A Sweet Conversation

Change Is In the Air

Yesterday I made the following post on Facebook:

Just spent the whole morning teaching my dad about the Mosaic Law, its purpose, and how the gospel fulfills it. After all these years, we finally had a meaningful conversation. The expression on his face as he began to see—from Scripture—the glory of the new covenant was priceless. Glory be to God! ‪#‎ForeverThankful‬

Let me share with you the story behind this post. It all started early in the morning. I was trying to decide whether or not to go to work. After giving it some thought, I decided to stay at home. It was a tough decision. Maybe laziness or the fact that I was restless over finals week had something to do with it, I do not know.

I noticed that my father was off from work as well (coincidence?). After breakfast, we quickly started a conversation that, to my surprise, would last for about four hours. Lunch time came and we were still going. Can you believe that even food did not stop us? Now that is crazy!

Why did we spend so much time talking? What was the subject of our conversation? Sports? Nope. Politics? Nope. News? Entertainment? Nope. We talked for four hours about the Bible, in particular, topics like: the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic Law, the gospel, the new covenant, justification by faith, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit, among others. These are biblical concepts/truths that my father has had difficulty understanding and reconciling over the years, so the fact that we were able to talk about them was super encouraging.

This was the first time my father and I had a fruitful conversation. It was awesome. I do not remember the exact order, but we read and talked about passages such as: Genesis 12:1-3, Habakkuk 2:4, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:22-28, Mark 14:22-26, 2 Corinthians 3 and 4, Matthew 22:34-40, and Galatians 3 and 4. (I share the Scripture references just in case you want to read them for yourself).

I asked him questions about the text and challenged him to dig in deeper by making observations and connections. He thought and processed through key concepts and themes. I gave him some feedback as we made our way through the passages, highlighting important truths along the way.

I was blessed. I did not care what time it was. This was a special moment ordained by God Himself. My heart was filled with joy when I saw how my father was getting it. He was being blown away by the truth of Scripture. He was connecting the dots for the first time. The expression on my father’s face was priceless. It was like if the “light bulb” in his mind turned on for the first time. I wish we would have recorded the conversation. It was a sweet moment–one I will never forget.

I had no idea this was going to happen. I did not plan for it, and neither did my father. I was surprised that we ended up talking for such a long period of time in one sitting without arguing or something.

I can honestly–and gratefully–say that I have witnessed some change in my family recently, especially over the last few months. My father and I talking about the Bible is just one example. God is on the move. He is doing something new in my family and I am so thankful for it.

Who is to receive credit for this change? Not me. No way. Yes, God used me, but He alone deserves all the credit. If there is anything God deserves is the glory due to His name. Change is in the air and there is one else to thank and praise but God alone.

Family As a Mission Field

If you or someone you know is having a hard time at home with family, please be encouraged: you are not alone. Family life can be very challenging at times. There is no doubt about that. What has helped me lately is realizing the fact that ministering to my family is the greatest investment I can make in life. God has been challenging me to see and approach my family from a different perspective–one that I am still trying to figure out how to live practically.

But nevertheless, I am starting to see my family as my mission field. God has given me a great opportunity to be a missionary to my family and bring the gospel to bear on every aspect of our lives. Will it look or feel perfect? No. In fact, it will be messy, hard, frustrating, and disappointing at times, but the effort is well worth it.

If you want to leave a legacy, make it your aim in life to impact your family. Invest your time and energy to build relationships with those who God has given you the privilege of doing life with on this earth. And what better day to start than today. Let’s go and make an eternal difference in the lives of those who matter the most–our families.

May God be glorified as we seek to humbly love and serve our families for the better.

Giving Generously

What does new covenant giving look like? For starters, it is different from the old covenant in that it is not really tied to numbers or percentages anymore. New covenant giving, when truly done right—i.e., when one is motivated by the gospel and moved by eternity and what is to come—is characterized by generosity.

New covenant giving should reflect the all-transforming reality of the new covenant under the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The truth is God has done a new, refreshing spiritual work in the lives of us believers. Shouldn’t our giving be impacted as well?

But how is the believer going to be motivated to not just give, but give generously? First of all, it starts with a right understanding of what giving is. The act of giving is, as Paul calls it, an “act of grace” (2 Cor. 8:6-7). Second, believers are encouraged to follow other believers’ example of generous, sacrificial giving. In this case, the Macedonian believers modeled this powerfully:

1 We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— 5 and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; ESV).

For the Macedonian believers, giving was not an obligation, but a joyful opportunity to participate in helping the saints in Jerusalem and supporting Paul’s ministry (8:5). The Macedonian Christians did not just give; they gave over and above what was expected of them—giving to the Lord, first, and foremost; and then, to the apostle Paul and his ministry colleagues. And what is crazy is that the Macedonian believers begged to participate (8:4). Believers today are called to imitate this great example of giving and to model it for others to see, especially in and among our local churches.

Now, there is one more reason why a believer should be motivated to give and give generously. What is it? The person and work of Jesus Christ. Paul states, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (8:9). Jesus, being rich, became a servant and gave of himself for the sake of others (this includes you and me!). He is the biggest reason why believers should give generously.

We are called to give generously as a response to the gospel and as an expression of our love and gratitude to the Lord for His atoning work on our behalf. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead for us. The truth is Jesus is the greatest giver of all time! He gave His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

As believers—who have been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit—we should be moved to give generously to the Lord, the local church, the spreading of the gospel, and to other worthy and noble causes that glorify God and seek to promote the well-being of others, Christians and non-Christians alike. But our giving should be characterized by wisdom (i.e., investing in eternity), integrity (especially within churches and non-profit ministries and organizations), and gospel-centered joy. After all, the Lord “loves a cheerful giver” (9:7).

Following Jesus

The call to follow Jesus as Messiah is a not an easy one. It is a costly and challenging invitation. Why? The call to follow Jesus is a call to die to self and to take up one’s cross. Then, and only then, can one truly began to follow the Messiah. We would be wise to hear and heed the heart-cutting, soul-penetrating, life-giving words of the Messiah Himself:

“If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:34b-35, HCSB).

The radical call to follow Jesus only makes sense in light of who Jesus is and what He has done for us. In other words, apart from the person and work of Jesus, the call to live a selfless and sacrificial life sounds a bit scandalous, counter-cultural, and altogether, impossible for one to live out in his or her own strength or wisdom.

It is important to note that Jesus’ call to follow Him comes right after Mark 8:27-30 and Mark 8:31-33—two important passages that share a light on the identity and mission of the Messiah.

In Mark 8:27-30, we see Jesus asking His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (v. 27). After the disciples respond by stating the various opinions of the day, Jesus goes on to ask them directly, “who do you say that I am?” (emphasis added). Peter, standing up and speaking on behalf of the group, expressed the following: “You are the Messiah!” (v. 29). Peter got the right answer, but he—along with his fellow disciple buddies—misunderstood the Messiah’s God-given mission (at least during His first coming).

The predominant Jewish belief in regards to the Messiah was that he was to be a military/political leader, whose very coming meant the liberation from Roman oppression and the restoration of Israel’s kingdom.

But the Messiah had something else in mind. His primary purpose was not to bring about Rome’s demise, or the restoration of Israel’s earthly kingdom for that matter, but to bring about spiritual restoration. If this spiritual restoration was not going to come through military conquest, then how exactly was this going to be accomplished? The second passage will give us insight to this question.

In Mark 8:31-33, we read that Jesus began to teach His disciples the real purpose for His first coming. What was it? Mark puts it this way:

“Then He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, be killed, and rise after three days” (v. 31).

The Messiah was supposed to suffer and die? That cannot be right. This was God’s great plan? Yes, that is correct. Jesus taught His disciples that He must suffer and die at the hands of Israel’s religious leaders. This is what the disciples did not understand, let alone believe. The Old Testament alluded to the Messiah’s suffering (look at Isaiah 52 and 53, for example) but the majority of the people—including His disciples—was not able to discern what this meant.

Jesus is, as Peter exclaimed, the Messiah and His God-ordained task was to suffer and to die. But it did not stop right there. Jesus was going to rise from the dead on the third day. Jesus was going to conquer the grave through the resurrection. And this was the way in which He was going to bring about spiritual restoration to His people.

God, through the person and work of Jesus, was restoring people to a right relationship with Himself. And this was only made possible through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Having said all of that, the call to follow Jesus, then, is a call to restoration; a call, indeed, to life—but life through the way of the cross. The call to follow Jesus is a call to be restored and to be part of the kingdom of God. For this, one must, as mentioned above, deny himself, take up one’s cross, and follow the Messiah.

But this is hard. We would be fooling ourselves if we say otherwise. It is our natural tendency to be self-centered. Jesus’ call to follow Him is a direct attack at our selfish nature. Jesus’ call to abandon our selfish way of living does not only sound outrageous and unappealing, but also foolish and out-of-this-world crazy, especially in today’s self-absorbed, self-obsessed society.

A call to die is not an easy pill to swallow. But following Jesus is also a glorious call. How? The fact that Jesus gives an open invitation to follow Him as Lord is an expression of God’s amazing grace. When was the last time you and I saw the call to die to self, take up our cross, and follow the Jewish Messiah as an expression of grace? But this is exactly what it is! The call to follow Jesus is an opportunity to experience the undeserved grace of Almighty God.

Many Christians today can testify that choosing to follow Jesus as Lord has been the most important decision they have ever made. The truth is one cannot be drawn—by the power of the Holy Spirit—to accept and follow the Messiah and not have his or her life radically transformed.

To follow the Messiah is—as challenging as it may sound and be—the single, most important, heart-changing, worldview-shaking, spiritually-satisfying, and life-transforming decision/commitment one can make in life.

The invitation is open. The call is challenging, yet glorious. Let’s follow Jesus as Messiah for the glory of God and for our joy. Amen.

Encouraged, Challenged and Inspired

I just came back from a three-day, church-planting boot camp for Hispanic leaders in San Diego, CA, coordinated by the EFCA (Evangelical Free Church of America). I was really encouraged to see many Hispanic leaders, seasoned pastors, and future church-planters in one small place (literally) to share ideas, past experiences, and of course, practical tools for planting and developing effective and healthy local churches.

I was really honored to be present among such hard-working, Christ-loving leaders. I had the privilege of meeting (and sharing a place with some) pastors from other states who are doing great things for the glory of God and the well-being of their local congregations.

The highlight for me was that a lot of my desires and passions and dreams of pastoring/planting a church were, in some sense, confirmed and rekindled. My heart was moved and stirred by the necessity of planting new churches for the glory of God and the edification of people.

I been contemplating the idea of church planting ever since I felt called by God to serve in pastoral ministry. You may be asking yourself: “Why plant a church?” Good question! Church planting is, in my opinion, the primary way to reach a community with the gospel, make disciples, provide pastoral care and counseling, development and train leaders, and ultimately, expand the kingdom of God.

One of the few things that fill my heart with an inexpressible joy is when I see and/or hear stories about new churches being planted locally and abroad; how the gospel is being preached and people are being saved; and how the kingdom of God is expanding. I spend hours (no joke) reading blogs about church-planting stories and movements. (Who does that?!?)

Ever since I started serving in ministry, my love for God’s people has grown to the point that I cannot see myself doing anything else than using my God-given gifts to edify and bless others in the context of the local church.

Now, let me be honest: planting a church is one of the most challenging things ever! Don’t believe me? Just ask a church planter and his family how difficult it is to plant a church.

The trials, temptations, shortcomings, unmet expectations, lack of resources, weekly responsibilities, criticism, and discouragement, among other things, makes church planting an unappealing and daunting task.

Why in the world would I want to plant a church (in the near future)? To simply put it: I feel God is calling me to do just that—to plant a church—and I want to be obedient. When? Where? How? I honestly do not know.

In the meantime, I will continue to learn, grow, and serve God passionately and faithfully…and the rest is up to Him. After all, He was the one who changed my life and put those desires in my heart in the first place, so why wouldn’t He guide and direct my steps in order to fulfill that for which He has called me to?

I believe that God is in control and that He “is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph. 3:21). Amen!

*Discuss: What is God calling you to do? And, how is He preparing you for that task? Share your comments below.*

It Is Hard to Share Our Faith

Yesterday I had another great conversation with a friend from school. My friend is not a follower of Jesus, but she is interested and curious enough to listen and have a conversation about God.

We became friends last fall, and since then, we have had several fruitful and enjoyable conversations about Jesus, life, faith, relationships, and the like.

It is always a joy for me to connect with others and hear their stories, passions and dreams. I find this fulfilling and energizing, especially when Jesus is the center of it all. I could spend hours and hours talking about Jesus, without realizing (and noticing) that time is passing by. (I mean, come on, time flies when you are having fun, right?).

Every morning (well, at least when I remember), I always like to pray for God to give me an opportunity to talk, pray, encourage, teach, disciple, motivate, and love others.

To this day, God has been faithful in answering that prayer. It always amazes me to see how God works in and through my life, for His glory and for the good of others.

As I was sitting in my car, writing and thanking God for a wonderful day at school, I asked myself the following question: Does my friend, Jessie (not her real name), know me more for what I am against rather than what I am for? It was something to think about.

What about you? Do others know you mostly for what you are against or for what you are for? When others hear your name, what do they think of? What do they say?

It is so tragic to hear that there is a lot of Christians who are known mostly for what they are against, and not for what they are for. This is a big turn off for the unbeliever and the skeptic.

There are so many people out there—neighbors, co-workers, friends, and family members—who are eager to hear more about Jesus, but because we are too busy proclaiming what we are against, they tend to walk away without having the opportunity to hear about the gospel.

This is due primarily because of the barriers that we sometimes create due to our lack of communication, patience, and if we are honest, love. Such walls prevent us from having gospel-centered conversations and fruitful dialogue, which is essential for building long-lasting, and intentional relationships.

As believers, we know God’s eternal and unchanging truth, and we are responsible to communicate it; but, we must communicate it in a loving and kindly way, not by forcing or imposing it on others against their will. We must imitate our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and be humble about it.

Speaking the truth and sharing the gospel with others is not easy. If I told you otherwise, I would be lying. There are times when my friend and I have our disagreements and points of tension.

Sometimes she does not accept or agree with what I say, but at the end, we walk away thanking each other for the chance to talk and converse and build a stronger friendship.

Next time we pray, let’s ask God to give us more opportunities to share the gospel. I believe there will be a time to unapologetically speak God’s truth, and there will also be a time to show others what we are for rather than what we are against.

Now, let me be clear. The problem is not speaking the truth, but when and how we go about it. We must be careful and wise enough to know when to speak and when to listen.

As believers, we are called to preach the gospel, both in word and in deed, just like Jesus did. Each opportunity is unique and there is not a “one size fits all” method of sharing the gospel.

How we go about sharing the gospel will vary depending on the situation we are involved in, and the people we are ministering to.

The message—the gospel of Jesus Christ—does not change, but our communication methods must adapt and adjust according to the need of the moment.

Sometimes, we are called to defend the truth against atheism, and at other times, we are called to preach the gospel by showing love and compassion. Both are necessary and important when it comes to reaching out to others.

It will take wisdom to know what to do in a given situation. When an opportunity arises, and God puts someone in your path, take full advantage of it and tell him or her all about Jesus and His unconditional, life-transforming love.

You can do it! I believe in you, and so does God!

Do you have any similar examples or stories about sharing the gospel with others? If so (and I know you do), please write a comment and share it with me below. I would love to hear all about it.

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez

Leadership is Essential

Leadership is important. Why? As John C. Maxwell well puts it, “Everything rises or falls on leadership.” I agree. As a leader myself, I am beginning to realize that the success (or failure) of an organization or ministry falls on its leadership.

Leaders are important not because of the positions they hold, or the talent they have, but because of the impact, whether positive or negative, they will have on their followers and the organizations and ministries they represent and work for.

Leaders are called to serve others and not their own personal, selfish agenda. Leaders are called to…well lead, and leading will require great responsibility and effort and, at times, great sacrifice. A leader must be willing to pay the price in order to be effective in whatever he or she does.

Leaders are called to a higher standard of living for they will give an account to God for what they do (or don’t do). It is vital for a leader to live a life of integrity, service, honesty and humility.

The stakes are high and many are watching. People are counting on leaders to display a life worth imitating and following. The responsibility could not be bigger but the potential for long-lasting impact and positive change is endless.

Leaders: pray and strive to serve God and others with a humble and sincere heart.

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez

A New Journey

Over the last couple of weeks, I have witness God at work—touching hearts, doing great things in the lives of others, and answering prayers—all to accomplish His will in the local church. The most amazing, and shocking thing in the world is that God uses ordinary people like you and me to carry out His purposes. What an expression of His grace!

Now let me tell you about something that I will have the undeserved privilege to be part of. Soon, I will begin a new journey in my life—entrance into youth ministry. But before I go on to describe how I feel about it (hint: excited), let me briefly share how all of this came about.

I am currently attending Eternity Bible College. This school does a very good job in making sure students get involved in the local church. One of the ways the school encourages ministry involvement is by giving its students monthly updates on current openings, positions and opportunities available in our area.

This is how I first heard that there was a need for a Middle School Coordinator at The Bridge. At first, the thought of working with middle school students was intriguing and appealing; but as time passed, I sort of pushed this opportunity to the side and left it unattended. In the next couple of months, God began to work in a remarkable way in my life—giving me a fresh, new passion and desire to disciple the next generation of students.

As a result, God put on my heart to start a small, discipleship-group for high school students. We have only met for about a month now, and I have seen God do amazing things in their lives.

I love sharing God’s Word with young students. My passion is to make a positive impact in their spiritual growth and formation. And so far, I cannot complain—God has been good!

Now back to this new journey in my life—entrance into middle school ministry. After a couple months had passed since I first heard of the opportunity, I became once again interested; so I began to pray and seek the Lord’s will on it.

I remember a night I was working at my current job (Radio Nueva Vida). During one of the Bible programs, I took a brief moment to pray that God may open the door to get involved at The Bridge. I am already serving at Nueva Vida (the Spanish ministry), but something I strongly desired was to be part of The Bridge.

A couple of days later, I received a call from Rob (the current youth pastor) asking me if I wanted to teach on Sunday, July 1st to the middle school students. I remember saying, “Wow, Lord, that sure was quick! Is this the answer to my prayer?” Little did I know that I was being examined on that Sunday as a potential candidate for the job (or at least that’s what I think).

So after various conversations, meetings, and God’s conviction pressed upon my heart, it became clear that the Lord was leading me to be involved in this area of ministry. I thought, “Wow, I don’t deserve this. I am not fit for the job. What if I fail and mess up?” But then, I was reminded of an amazing truth—that all over the Bible, we see how God used ordinary folks to do extraordinary things for the glory of His name (i.e., Moses, Ruth, the twelve disciples, and many others).

If someone were to ask me, “What would be the most exciting thing about working in middle school ministry?” For me, the most exciting thing would be having the opportunity to invest, disciple, and play an active role in making a long-lasting impact in the lives of the students. Of course this will not be an easy task at all, but that will not stop me to dream big and expect great things.

I am praying that God may be glorified in all things—in my teaching, in my relationships with the students, staff, Rob and others, in leadership, and in all other activities and events—may Jesus be the center, foundation, and the one receiving all honor, praise and adoration!

I think the most challenging part for me will be connecting with the students (since I have very little experience with youth) and keeping an eternity-focused youth ministry; in other words, I want to do youth ministry in light of eternity. I want to be intentional and make the best of every opportunity to make a long-lasting impact instead of just focusing on the now (which many have the tendency to do).

All in all, I am very excited to begin this new chapter in my life. My desire is to see a new generation of students that are committed, devoted and passionate for Jesus. Because if it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t have the opportunity in the first place; so everything is and always will be all about Jesus!

Any advice, insight, encouragement, and most importantly—prayer (and lots of it), will be more than welcomed and appreciated. Thanks!

For His glory,

Jonnathan Menendez