe you could use some cheering up. So I thought about it aaalll night and woke up extra early to sneak on to this compupers thing and send you this. Because mommy says that now that all your boxes are in their new place, you’ll get to come snuggle with me more! And I do love the snuggles.
Sees you soon I hopes?
Love,
Brooklyn Cates
My response to Brooklyn:
Brooklyn,
If you were able to see all of the boxes that we have stacked you would think they were jumbo letter blocks. Auntie Lindsay thinks it makes our apartment look like a maze which makes her not feel at home at all. The car ride made us very sleepy and we wish we had our parents there to drive us so that we could sleep and stare out the window. I think we will be trying to find everything we need and then we will come to see you! Tell your mommy and daddy that we love them a lot and are glad to be here. If you ever want to come over while your dad and mom go eat grown up food- which is not as good as the banana strawberry gerber- let me know and we can have you over and let them go out.
Looking forward to seeing you!
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Brooklyn and Lindsay
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We look forward to baby sitting

Have you ever seen a video of someone working out and wish you could lift as much as they did? Have you ever watched a clip of someone playing an instrument and wishing that you had the ability to play that smoothly? I have. To be honest, I do that a lot. I watch videos of Navy Seals, boxers, Dave Matthews, vocalist on various shows and they all make me wish I was more like them. Sometimes I am encouraged to be disciplined in areas that I am strong in. Most of the time I end up seeing all the ways that I come up short, especially when it comes to being a Christian.

I have seen people who read their Bible with intensity. They spend hours and hours reading, meditating, memorizing, preaching, teaching, cross-referencing, praying, and so on. I know people who have done amazing things for God. Men who love their wives and children in ways I don’t. I have been on the receiving end of generosity, hospitality, and servanthood. These are all gifts. Gifts for which I am to be thankful and moved by.

The problem is that I do compare myself, as do others whom I have counseled, when other Christians seem to accomplish more for God than I. They sacrifice more nights, they give away more money, and they travel to nations that don’t know Jesus.

I have to remind myself, and others, that Jesus has not commissioned me to be a omni-compotent ambassador for His Name. He has sent me on a mission to make, mature, and mobilize disciples of all nations. He has gifted me, set me in a context, and provided for me a specific way of carrying out that commission. It will look different for every other person in my small group, my Bible study, and church. We are all sent to different work places, neighborhoods, and have burdens for different nations.

Some have the capability to give lavishly, while others give generously within their budget. Some go long-term, while others go for short-term; some can only give and pray. Some have the houses to host a lot of people. Others see the positive effects of building deep with a few.

If you, like me, struggle with the constant comparison…you might want to consider this- God has made you to be uniquely equipped to reach your co-workers, city, and build the church. You have different capacities. You have different burdens. You have ideas that work for you that wouldn’t work for anyone else. In the words of J.D Greear, “Do what you do well to the glory of God. Do what you do well strategically for the mission of God.”

Our salvation does not hinge on our works. Jesus has earned our standing before God based on His obedience to fulfill the perfect requirements of God.  The motivation to see others come to faith should not be motivated by a desire to perform works that make us acceptable to God. Instead, they should be motivated by the work of Jesus, who accepts us as we are, and empowered by the Spirit who sent us. Jesus saves us. Jesus sends us. Jesus sanctifies. Jesus solely gets the glory. Let’s rest in His finished work alone.

A Lesson Every Husband Has or WIll Learn

Posted: May 28, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts
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I have only been married for almost two years in July. But it was soon into our marriage that I learned that I am not always supposed to help my wife. I do want to help her. The thing is, she is not always in a place for me to help her. She wants someone to listen, hear her out, and say, “I am sorry you had to go through that”. She wants some one who doesn’t feel the need to correct her, challenge her, or change her…she just wants compassion.

I don’t know if I am wired uniquely, but it seems to me that every guy wants to fix the problem. If that is clearing the calendar, we will do that. If it means picking up more work, we will take on the to-do list. Sometimes all we need to do is hug, hold, and affirm our wives.

At the same time, wives need to be able to laugh at themselves for how we perceive them. This is a short, funny clip on how women can react to their husbands care.

Following Jesus Pt 3

Posted: May 20, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to have a greater love for Jesus than for any other relationship.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

The word hate here was used in what would have been understood by a Jewish person as an expression that aims at contrasting two things. Jesus is not in any way saying that you should have hatred in your heart. What he is saying is that you should love him more that anything. In other words, to follow Jesus is to love him and make him so central to our lives that in comparison to our love for God any other relationship looks like hate. And as if that weren’t enough, we are to be willing to give up our own life for the sake of Jesus. Without being willing to give up of every relationship we know, and come to grips with even giving our own life, we cannot be a disciple of Jesus.

Our allegiance to Jesus is to be such that if such a difficult decision were to be made, we would choose Jesus and his mission. There are countless stories of martyrs that have given their lives in places where Christians are not welcomed. Many have risked the lives of their wives, children, and their own in order to take the story of God to places that have never heard of Jesus.

2 Questions

I know that there you are probably thinking, “What is this mission of Jesus that you keep talking about?”

To follow Jesus is to do what he was sent to do. That is, to do what he would be doing if here were here today. The Bible tells us that Jesus came “to give his life and be a ransom for many”. Jesus came to sacrifice His life for the good of others- people who were His enemies and wanted nothing to do with Him. Jesus came to “seek and save the lost”. He came to the world so that people who rebelled against his authority as king of the universe could be made right with him. Jesus says this to us now. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus’ mission is to go after men and women who are rebelling against Jesus and are far from him. Although this mission is to be carried out in the company of other believers, we should not be locked into a Christian ghetto that does not engage in the global mission of Jesus. Our commission is to make the news that Jesus saves known on every corner of the earth, starting in MD. The mission of Jesus is also to seek the good of others, even if it means we sacrifice for it.

But is it worth it? Do I really want to give up my money, career, skills, relationships just because Jesus said to follow him? 

Jesus is definitely worth it. Certain things will seem risky and I believe that Jesus wants us to take risks to see Maryland become a better place and for people who don’t know Jesus to know him. But, when we see Jesus and all that he is for us, it is not a risk to give up things for Jesus. It is the safest and smartest thing for us to do. When Jesus becomes more valuable and more precious to us that anything we own we would be willing to give up everything with joy. Jesus tells a parable (story) of a man to make this point clear. In Matthew 13:44 we see two stories, one of a farmer and one of a merchant. When the farmer walks through a field and finds a treasure, he sells all that he has in order to buy that land so that he can have the treasure.

Although sacrifice is necessary and there is a cost to discipleship, who Jesus is and what he does for you is incomparable and far greater than what you give up. What you gain, in the place of what you give up, is infinitely better. The main thrust of this story is that when you come across a treasure, or something of value that is greater than what you currently have, you are willing to give up all that you have so that you could have that treasure. The picture here is of someone who is willing to give up everything if he could just have Jesus.

It is not about what you do, how often you do it, or how much you give up. The attention would then be on your sacrifice. The climax of this passage and the cause of joy is in what the farmer and merchant are getting not what they are sacrificing.

The Jesus who calls us to give up everything also promises that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my namesake will receive a hundred” in heaven.

Let’s count the cost, see the beauty of Jesus, and follow Him.

 

Following Jesus Pt 2

Posted: May 17, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to give up control over your career. 

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

“Follow me” Luke 2:14

J.D Greear a pastor and author gets this point across to his college students in this way.

“What you do, do well to the glory of God. What you do well, do strategically for the mission of God.”

Jesus in this passage appears to four fishermen and calls them to follow him. We don’t know much about how successful or unsuccessful, how rich or how poor they were as fishermen. What we do know is that based on their understanding of who Jesus was and what he meant by following him, their response was to drop their nets and install hired servants as their replacements. He approached many people and asked them to leave their post to follow him. Levi, a tax collector who more than likely made a lot of money by over taxing people, was told to follow Jesus while he was at his booth. Levi rose and followed him, just like that. Or at least as far as we know.

Do you feel that Jesus doesn’t have the right to call you to this? I believe that many of us can get so caught up in what we are doing that we don’t feel that Jesus can say drop what your doing and join me in what I am doing. Many of us think that we can choose our major, settle into a career and join Jesus in what he is doing insofar that it is comfortable and doable. As long as Jesus doesn’t get in the way of what is really important you will join him. Sorry guys, but to be honest I don’t think it works that way. There are 2 billion people with little to no access to the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus may call you to leave your job as an engineer, accountant, or teaching to follow him on his mission to the 6,000 plus unreached people groups. He may lead you to stay and be a marketer, computer programmer, or business manager. Both are equally important and needed. Some are to go to places where Jesus hasn’t been heard, and others are to fund the goers by sending them. All are to go and make disciples of Jesus. Some do it in reached places while others do it to the unreached. It isn’t an either/or its a both/and. If you stay you are still commanded to have a global perspective when it comes to the mission. One isn’t more important or of more value.

Again, this does not mean that every follower of Jesus is to quit their job go to some tribal location and tell the indigenous people of Jesus. Although I hope he calls many, he doesn’t call everyone to go overseas. In fact there are times where Jesus commands people he has had mercy on to go to their own people and share what Jesus has done. The point of this passage is not to quit your job, or sign out of your major. The point of this passage is to keep in mind that to follow Jesus it to be open to the fact that if he leads you to quit your job, you have a higher allegiance to Jesus and his mission that you do your career and your reputation.

“What you do, do well to the glory of God. What you do well, do strategically for the mission of God.”

Following Jesus pt 1

Posted: May 16, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to give up the closed fisted grip we have on our resources.  

“Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” – Luke 14:33

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” – Matt 19:21

In these two passages Jesus speaks to his followers in general and then to someone in specific. But notice that one of the ways you can easily count yourself out as a follower of Jesus is by not being willing to part with all that you have. Notice that Jesus is not taking simply about money either, He says “renounce all”. That includes giving time, energy, skills and all that we have and could leverage for the mission of Jesus.

Jesus may call you to give generously of your time, skills, and money for his cause and for his mission. He may call you to give everything. Or he may call you to give out of what you can, with a joyful heart. The young rich ruler in Matthew 19 was to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. In another story about a tax collector named Zacchaeus, when he encountered Jesus he restores all the money he has taken from others and gave half of his possessions to the poor.

The call to renounce all things is not a command or demand to go pawn all that you currently have and go to the poor people of the world. But it does mean that everything that we own should be at the disposal of Jesus. We should leverage all that we have to make much of Jesus. Our clenched fist should open up and offer Jesus all that we have so that He would be known.

A lot of times songs drive truths deep into my heart. Matt Papa wrote a song called “Have I forgotten?” and in it he asks the question, “have I forgotten that your hands are pierced, when I hold on to this world?”. Jesus’ command to renounce all that we have is a call to freely part with what we have and follow him.

If Jesus were to budget your money, your time, how you use your gifts and talents, would he find that you itemize things that would make much of you and make life comfortable, or would it make much of Him and show a priority and urgency for mission?