The Enduring Faith

Once, I saw an internet meme that caught my attention. The picture was divided in two. In the upper half a guy was energetically digging for diamonds, and after digging a lot, he was getting closer to his goal. In the lower part of the picture, the same guy is beaten up, and quits digging a sliver before he reaches the diamonds. I don’t know how many times you have felt that way, but the fact of the matter is that walking by faith is a lot like that. Hebrew 10:36-39

We all admire the great men and women in the Faith hall of fame in Heb. 11. What we don’t think about often, is what they had to endure to get there… Now, endurance is a process, and process usually repeats itself. It goes something like this:
First of all we receive a promise from God. We can’t  just manufacture our own promise. We can’t simply claim someone else’s promise. We have to develop our  own relationship with God, and receive our own promise from Him.
Our God is a personal God. Yes, he cares about the earth and the entire universe. Yes, he leads nations and organizations to accomplish his will, but He still have time, and desire to develope a personal relationship with each one of us. That is the heart of the Gospel…. From creation to rebellion to redemption, He always seeks a personal relationship with us.
Secondly , we believe our  promise.  Hebrew 13:1-3 tells us that: Faith is the assurance of what we hope for. Faith is conviction without seeing. Faith is understanding without knowing all the details. Faith is not blind. Faith is not contrary to science and reality. Faith is believing in a higher reality, without having all the conclusive arguments on a daily basis. 
Finally  we act on our promise. We take  steps of faith, like Noah building an Ark where there was no rain or ocean.  Or Abraham, leaving his country without knowing where he is going. We fight for your blessing, like Joshua did to conquer the promise land. We remind ourselves   with the promises of God to draw faith from that well. We read our Bible constantly to keep God’s faithfulness in front of our eyes.
I don’t know about you, but I want to go spend time with God, and ask him what He has for me this present time.  Then I want to start this process of reciving, believing, and acting on the promise of God. 

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Faith & Works

The year was 2004, when the doctor diagnosed our only child with bilateral hip dislocation. Back then, we were living in Bolivia, and we decided to come to the United States, to seek the best possible treatment for our baby (she was 6 month old). Not only did the American doctor confirmed the diagnosis, he even gave us a harsher one, with 3 consecutive surgeries including a bone shortening one. All that, for our daugther to have a semi normal life.

I remember the day we brought her to the hospital, and the moment they took her to the surgery room, and how she was crying in my arms. I remember that the only way to calm her, was to give her my palm pilot (very old iPad). Then the nurse took her away inside…

 

If everything is by faith, does it even matter if we work or not? Why should we even bother, and take any steps, if ultimately God will do what He wants to do? This have been a Theological debate going on for centuries in the Christian world. Sometimes blown out of proportions by both sides.

 

There is no doubt that God is sovereign. There is no doubt that we receive salvation by grace throught faith. There is no doubt that walking with God, and following Christ is a life of faith. But how is that faith manifested in our lives?

 

When we take a look to the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11, it seems like every hero of the faith acted and took practical steps based on the faith he or she had at the time. It does seem like there is a direct relationship between faith and works. In fact the more I read this chapter, and the Bible as a whole, the more I come to the conviction that usually there is a gap a big as an ocean between us and the promises of God for our lives. It requires faith to take a step on the water, without knowing if God is going to part it like the Red sea, or if He is going to allow us to walk on it like Jesus did with Peter, or if we are just going to drown, and need Him to come rescue us.

 

Regardless of which one it is, we always have to take the step of faith, and guess what, taking a step is work! But it is work in faith. So, not only faith and works are related, they complement each other. Works alone without faith would be dead, and faith alone without the corresponding work would be empty.

 

Oh yeah, in Amira’s case the doctor told us that no miracle could save her, that surgery was a must. 20 minutes later he called me from the surgery room to say, “I have no idea what happened, but as soon as I put her to sleep, I was able to reduce her hips without any surgery. So I am bringing her out now. I guess your prayers worked”. Yes, indeed the prayers worked, but for some reazon God chose to wait till we acted and brought her to the surgery room, not before that.

 

 

Fasting and the power of two

Last week I joined the global fast of our movement, Every Nation. It was a great week, although I must confess I do not like fasting at all, but I do it anyway because I know it honors God.

During the fast the one Scripture that continued to come to my mind is Acts 13:1-3

The church in Antioch is responsible for most of the first century missions, that spread the Gospel throughout their world. It’s worthy to note that while they were worshiping and fasting…

The Holy Spirit said: Set apart 2 (Barnabas and Saul), a most unusual pair of people with completely different temperaments, but a same heart for God. They clearly started with Barnabas as the leader, and Paul helping, but soon after Paul took the lead, and you know the rest of the story.

The Holy Spirit also said:… For the work I have called them to. Meaning true calling and ministry comes from God and not man. We are all called to make disciples of all nations, but some times God chooses specific people for a specific mission, and looks like he usually does it in twos. Peter & John, Barnabas and Paul, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy… 

After fasting they laid hands on them and sent them off. In other words the church recognized and endorsed the calling of these two to go and do the ministry they were called for. A calling can be personal and supernatural, but it should be vetted by the community of faith. 

The book of Acts, and the history of the church are full of stories that witness of twos that went together, and changed their world for Christ. It doesn’t always come easy, or as spectacular as Acts 13, but it always happen when two or more gather, pray, and believe for the impossible. 

Dreams Delays & Detours 

At Miami airport waiting on a very delayed flight. I actually got booked on this flight as an unexpected detour from my original plans. That got me thinking how delays and detours impact our life dreams. 

We all usually start with a big dream. A dream to change the world perhaps. That is the creative power given to us by God in the beginning of creation. It doesn’t matter what is our career or place in society, we all have big dreams. Somehow we all think we will bypass the pain of delays and detours that past generations have gone through before us. When the delays and detours come, and they will, we are so caught by surprise and awe, that we don’t know what to do.

A quick look at the biblical narrative will assure us that there is no need to be surprised. If you have a big dream like Joseph, Abraham, or Moses (chronology aside), you should expect and welcome life’s detours and delays. At the end you realize they were actually God’s shortcut to His perfect will for your dream.

Joseph dreamed to govern the world. He did not know that there will be a small delay of 13 to 16 years between his dreams and it’s fulfillment. He didn’t know either that the shortcut to the palace will take him in a detour through slavery and prison. But after all, without these delays and detours, what real shot did he have at become the second man of the most powerful empire of the time? (Yes, I said it! I’m Egyptian and proud of it). 

When I look at my own life, I can spot so many delays and detours to the original dream that God gave me when I was just 16 years old. And unlike Joseph, Abraham, and Moses, I haven’t gotten there yet! Still on the delays and detours. But here is the key that encourages me, as long as I don’t hit a self imposed deadend, and as long as I’m alive, God can still fulfill his dream in me. All I need to do is practice the apostle Paul’s advice in Phillipians 3:13-14. Forget the past and move forward to the future pursuing God’s goals for our lives.  

If you follow me on social media, you will probably be mad at me when you see where my detour took me today, sorry! But here is the thing, not all detours and delays are tough. Some of them are actually….. 

اتبع أحلامك فالرب

قد خلقنا  الله على صورته و شبهه. و نسأل بعضنا البعض، ما هي صورة الله فنا؟ طبعا لا يتكلم الكتاب المقدس عن الشكل الخارجي للإنسان. لأن الله اعظم كثير جدا من طبيعتنا البشرية. فما يتكلم عنه سفر التكوين ١: ٢٦؟ نحن خلقنا على شبه الله و صورته فإننا نستطيع أن نتخيل، و نخترع و نحلم. الله لما خلق الكون و كل ما فه، بالطبع كان تخيله، و خطط كيف يخلق كل نجم و كوكب و مجرة. و لما قرقر الله ان يخلق البشر، قرر أن  يعطينا قدرة التخيل و الإختراع التي كانت عند الله وحدة. فقد اعطى الله كل الحيوانات لأدم، و اعطاه الحرية  ان يخترع أسماء لكل واحد منهم

الشيطان منذ البدء يحاول ان يسرق و يشوش قدرتنا على التهيء و التفكير و الإختراع. لكن الله اعطانا هذه القدرة و يجب علينا أن نستخدمها في حياتنا اليومية. المؤمن الأمين يريد أن يطيع و يرضي سيده في كل شئ. كمؤمنين بالرب يسوع يجب علينا أن نصلي و نكتشف وعود الرب لنا، و نحلم من جديد بما يريده منا، و بكيف نستطيع أن نحقق هذه الأحلام

كان ابراهيم مثالا لنا عن انسان يريد أن يؤمن، و يحلم بما وعده الله له، ويتبع احلامه مهما كان الثمن. فمن قصة إبراهيم نتعلم أن نكتشف و نتبع          احلامنا في الرب

١. الوعد.  تكوين ١٢: ١-٣

المؤمن الحقيقي لا يخترع حلم حياته بنفسه، بل بالعكس، يصلي و يحيا مع الله حتى أن يكتشف ما هي خطة الله لحياته.  الرب قد دبر وعود لكل واحد منا. لكن علينا آن نكتشف خطة الله لحياتنا و نؤمن بها مهما كانت صعوبتها. وعد الله إبراهيم بأبناء كثيرين، و هو شيخ ذو ٧٥ سنة و بلا نسل. و آمن ابراهيم بالله، و قبل وعده الذي قد يكون مستحيل. وعود الله ليست سهله، و لا يكون سهل الطريق للحصول عليها. لكن المؤمن الأمين  عليه أن يصلي و يكتشف وعد الله له، و يكرز حياته لتحققيق هذا الوعد

٢. القرار.  تكوين ١٢: ٤

بعدما سمع و آمن إبراهيم بوعود الرب، قرر سريعا آن يترك كل شئ في حياته الماضية و يتبع خطة الله له. لم يكن سهل علي إبراهيم ان يتبع الله في شيخوخته، و لن يكون سهل علينا آن نتبع الله في حياتنا. لكن كل منا له الإختيار، و كلنا نحيا بنتيجة إختيارنا، سوى للجيد آو للرديء. نلاحظ إن   إبراهيم سمع و نفذ امر الله سريعا. حيثما نكتشف وعد الله لنا، يجب علينا آن نبداء الطريق اليه سريعا

٣. التأخير.  تكوين ١٦: ١

كلما قررنا آن نتبع الله و خطته لحياتنا، كلما نكتشف تأخير لوعوده و خطته في حياتنا. كان إبراهيم ذو ٧٥ عام لما وعده الله بنسل كثيرا كرمل البحر. ومضت عشرة سنوات بدون آن يتحقق اي وعد من وعود الله له. لما يتأخر الوعد، لا تظن إن الله نسى او غير رأيه. اكبر إمتحان لإيماننا هو الصبر على وعود الرب لنا. يجب آن نلاحظ إن التأخير له فيدة> و هو يعلمنا آن نؤمن بما لا نراه، و نتبع احلامنا في وسط ظلام الإنتظار

٤. الصعوبة.  تكوين ١٦: ٢

كل وعد له صعوبته الخاصة. لكن عادتاً الصعوبة تكون إمتحان لإيماننا و استعدادنا للصبر علي تحقيق وعود الله في حياتنا. للأسف إبراهيم صقت في الإمتحان، و لم يصبر ليرى مجد الله في حياته. سمع إبراهيم لنصيحة زوجته الخاطئه، و حاول ان يصل لوعد الرب عن طريقته الشخصية. اكبر خطاء يصنعه المؤمن هو آن يترك طريق القداسة و يحاول أن يصل لحلمه بالخطية او بالتمرد على طريقة الله المقدسة

٥. الطريق المسدود. تكوين ٢٢: ٢

بعدما حقق الله وعده لإبراهيم جاءت اصعب تجربة لإيمانه. كان إبراهيم ذو ١١٥ سنة لما طلب الله منه أن يقدم إسحاق، إبن الموعد كذبيحة. لم يتمرد إبراهيم على إرادة الرب هذه المرة، و لم يشك في محبة سيده له. لقد اخذ الغلام ليقدمه كذبيحة للرب عالما ان الله يستطيع آن يقيمه من الأموات. اصعب إمتحان على الإنسان هو أن يموت عن حلم حياته. لكن قبل ما يحقق الله وعده لنا، غالبا يطلب منا أن نضع حلمنا و ووعدنا علي        مذبح الإيمان، و نتركه مؤمنين تماما إن الله قادر أن يقيمه من الأموات

٦. ألخلاص.  تكوين ٢٢: ٨-١٢

كان الله آعد خروف الخلاص لينجي به إسحاق، و سمح لإبراهيم اي يقدم ابنه لكي يكشف له إنه شفاه من سنين المعناه. وقتما نضع حلمنا على مذبح الرب، هو بنفسه يقيمه من الأموات و يعطينا كل وعوده مرة واحدة

 

.صلاتي لنا كلنا أن  نسير مع الله و نأخذ وعوده لنا، و نحيا مهه بالإيمان كل يوم حتى نرى وعوده محققه في حياتنا

 

 

Vessels in the Potter’s hands

Being in Istanbul, one of the largest cities in the world and the Middle East, brings a lot of memories to my mind. I was born and raised in another great middle eastern city. Growing up in Cairo taught me a lot of things about culture and life. 

One of the things that I remember clearly is the value of hand made things. People took special pride back then in what they made by hand. Hand made jewelry, hand made glass vessels, and hand made pottery.  (Not to be confused with Pottery Barn in America). 

There were different kinds of vessels made of ceramic clay. Each one for a different use. You wouldn’t ever use the drinking vessel to water the plants, neither you would use the watering vessel  to cook dinner.  

When I look at Jeremiah 18:1-6, I can’t help but to think of all the great clay/ceramic vessels I’ve seen in my country of birth.  Very different from the plastic, foam or even mass produced ceramic vessels of today. 

See, God has created each and every one of us to be a vessel in His hands. He designed and equipped us at conception to be a special treasure for Him. None of us is an accident or a mere coincidence. We all have a purpose and a destiny!

Yet when you read Jeremiah 18, you realize that just like the clay on the wheel, sometimes our lives get messed up on the wheel of life. An unexpected sickness, a messy divorce, bankruptcy, sin, or even persecution. The good news is that the heavenly Potter is not caught by surprise, and He does not discard us because of our circumstances! Just like the potter in Jeremiah, He pick us up from the floor, puts us back on the wheel of life, surrounds us with His divine hands, and reshapes us into a whole new vessel as it pleases Him.
My friend, you are created for greatness! Don’t let the world or your circumstances tells you otherwise. It doesn’t matter where you find yourself right now. You can always come back to the Potter and accept His loving shaping hands to work on you and put you back on track!

To be continued… 

Lecciones desde el Patio

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En estos últimos años, me he esforzado en mantener el pasto de mi patio verde todo el año.  Oh bueno, por lo menos lo más largo possible.  Después de todo, vivimos en Nashville, y aquí si tenemos nieve y heladas cada invierno.

Normalmente invierto parte de mi día libre cortando el pasto, regandolo, y asegurandome que esté bien cuidado y fertilizado.  Sin embargo, no importe cuanto trabaje, o cuantos productos le ponga a la tierra, 3 cosas irritantes seguían sucediendo.

  1.  Toda clase de hierba mala borta de la tierra, sin mi inviatción ni mi permiso.
  2. Cuando la hierba mala muere, después de todos los tratamiento que le pongo, deja un hueco amarrilliento y feo en medio del pasto verde.
  3. El pasto nunca logró ser lo suficiente fuerte para avanzar sobre estas partes huecas y amarillientas.

Después de estudiar el asunto, y leer mi Biblia otra vez.  He aprendido lo siguiente:

  1.  No importa lo que hagas, siempre saldrá hierba mala en la tierra.
  2. Jesús era bien sabio cuando dijo “Deja la cizaña con el trigo, no vaya a ser que arrancadola, arranques el trigo bueno también.”  Yo si que he arrancada mucho pasto bueno tratando de deshacerme de toda la hierba mala.
  3. Sembrar pasto nuevo para mantener el patio verde es importante, pero ni la buena semilia ni el estilo de la siembra son suficientes.  Es la calidad del terreno la que al final determina el resultado de la siembra.  Yo invertí muchas horas y trabajo tratando de mejorar la semilla y el estilo de siembra, con pocos a nada de resultados.  Finalmente, le hice caso al vendedor de mi tienda local de pasto, y decidí mejorar la calidad de la tierra en si.  Realmente los resultados fueron asombrosos!
  4. Una vez más Jesús tenía razón cuando dijo que el sembrador era importante, la Palabra es importante, pero es la tierra (el corazón del oyente) la que determina el resultado final.  Luego pensé…. Nadie conoce el corazón del hombre mejor que Dios.  Nadie está más interesado que Dios que la gente reciva el mensaje del Evangelio. Dios me pidió a mi a orar, y me prometió que será hecho como yo le pida en fé.  Parece lógico entonces que oremos por el corazón de la gente para que estén listos para el mensaje del Evangelio, luego vamos y le predicamos las Buenas Nuevas.  Yo se que suena muy sencillo y básico, pero deseara que lo hicieramos mas a menudo.