I’m perfect and you’re not. Would you like to hear about Jesus?


Something that has troubled me for a long time is how society looks at Christians. Most people hear that word and cringe. It’s almost like a disease. Now, I understand that as Christians we are going to be hated by the world. Jesus explained that quite clearly in the New Testament. I can live with that. Being hated for the right reasons. What I don’t like is people hating Christians because of, well, to put it simply, some Christians. Those who believe that they have it all together and their poo stopped stinking a long time ago.

I’ll be the first to tell you that I stink. I am a complete and utter failure if I’m measured on the “living good” scale. Out of a hundred, I might rank somewhere in the lower twenties. Sure, I work with inner city kids, help feed the hungry, house the homeless, and care for orphans. That doesn’t make me a good person. Like I wrote in a comment on a great friend’s blog: I am nothing more than an undeserving beggar lying prone at the feet of Jesus. If we were being honest with ourselves, and the rest of society, we would all say those very same words.

The truth is that the Bible says we have all sinned and fallen short. I could rescue twenty children from a burning school, but if I don’t have Christ, I’m nothing. I’m no better than the gang banger dealing drugs in a dark alley on the east side of Charlotte. My sin isn’t any less destructive than the prostitute out on the street corner. God doesn’t measure our sin on a scale. He doesn’t sit in Heaven and say “Well, Joe only told a white lie, his sin isn’t as bad as that guy who murdered the convenience store clerk.” Sin is sin. We were born into a no-win situation. That is, until a man came along who walked on water, healed the sick, raised the dead, and eventually bore all of our sin on His own shoulders.

This problem with a “holier than thou” attitude that some Christians walk around with is extremely disheartening. It doesn’t ignite the interest of someone who has never heard of Jesus. It doesn’t spark a desire or longing to learn more about God. It completely turns people off. Not only to that particular person, but to the body of Christ as a whole. If you’re trying to witness to a sinner at arm’s length, you might as well walk away. It’s not going to work.

Jesus was a trouble maker. He endlessly came up against rigid opposition from the religious leaders of that era. They only knew one thing. Follow the Law of Moses to the letter, no matter what. If someone broke a law, they were to be put to death. Jesus walked in and completely rocked their strict and lifeless world by demonstrating a love that is more powerful than regulations and traditions.

The Pharisees stood far away in their fancy robes, bellowing out scholarly prayers and performing rituals that had been passed down through the ages. Jesus embraced the leper, the lame, the blind, the demon possessed and loved them to life. He healed on the Sabbath. He forgave a woman caught in adultery. He broke bread with tax collectors and sinners. He knew what it meant to love people in their worst state, at the lowest point in their life. Jesus ran with open arms to the very ones whom the rest of society turned their backs on.

A relationship is up close and personal. It takes intentional effort in order to make it work. If we are going to reach the lost, we have to realize we are no better than anyone else. We have to stop protesting everything on the planet. Stop judging others because they drink beer and smoke cigarettes. Quit getting all worked up and sending out petitions because you found out the guys who make your favorite ice cream are gay. Why do we think, just because we label ourselves Christians, that we have all the answers?

Does society even know what we believe in? They mostly see the stuff we are against. Let’s start showing them Jesus by climbing down off our soap boxes, admitting we are broken people, just like everyone else, and just love others. Don’t try and shove the Gospel down their throats from a distance. Show them who Jesus is with our love and compassion.

No one wants to hear a message about that guy who sacrificed His life for all of mankind, from someone looking down their nose.

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Have a blessed day.

Christmas Isn’t Merry for Everyone (A re-post (sort of), but with an update)


Around Christmas last year, I blogged a post entitled “The Un-merry Side of Christmas.” Here is the post in it’s entirety along with an update at the end.

The Un-merry Side of Christmas.

I awoke this morning with a heavy heart. For some, Christmas isn’t a time of laughter and cheer. Despite what the world portrays on TV commercials, many will not be sitting around a big, bright tree drinking egg nog and unwrapping gifts. Some will spend their day on the street with nowhere to go. Lord willing, some of them might get lucky enough to end up at a homeless shelter where volunteers are providing meals. And it’s not only the homeless I’m talking about.

There are so many people who have lost loved ones and have a difficult time during any holiday season. It’s never easy to lose those we love, whether it be from medical reasons, or evil walking into an elementary school and shooting children. The loss is hard and magnified by those special days when family and friends join together to celebrate. The absence of a special person is glaring when the table is set for a holiday meal.

I know most Christians focus on the birth of Christ as the “reason for the season”, but we still exchange gifts as per the tradition. There’s usually something about Christmas that invokes a tingle of excitement within me. I don’t know if it’s the music, the crisp smell of winter in the air, or the beautiful decorations and lights. I’m just not feeling that this year.

For the last two years, we have volunteered with an inner city youth ministry called One7. For those of you following my blog, you have probably heard about One7. On a daily basis, we see people who are lost, hurting, and have no hope. We do what we can to help, but sometimes it feels like we just can’t do enough. Sometimes, we get a reminder of why we do what we do. Yesterday was one of those times.

We went to the apartment of a family whose children come to One7. There are six of them, ages 14 down to a couple of toddlers. We arrived to find the apartment utterly trashed. Toys, garbage, books, and clothing scattered all over the floor inside and outside as well. The temperature was in the 40′s, and they were running around outside with no shoes or jackets on. Their mom left a while ago, and their dad has been gone on a job for two days. He just left them all alone to fend for themselves.

After talking with the oldest, who just turned 14 on Friday and has to be a mom to her younger siblings, we found out that they have not had any food in the house for several days. I looked in the refrigerator, and it was empty except for a jug of milk. These are kids who come to One7 and run around and play like they don’t have a care in the world. People just don’t know the suffering and pain others are going through.

These are things that completely break my heart and wreck me to the very core of my being. We are to be a light to this world so full of darkness and despair. People don’t need gifts, hot chocolate, and jingle bells.

They need love.

Update:

A year has passed, and God has done some amazing things with the children I wrote about in that post. Soon after this was written, we met with the parents and worked out a plan to take care of the kids. They are now all living with different One7 staff members. We have the oldest, Yomira, living with us. It has been year of crazy roller coaster rides, but God is definitely working in her life.

God orchestrated a miracle which has allowed us to put Yomira in the same Christian school our two girls are attending this year. She was being bullied on a daily basis in public school, so this has been a nice change for her. She is now in a place where teachers take the much needed time to explain things in more detail. Yomira struggles mainly with English and Vocab, but the teachers are doing their best to make it an easier process.

I know that people say the reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, and it’s not all about gifts under the tree. Most of us know that Christ wasn’t born in December. We should be celebrating His birth every day of our lives. His birth, death, and resurrection are three things that have given us the freedom in grace that we will never deserve.

I often wonder if Mary truly realized what happened in that stable, surrounded by filth and the smell of animals. To physically be able to not only touch, but to hold Him, kiss His forehead, and look directly into the eyes of Jesus gives me chills to even think about. Did she understand the magnitude of responsibility that God put upon her? He sent His only son, the king of all kings, to take on a normally imperfect human form and endure life on Earth. He then willingly walked the long road to Calvary with a wooden cross upon His back, knowing He would take on all the sin of the world.

This Christmas, while most of the world is worrying about what presents they will receive, let’s cross the social lines and barriers to create new traditions. Hang out with the homeless. Take food to the hungry. Buy clothes for the poor. Show the love of Christ to those who have no hope. Be a shining light in this world of commercialism and darkness.

Most of all, don’t wait for that one certain day of the year to celebrate the birth of Christ. Live every day in honor of that gift.

 

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Have a blessed day.

In Memory of Sandy Hook (Finally Got My Wings)


It’s hard to believe that Saturday, December 14, will mark the one year anniversary of the horrible shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown. As with most tragedies, I usually express my thoughts by either writing a blog post or some song lyrics. I wrote this last year soon after the event.

My heart breaks for the families of the horrible tragedy in Newtown CT. While no words from the English language could truly comfort anyone, I hope that each parent, brother, sister, mother, father, and relative can somehow find peace knowing each child is resting safely in the arms of Jesus. As with most things, the incident sparked some song lyrics and I wrote them down. The title is Finally Got My Wings.

Finally Got My Wings
2012 Chris Martin

(verse one)

Hello Mom and Dad
I hate to see you both so sad
But I’m in a better place now

Through the tears and the pain
All the clouds filled with rain
You need to stay strong somehow

It’s really nice up here
No more hurt, no more fear
God says this is now our home

I am gone, but I hope you see
You’ll always have a part of me
Remember this when you feel alone

(chorus)

I finally got my wings
And it feels so good to fly
I know it’s hard to understand
Why I had to say goodbye

People say I’m too young
With a whole life ahead of me
But I’m with the angels now
I hope that you can see

That I finally got my wings

(verse two)

Hello Mom and Dad
I hate to see you both so sad
There’s so much I want to say

I know you had plans for me
I know how much you wanted to see
The smiles on my wedding day

Jesus is holding my hand
Dad, I hope you can understand
He’s going to walk me down the aisle

I’m sorry you can’t be here
Help Mom wipe away her tears
Think of me when you need to smile

And remember this when you feel alone

(repeat chorus)

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Wrecked


Have you ever had a moment come along during your life when you were completely and utterly broken? A moment that wrecked you to the very core of your being, and reduced you to nothing but a pile of smoldering ashes? Something that didn’t just gently tug at your heart strings, but ripped them from the shell of human dust you were created from? These moments can be devastating but life altering in the same breath. I believe these are moments that God uses to show us things in life we may either be ignoring, or just innocently unaware of.

I experienced one such moment about three years ago.

We had just recently moved to Charlotte to volunteer with the inner city youth ministry called One7 that I frequently write about on this blog. I won’t go into all the details about the ministry here in this post. Check out the One7 link at the top of the page. I was asked if I wanted to visit a handful of apartments where some of our younger soccer players lived. We would go there and see if they needed anything like food, furniture, etc. I am a completely different person now than I was back then. Now, I wouldn’t think twice about it. Heck, I would even drive the van to get there. Back then, I was a little hesitant, but I agreed to go.

There were five of us that went. I can’t remember what my wife was doing, but she wasn’t there with us. I really had no idea what to expect once we started knocking on doors. It was nearly dark, twilight had begun to overtake the skyline of Charlotte. Long shadows cast curious, and somewhat frightening shapes on the streets and neighboring buildings as we stepped out into the cool air. I had just moved from Johnson City, TN where the closest thing to gang violence was a group of preschoolers jumping on a teacher. I had no experience whatsoever with an inner city area like what we were stepping into. We had been helping out at One7, but just at the main meeting place, and that was only twice a week.

I had yet to truly step out of my comfort zone and open my eyes to a hurting community all around me.

When we arrived at the apartment complex and climbed out of the vehicle, I immediately felt as if I was in a third world country. The people we passed on the stairwells and the sidewalks were all from other parts of the world. I didn’t see one Caucasian anywhere in the vicinity. I began to wonder how we would communicate with the people if they didn’t speak English. I knew the kids that came to One7 could speak the language, but what if their parents couldn’t? How would we truly know what their needs were?

It didn’t take long to realize words wouldn’t have to be spoken to see what these families lacked. We entered the first apartment, after taking off our shoes in respect for their culture, and I looked around, shocked. At One7, I had witnessed smiling faces of kids who laughed and played with everyone else as if they had no cares in the world. Now, standing inside an apartment with the family, I wondered how they could act like that. Roaches were everywhere, not only in the kitchen. There was barely any furniture. Makeshift beds were scattered in different rooms on the floor. Younger siblings were walking around barely clothed.

My first thought was how could anyone be living like this in America. Sure, I had watched enough TV to know people suffered all around the world in these conditions, but right here? In my own backyard? I couldn’t comprehend that. I had heard stories of people in suffering, but I was experiencing it first hand, and it started to hurt. With every minute we spent looking around the apartment, checking the kitchen for food, and visiting with the families, a little more of my heart began to break. Every place we visited had barely any food in the kitchen, if any at all. We discovered mostly scavenging roaches, and even they were finding it difficult to come up with anything.

After leaving each apartment, it took more and more self control not to start crying. Each living situation told the same story. When we were finished, I returned to my car and started home. I couldn’t hold back any longer. I wept all the way back to our house. There were several emotions that formed the root cause of my tears. Empathy. Shock. Despair. Guilt. Those are a few. I say guilt because I started thinking about all the things I complained about, and I nearly vomited. These kids have lived through, and are still enduring, hardships in their young lives that I will never have to face in my entire lifespan.

That was a moment in my life I will never forget. We went back the next day and delivered food to all the families. It was such an amazing feeling being able to do that. God continues to bring people to our doorstep who are in desperate need of help. The broken. The hurting. The lost. The homeless. The fatherless. He uses us in small ways to slowly start the seeding process of Christ in these young lives. We are called to go into the world and make disciples. It’s not a responsibility we take lightly or for granted. God puts people in our lives for a reason.

The moment we forget there are others all around us who are suffering, is the moment we turn our backs on love. 

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If Jesus was on Twitter


If Jesus was on Twitter
I bet he’d have millions who would follow
Although most of what He said
Would be too much for the masses to swallow

His hashtag would be #truth
Because that’s all He knows how to speak
He would talk about radical love
And how we’re to stand up for the weak

I doubt he would post the video
Of that time when He walked on water
Instead He might implore us
To be better examples to our sons and daughters

He wouldn’t quote the religious
Instead, He would tell us about His story
How He sacrificed His life
So we could trade our filthy rags for glory

He might even get a retweet
Although many would not understand
It’s not about us and what we want
It’s about the scars in His nail-pierced hands

If Jesus was on Twitter
I’m sure we would give him a mention
Is it because we serve Him daily
Or do we think that keeps us out of Hell’s detention

You see, Jesus would say to follow Him
But there are few who understand the cost
So many think they are righteous
Just because they favorite His story of the Cross

It takes more than online faith
To have our name written in the Book of Life
It’s more about what others don’t see
Like when we’re looking at porn instead of our wife

If Jesus was on Twitter
It would be easy to quote His tweets
But what about the homeless man on the corner
Would we be as eager to wash his feet

Are we willing to give it all up
And follow every one of His words
If Jesus was on Twitter
Would He really ever be heard

 

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The Walking Dead (Has the Church become zombified?)


I wasn’t exactly sure how to write this post. I know it will more than likely make some people mad. I hope not, but I know not everyone is going to see things as I do, and that’s fine. I’m happy with that because it means we are all individuals. I pray it is accepted in the manner by which it was written, as an effort to encourage and build up the body of Christ. I don’t have all the answers, I can tell you that right up front. I don’t know it all. I don’t have it all figured out. I’m glad I don’t, because that would make God no bigger than me, and His ways the same as mine. That would reduce God to, well, being puny like us. Who would want to serve a God that small?

The church I’m referring to in the title is not the building with four walls. It’s who we are, the Church, the body of Christ. Not sure I needed to clarify that, but there it is. I don’t want there to be any confusion as to what I’m talking about. So many people think building when they hear the word church.

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about the AMC series, The Walking Dead. People have been posting on Facebook and Twitter about characters, finales, etc. I figured I would take a look and see what all the fuss is about. I watched about four episodes on Netflix, and that’s all I will ever watch. Blood, sex, profanity, violence, and gore pretty much cover about 90% of the plot. I mean, it is after all zombies we’re talking about, so that was to be expected. I guess after hearing a lot of my Christian friends going on about the show, I was hoping it wasn’t too bad. I was wrong. My opinion is that The Walking Dead is complete and utter worldly trash that I don’t want filling my mind.

I stopped watching rated R movies a long time ago. The only exception has been Passion of the Christ by Mel Gibson. Am I saying it’s a sin to watch rated R movies? Of course not. Just because the Holy Spirit convicted me, that doesn’t mean everyone should immediately stop. I’m not a legalistic tyrant who thinks all movies are evil and any music that isn’t “Christian” is from Satan. I watch a variety of movies and listen to all sorts of music genres. I also used to download movies and music illegally. Yep, got convicted of that as well, and haven’t done it since. Philippians 4:8  says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Watching a zombie rip apart a human being and feast on their innards doesn’t strike me as very noble, right, pure, admirable, or all too lovely. There are so many awesome movies and TV shows out there that aren’t full of that garbage. Well, to be honest, not sure about TV anymore since I hardly watch it. Years ago, I also decided I wasn’t going to have any of those items in my writing either. My most popular post to date is Why I Write Clean, and I explain my reasons for not wanting to write like that. It would be so easy to include all the elements that will sell books, but to me it’s just not worth it.

As Christians, do we not see anything wrong with a show like The Walking Dead? How could we not? Sure, it’s fiction, but why on earth would we want to fill our minds with such filth? How can we even begin to justify our reasons for watching? This makes me think about the scripture where we are to be in the world, but not of it. John 15:19 – “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” We are in this world. It’s not like we can choose to live on the moon or somewhere around Jupiter. We live on Earth. If the world loves us, we’re not doing something right. I’ve blogged before about persecution and how the world will hate us for being Christians.

The Bible also says we are to be set apart from the world. I don’t believe that means to shun the world and anyone who doesn’t believe the same way we do. In fact, as Christians, we should be hanging out with those whom the world has rejected and cast aside as hopeless. Gang members, prostitutes, the homeless, sinners of all kinds. If we’re not, how are we going to reach them with the Gospel? I guess my point to this is how can we been seen as set apart if we’re doing, watching, listening to, participating in, and encouraging all of the same things everyone else is? How does that make us different?

Are we perfect? Not even close. Are we going to fail? All the time. The key is effort. Are we making an effort to be righteous? Are we making an effort to think on those things that are pure, lovely, and admirable? What are we filling our minds, souls, and hearts with? If we can’t tell a difference between us and the world, then we are nothing but zombies ourselves. We have become desensitized to the garbage and filth that everyone else accepts as the norm. It’s so very easy to follow the crowd and get caught up in the latest and greatest fads, including clothes, movies, and whatever else. It becomes difficult when we decide to take a stand in our own lives and stop accepting sin and allowing it to rule us.

Sure, TV shows, movies, and even music may sound like minor things, even harmless. It’s not like we’re out there shooting up schools, burning Bibles, or murdering people for believing in God. However, sin is sin. It’s all the same in God’s eyes. For me, I chose not to watch shows like The Walking Dead because it does nothing to build up or further the Kingdom of God. Again, I’m telling you what I feel and how I’ve been convicted about certain things. None of this may mean anything to you, and that’s okay. I just feel that the church needs to wake up. We have sons and daughters who are looking to us as spiritual leaders in our homes. If we’re not setting a Godly example for our children, what example will they follow?

I’m not saying you should toss out your TV and never walk into a movie theater again. Not at all. As Christians who make up the different parts of the body of Christ, let’s fill our hearts and minds with things that please God. Let’s put in the effort to follow Christ with everything we do and say on a daily basis, not just a couple times a week when we’re surrounded by a thousand other people in their Sunday best.

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Pictures Have a Voice (Re-blog)


This is a re-blog of a post on the One7 Ministries blog.

Pictures can be a very powerful thing. They are inanimate objects, therefore unable to talk or speak aloud. However, their silent voices can move people in ways that sometimes spoken words are unable to.

Click here for rest of post.

 

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What Are We Desperate For?


I won’t lie. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the entire year. And it’s not because I’m thankful. It’s all about the food. I start looking forward to the Thanksgiving meal the day after Thanksgiving. I mean, come on. Turkey. Mashed potatoes. Stuffing. Pumpkin pie. Gravy. Okay, I need to stop and wipe up the puddle of drool on my keyboard. Just because I look forward to the food doesn’t mean I’m not thankful for what I have in my life. I strive to be thankful every day, not just during the month of November. I don’t join the masses and write something I’m thankful for on Facebook every day during the month. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that because there isn’t. I just think we all fall into a pattern.

During Christmas, everyone celebrates the birth of Christ. We should be celebrating that every single day. Easter is the same way with the resurrection. Almost every day, I’m reminded of the pain and agony Jesus went through for me on the Cross, and His triumphant victory over death when He stepped out of the tomb. Sure, there are days when I don’t stop and say “Thank You, Jesus, for everything You’ve done for me.” It’s my goal, my desire to do that, but I am going to fail sometimes. We all do. And that’s okay. That’s the beauty of grace.

I feel that sometimes we get so busy and caught up in life that we take for granted the things that really mean the most.

What I dislike the most around Thanksgiving is the ever present Black Friday. That day is a vivid reminder that this world needs Jesus. Something is seriously wrong when it doesn’t matter who we trample on to get the latest Xbox console. Why would we camp outside of Walmart for a solid week in the bitter cold and freezing rain to snag a TV, but won’t go down to the inner city and feed some homeless people? I have never, and will never, go to any stores on Black Friday. And it’s not for some political stance against capitalism. There are several reasons. And these are my own, personal reasons. I’m not pointing fingers, saying you should not shop, or anything like that.

(1) I hate crowds. Especially when it contains people who would kill me over a new cell phone.

(2) I’ve got better things to do than stand in line for days when there are kids right here in my vicinity who have no parents and no one who gives a crap about them.

(3) It must hurt Jesus to see millions of people pushing, shoving, cursing, hitting, kicking, and trampling one another to get the latest and greatest in technology, when His love and grace are completely free of charge.

(4) Jesus didn’t allow Himself to be brutally murdered on that Cross so I could have material possessions. (Before you get riled up and accuse me of saying it’s wrong to have stuff, I want you to know that’s not at all what I’m saying.)

There are probably more reasons I could come up with, but that’s good for now. You see where I stand on this. And, like I said, those 4 reasons are why I don’t shop on Black Friday.

I wanted to end this post with some pictures. The first one is people in Haiti trying desperately to get some food, pushing through the gate at a food handout station. The others are of Black Friday. What are we desperate for? Material things that we can not take with us when we leave this planet? Or are we desperate for and concerned with things that matter? Lost souls. The poor. The hungry. The homeless. The orphans. Are we desperate for Jesus?

Trying to get foodHOLIDAY SHOPPINGhqdefault

009436-black-friday

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Can You Help?


I have to admit, I really don’t like asking for things. It has nothing to do with pride or embarrassment at all. I know how hard life is and the struggles people go through, so I’m not always comfortable asking others for help. But wait, let me back up a little.

Three years ago, God called us out of our comfortable life in Johnson City, TN to make a radical change, not only in our geographical location, but also in our spiritual condition. In September of 2010, my wife and I, along with our two children, moved to Charlotte, NC to volunteer with an inner city youth ministry called One7. It was founded in 2008 and now has kids from Africa, Vietnam, Burma, Mexico, El Salvador and the United States. The One7 vision: To reach and transform inner city communities and families by intentionally forming cross cultural youth ministry teams while focusing on holistic change and spiritual growth. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and we have never regretted the decision to move. One thing we have come to understand is that everyone has a story. All it takes is some time and active participation in someone’s life to develop a personal relationship. Just because a person is smiling on the outside, does not mean they are not ripped apart inside.

Back then, we were volunteers and basically showed up one night a week. sometimes two nights a week, to participate in any way we could. That involved leading small groups, driving kids home, and just getting to know the youth that came out. Presently, my wife and I are both on staff with One7. (You can visit HERE and click on the Staff page to see my ugly self right next to my beautiful wife.) It has become a full time part of who we are. Jennifer will take the girls to school and go into One7 around 8:30am Monday through Friday. Some nights, she might not get home until 9:30pm or later. When soccer season is in full swing, the weekends are just as crazy. She puts in about 60-80 hours a week. And that’s all on top of being a wife and mother.

I work 40 hours a week at my full time job, then spend another 20 or more each week with One7. I pick up kids several nights a week and help with soccer weekends. Ministry for us is nearly 24/7, 365 days a year. For example, yesterday Jennifer and I, along with three other staff members, spent the day with the 30 kids who live at One7. We started at 8:30, went over to another apartment complex, where One7 is about to end a lease on an apartment, and cleaned it out. We removed all the furniture, hauled off trash, and painted everything. After that, we returned to One7 so the kids could get cleaned up. We had a short devotion time and then took them all to eat at McDonald’s. We went back to One7, spent a couple hours hanging out, and then took them all to the dollar theatre to watch a movie as a reward for their hard work. We returned to One7 at 9pm and ended the night with a birthday party. I think Jennifer and I finally climbed into bed around 11. That was just one day. That’s how the weekends usually go.

Since 2010, One7 has grown in leaps and bounds. We have a new facility that houses our One7 Academy. We have an 18 unit apartment complex that we use for offices and living space to house some of our staff and also the homeless that God brings to our doorstep. We currently have over 30 kids living there who have no where else to go. They are split up among our staff members. Some of these kids have been through complete Hell. Some have had to witness their parents being murdered right in front of their eyes. Some were sleeping on the streets before they found One7. They all have stories that will wreck you, and shake you to the very core of your being. These are the ones we share life with on a daily basis. They have no one else. We are to stand up for the weak and abused. Provide shelter for the homeless and poor. Feed the hungry. The list goes on and on. 

One7 runs off 100% donations. We are a non-profit organization that depends solely on the generosity of others to keep the ministry going. The more we grow, the more expenses arise. It’s just a fact of life. One7 is able to pay two or three of the staff members, but not all of them. Jennifer is one that gets paid. I am not. We have our two girls, and another girl named Yomira who lives with us, (Brief story HERE) attending a private Christian school here in Charlotte. We are unable to afford the tuition, on top of everything else, with just my income, so what Jennifer does get paid through One7 is vital. It allows us to pay school costs, but also to help others. We believe that the more we give to others, the more we will be blessed. It’s a continuous cycle. 

Here is where you can help. We would love to be able to raise our own support so One7 doesn’t have to continue paying Jennifer. The money they use to pay her could go to another staff member or to other things needed by the ministry. Now, here is the part I don’t like getting into. I hope by now that most of my faithful readers know me. You’ve read my posts and my other ramblings on here. I’m always as transparent and honest about my life as I can be. I hope that comes across in my writing. I have nothing to hide. I am a sinner, saved by the grace of Christ doing my best to help others in any way I can. My wife is the same.

My blog has 15,428 followers and I have another 7,400 people following me on Twitter. Now I’m not stupid, I know realistically less than half read my posts, maybe not even that many. We want to ask that you prayerfully consider supporting us financially each month. No amount is too small. $1. $5. $10. It doesn’t matter. God can take even the smallest amount and stretch it for His glory. Just so there is no questioning where the money goes, your donation each month will go directly to One7 Ministries, not us, and then distributed to our family from there. One7 is a non-profit, 501 (c) 3 organization. Your gift is tax deductible. I urge you to check out the One7 website and see if it’s something you want to invest in. By supporting us, you are allowing God to continue using us to further the Kingdom. If you don’t want to support us each month, but would like to give a one time donation to One7, that would be greatly appreciated as well.

For those who are interested in pledging a monthly amount to our family for support, please send me a direct email at qualityupgrades@gmail.com, or reach me through my contact page. I will reply back with the specifics on how you can send the money in. Please take some time to look at the One7 main website and the One7 blog page. Click Here Both sites have links to the One7 Ministries Facebook and Twitter pages as well. 

Make sure to follow me on Twitter and/or Facebook by clicking on the appropriate link to the right. Thanks!

Have a blessed day,

I Was There (Re-post)


I’ve gained quite a few more followers since I first posted this, so I wanted to share it again. It’s one of my personal favorites.

I Was There

You don’t know me, and my name is not important. I was never mentioned in the story that millions, if not billions have most likely read by now. I didn’t play a major role, nor was I involved directly with the events that transpired that day. All I know is that I have been trying to erase the memories, with no success. The things I witnessed, relentlessly haunt my dreams every night. I haven’t slept in what feels like years, although the truth is that it’s only been a few months. Forgive me if there are parts of this story that are confusing. I know I will never understand what I saw, but nevertheless, I will attempt to describe everything I can to the best of my ability.

It was early one morning, and I realized something significant was happening as the crowd began to grow larger and larger. People were running past my house yelling for us all to follow them. There had been reports that a celebrity was in town and something major was going to happen. It wasn’t very often famous people passed through, so I assumed all the commotion must be related to that. At the time, I wasn’t working on anything very important, so I decided to go have a look for myself. I told both my girls to say inside and wait for their mother to return.

I started off after the crowd not really knowing what to expect. Before I even reached the palace courtyard, I was stopped by the throng of spectators. I pushed and squeezed my way forward, trying desperately to reach the front where something was going on. As I moved closer, I could hear voices arguing. I stopped once my eyes fell upon the scene in front of me. The temple priests were arguing with someone I recognized immediately. Pontius Pilate. Beside him stood another man whom I had never seen before. His hands were bound and there was blood dripping from a cut underneath his eye, as if someone had punched him. His demeanor struck me as very odd.

He wasn’t fighting against the restraints. He wasn’t screaming defiantly at the crowd. He merely stood there silently, even as the priests shook their fists and yelled at him. Pilate spoke to the man briefly, but I wasn’t able to hear their conversation. Pilate looked perplexed as he turned back to address the crowd. He asked what we wanted to do with the man who called himself King of the Jews. I started to ask the woman standing beside me who that was when the crowd erupted into cries of “Crucify him!” She began to scream so loudly that spittle flew out of her mouth. She had the look of a wild animal on her face as she joined the crowd in chanting those two words over and over. “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

The crowd began to press in even more, and I decided I needed to get out. I fought against the surge until I was once again toward the back of the mob. The chaos went on for several minutes and then word made it to the back that they had released Barabbas because of the festival, and they were going to crucify the man known as Jesus. I knew of Barabbas. He was a convicted murderer. I had not heard anything about the other one except for the rumors that he had healed the lame and made blind people see. I couldn’t imagine that would be cause to crucify someone. Maybe there was more to the story than what I had heard. At first glance, the man didn’t appear threatening, or in any way, evil.

The soldiers took Jesus over to the area in the courtyard that would make even the most hardened criminal’s flesh crawl. The scourging post was known to all, and it was a very clear reminder that crime was not tolerated. I had never witnessed anyone being whipped, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to hang around for this one. At first, I thought maybe this was just a way for Pilate to have the man punished, and the crowd would be satisfied. Maybe just a few lashes, and everyone would go home happy. As they stripped the clothes away from his body, the soldiers sneered and hurled insults and curses at Jesus. It was soon apparent that this was not going to be a normal beating. They chained him to the post, and the horror began.

When I realized what kind of whip they were going to use, my heart sank. I heard stories of criminals being subjected to a flogging of this nature, and not surviving due to the extreme loss of blood. I should have walked away after the first lash, but I didn’t. Something compelled me to stay. At first, the crowd cheered with every swing. The soldiers took turns, each time laughing as flesh was ripped away from the body of Jesus. It was like they were competing to see who could inflict the most damage. After twenty lashes, the crowd began to look away from the horrific scene. I saw people crying. Some were pleading for the soldiers to stop. Only a handful of the mob were still cheering them on. I fought back the urge to vomit and continued to watch.

When it was over, the man that had earlier stood before Pilate had been reduced to what I can only describe as a pile of meat. Blood poured out of every part of his body. He was unrecognizable. I’ve been told no one has ever been beaten that severely since. I was hoping the torture was over, but I was sadly mistaken. The soldiers unchained him and shoved a crown made from thorns into his skull. They wrapped a purple robe around his body and continued to mock him. Even though Jesus could barely stand on his feet, the soldiers punched and kicked him unrelentingly. We followed them as they once again stood before Pilate. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but again the crowd cried out for the man to be crucified. I was shocked. They had just witnessed the most violent beating in history, and yet they wanted more.

Several men appeared carrying a cross, and I knew the day was going to get a lot worse before it got better. The soldiers picked Jesus up from the ground where he had just fallen, tore off the robe, and placed the cross on his back. I’m not sure how, but he remained on his feet even after they let go and the entire weight was upon him. His legs trembled, but he didn’t fall. It was difficult to see his face because of all the blood, but from the looks of his expression, the pain must have been beyond intense. I felt a drop of water on my hand and looked up, expecting to see rain falling. It wasn’t rain. I was crying, and I had no idea why. As the soldiers began to prod Jesus forward, I wiped the tears from my face and followed the crowd.

I could tell, with every step, it was becoming more difficult for Jesus to carry the cross. He would stumble, but stay on his feet. Solders punched him and struck his body with wooden poles the entire time. People from the crowd were cursing him and throwing rocks. Children, following the example of their parents, hurled insults and threw whatever items they could find lying along the street. At one point, Jesus fell with the cross slamming him to the ground. I could still see blood pouring from his wounds. I had no idea how the man was still alive. The soldiers grabbed someone from the crowd, and forced him to help carry the cross. I noticed two women following close behind the soldiers. They were very distraught and kept reaching out as if they could help Jesus in some way. I wasn’t sure who they were.

The closer we came to the place of the skull, the darker the skies became. I can’t explain the different emotions that surged inside my heart. I still wasn’t convinced that this man had done anything wrong. Some we’re saying he claimed to be a king, above Caesar, and that alone was enough for the death penalty. Others said he went all over performing witchcraft, and he needed to be killed. If he was such a bad person, why was he not yelling and screaming for mercy? No human being could go through such excruciating pain and abuse without at least begging for their life. Jesus said nothing. By that time, I was weeping uncontrollably, and I couldn’t figure out a way to stop. It didn’t make any sense. I was crying over a stranger, someone I had never met. I felt as if I was on the verge of experiencing something that would change my life forever. I couldn’t explain it.

We reached our destination, and the soldiers placed the cross on the ground. They threw Jesus down and stretched out his arms. Smiling, the soldier drove long spikes through each wrist. With every pound of the hammer, my body cringed. The two women I noticed earlier were nearby, on their knees, screaming for them to stop. Two other soldiers stood in front of them so they wouldn’t interfere. A man stood beside me, watching everything quietly. I asked him who the women were and he said one was the mother of Jesus. I immediately thought of my daughters and couldn’t begin to imagine seeing one of my children endure such agony. After they were finished with the wrists, they drove a much longer spike through both feet. They lifted the cross and dropped into the hole.

Two other men were crucified on either side of Jesus that day, but I didn’t know their names. I wanted nothing more than to run home, hug my wife and children, and try to forget everything I had just witnessed. An irresistible urge pulled me forward, and I walked slowly toward the cross. As the wind began to stir with increased fervor, and the sky transformed into a blackness I had never seen before, I looked up at the man they called Jesus. He hung there with his head down, his breathing labored. Blood poured from the crown in his skull and the uncountable wounds that covered his entire body. I wanted to say something, but the words kept getting lodged inside the back of my throat. What words could I possibly speak that would mean anything to this man who had been beaten so badly that he didn’t even appear human anymore.

Then his eyes opened.

A chill rippled the flesh down my spine, and my heart skipped a beat. For several seconds, I couldn’t breathe. I expected him to look at me with accusation, as if I had been the one to nail him onto the cross. I expected him to curse me for being there, for watching as he was beaten and tortured, and I did nothing to help him. I expected him to look at me with burning hatred. What happened was something I could never have expected.

I recognized love inside those eyes. Love that I had never experienced before in my life, and haven’t since. How was it possible? I dropped to my knees, weeping. Even though I didn’t have any part in his execution, I heard myself repeating “I’m so sorry” over and over. Through my tears, I saw compassion and mercy coming from the eyes of one who had every right to curse me. I see that same look every night in my dreams. I wonder what could possibly possess someone to endure everything that he did, and still give love.

You don’t know me, and my name is not important. Since that day, I haven’t been the same.

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Have a blessed day,