If you grew up in the 70’s, (or if you watched Forrest Gump), you know the song, “Freebird”, by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Part of the song says,

“I’m as free as a bird now, and this bird you cannot change, Lord knows I cannot change.”

Many times we try to escape our problems by simply running away from them. “Lord knows I can’t change.” Actually… He does. In fact, He can set a person free in a different way that’s not necessarily by your own doing.

“…let the living bird loose in the open field .” [Lev. 14:2]

It’s amazing that God revealed in the Old Testament what to do when an incurable disease was healed, (Lev. 14:2). To God, doing the impossible, is just everyday, ordinary stuff that He does. Even when we were still partying it up, and sinning like there was no tomorrow, Jesus had already made provision for our Salvation (Rom. 5:8). The very fact that He included this in His Word ought to cause everyone to know that whatever mountain of difficulty is before us, whatever sickness or disease – God is able to make provision to heal, and set us free!

Digging a little deeper in Leviticus 14, what do each of these things mean? The priest was to take two birds (remember this, it’s important for later), a piece of cedar wood, a piece of scarlet material, and some hyssop. Then he was to put one of these in an earthen vessel, and then kill it over running water. Then he would take the living bird, and the other things, and dip them all in the bird’s blood, (…I know this sounds heavy, but hold on it’s gets easier to understand, I promise). The the blood would then be sprinkled on the leper seven times; and then the living bird would be set free in an open field.

Bird Killed in an Earthen Vessel: This represents Christ, leaving Heaven, inhabiting a human body, then dying for our sins. (2 Cor. 4:7)
Bird Killed over Running Water: This represents how Jesus acted in obedience to the Word of God in actually going to the Cross. It also represents the Holy Spirit, who alone empowers us to lay down our lives like Jesus did. (Zech. 4:6)
The Cedar Wood: This represents the Cross of Christ. (John 19:17)
The Scarlet: This represents the Blood of Christ, and the deliverance that it brings. (Josh. 2:18)
The Hyssop: This represents the passing-over of our sins by the Blood of the Lamb. (Ex. 12:22)
The Living Bird Loosed in the Open Field: This represents 1) the Resurrection of Christ, but also 2) it’s symbolic of us being set free by the death of another – namely Christ. (Rom. 8:2)

Can’t you just see that living bird, covered with blood and water, flapping vigorously, thinking: “Whoa? I almost DIED!! I can’t believe I’m flying away now! ‘O thank You, Jesus!” If you’re thinking, “Lord knows I can’t change” then maybe you need to know that Jesus was was that other “bird” that was killed, instead of you and I. Think of it! The Lord knew you couldn’t change on your own, that’s why He left Heaven 2000 years ago to become a human – just like you and me, to take our place.

‘O that you would soar in life, because of what Christ did on the Cross for you. Then you can truly sing, “…and I’m as free as a bird now…”

My Smog & God’s Cloud

Burning Sugarcane in Maui

This morning as I was driving down the mountain I saw a familiar scene, but something was different. Fields of sugarcane were being burned; and the heat of the smoke was actually pushing away the beautiful white clouds that were being formed around the west Maui mountains. Brown, smog-like haze was beginning to overtake the white clouds. And I thought to myself, “I wonder how many times God has wanted to come down and hover over my life with His presence, but I have such a carnal smoke cloud burning that it pushes Him back.” But I came across a scripture that gives the believer courage in times of struggle.

“Yet in Your manifold mercies You did not forsake them in the wilderness. The pillar of the cloud did not depart from them by day, to lead them on the road; nor the pillar of fire by night, to show them light, and the way they should go.” [Neh. 9:19]

Here, God’s Word is saying that even when the children of Israel were creating the “smog of self-centeredness”, (#1.) They weren’t forsaken by God. And (#2.) The cloud did not depart from them! Just when you think you’re at your worst, and that God is “holding His nose” to your “fires of sin”, He stays with you, showing you mercy, and gives you a real hope that you’re still His, and that He’s not going to leave.

No matter where you’re at today – you may feel like a failure, or that you’ve worn-out your welcome at the altar of God by your multitude of transgressions, but God Word is true! You cannot chase Him away from you. Your “smog” is no match for His “cloud”. He saved you, He changed you, He’s got a vested interest in holding on to you! Think about it, He’s invested too much in you to, somehow, let you go now. No! He’s drawing near to you, and causing His presence to blow away all the carnal pollution that you’ve been spreading in your life. He’s letting you know that, the change you’re seeking is right around the corner, and that you’re new beginning can start today!

5 Things I’ll Miss about Evangel


1. Staff Devo’sdevos
When I came to Chicago I thought “Devo” was a band from the 80’s. Little did I know that these morning times would one of the things that brought our Staff together. Sometimes there was uncontrolled laughter, and other times – tears of truth. “9:15” will always remind me of those times. I’ll miss my Cindy and Ms. Virginia, who both made me smile and demonstated the fruit of the Spirit on a daily basis. I’ll miss Wesley’s worship and powerful insight into the Word, and Robin’s smile when I needed it most. I’ll miss Pastor Adrienne’s motherly care for us all, and Mr. Rudy’s “Energy-Drink” work-ethic, and of course I’ll miss Mr. Tony and Carmello for making Jesus real and by emulating His awesome Carpenter skills.

me-n-p.ray2. Pastor Ray
I never knew a “Pastor” could have so much fun, and still be so mightily used of God. I’ll miss his slaps on the back of my neck and all his stories like my favorite one, “Booker Brown”. I’ll miss the late nite calls just to talk about whatever was on our minds. I’ll miss him saying to me, “How yo Mama doin’?” But somehow I know he’s with this “unapologetically white” guy and pastor

me-n-evangelme-n-nellyme-n-adrienne3. Holy Spirit Moving & the Human-Chain
When the Spirit moved at Evangel no one had to announce it. Tears flowing, heart-wrenching praise altar-callascending – “When the praises go up…. the blessings come down!” And… I really did want to bust out in a crazy-praise and have a group of people form a human-chain around me so I wouldn’t hurt myself or inflict holy pain on others around me.

4. The Precious People of Evangel
Believe it or not I’ll really miss the wet kisses of George Garza. (If you’re an Evangel member… you know). I’ll miss Nelson saying, “Cool Beans” after everything I said & always making me laugh. My young people are 3-Rsforever in my heart and I’m going to miss them & all their crazy ways. I’ll really miss my Leaders. We were united, we served together, we were all changed

5. The Celebration Choir & The Blood
I’ll miss seeing Deacon Jaime grinning from ear-to-ear in sheer joy. I ‘ll miss Leon throwing his jacket off in a sweaty shout while we’re all going crazy about to have a conniption fit right then and there. This Choir sure did get this white boy clapping… “the right way”. And I sure will miss Pastor Adrienne’s rendition of “The Blood”. Thank God I’ve got it on CD. Evangel’s music will surely be missed.

Evangel, I’ll never forget you!

“Yin or Yang?”

yin-yangBruce Lee, fuzzy fluorescent glow in the dark posters, and China Town are some of the things that come to my mind when I here the term “Yin & Yang” – the balance of life. Although it’s a symbol in Chinese philosophy it sure isn’t an original concept exclusively set-apart for them. I’m not suggesting we all get “Yin & Yang” tattoos on our arm with the scripture reference, “John 3:16” under it, but I am suggesting that we need to find balance in life.

“You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting.” [Dan. 5:27]

Some of us are wound-up so tight that we’re like a nuclear reactor in our homes & jobs – just waiting to explode. It may be time to take a chill-pill.

But this where I want to set up camp for a minute. I was challenged by a question I heard recently. “Are you Efficient or Effective?” We’d all like to think that we’re being effective, but the truth of the matter is that many of us are hardly even “efficient” in our personal lives or job. We can’t sleep, we’re late, scatter-brained, and don’t have time for a lot of extra stuff. You might say, “Yeah, I know people like that, so disorganized. How do they even manage?” [Chuckle, chuckle]. But what about your life? Are you really “effective”? Sure you’re “efficient”. You get to work on time, you fulfill your job responsibilities, and people rarely complain about your hard work, but what’s really going on inside you? Is there balance?

If we had your funeral today would there be anything significant that you achieved in your time on planet earth? Or did you just maintain status quo? It’s not, “Yin or Yang” – “Overachiever “or “Laid-back-peaceful-kind-of-guy” – it’s having balance in life. Here’s my challenge: In what ways are you make a significant impact for the better upon the world around you?


At times it can seem like chaos is reigning.

– Parents are getting out of control
– Local drug dealers are busy polluting Society
– Your best friend just talked behind your back
– Brothers & sisters are driving you crazy
– “There’s no food in the fridge!”
– …and “Why doesn’t anybody CARE!!!???”

Always remember that when it’s super crazy all around you – it doesn’t have to GET IN you. The storm might be raging all around you, but it doesn’t need to get all up ON you! Jesus is your Strong Tower – Run to Him and you’ll be safe. It’s the smartest move you’ll ever make.

Don’t Bury Your Talents!

On Wednesday nite we had our first Talent Show at United Youth! Afterwards we talked about “Don’t Bury Your Talents!” out of Matt. 25:14-30 . At the root of all of it is a mis-understanding of who God really is. In this parable the last servant said, [speaking to the Lord], “Well, I knew you to be harsh, strict and ruthless, and so THAT’s why I buried my talent.” The Lord snapped-off and called him “wicked” and threw him into outer darkness.

No matter where you’re at with your relationship with God, could it be that you’re not seeing the Lord 100% clearly? Are you going to trust your emotions and think that “God” is for old people and continue to have a “who cares” mentality? Be careful, because one day you will stand before Him to give an account of your life.

On the other hand… the first 2 servants used what gifts and talents they had received, and when it came time to stand before God, listen to what the Lord said, “You’ve been faithful over a few things, now I will make you ruler of much, enter into the joy of your Lord!” [In other words… “you lived your life with eternity in-view… now that you’re life on earth is finished you can enjoy Heaven forever!”]

Don’t bury your talents – USE THEM for GOD!!

Connecting with Young People… ‘How ya doin’?

Listen to it on iTunes:: UNITED YOUTH CHURCH PODCAST

Being in Youth Ministry is no easy task. But I have found a few little nuggets that have helped me in today’s age of technology. Here’s just a few Leadership keys for you::

1. Get all the Love you need from the Lord, Himself. Don’t look for others to “fill your tank”.

2. Keep an eye on your “Devotional Life”. Ask yourself… “How have I been doing lately in my devotional life?” If you’ve been skipping personal Prayer & daily Bible reading chances are you might not have a whole lot to give to young people. But make just a slight adjustment in this area and you’ll notice a huge difference.

3. Get Your Kids #’s programmed into your Cell phone. Edit their last names with a “your youth groups initials” at the end, so they’re easy to find. Send them a Txt when you’re watching a movie, or when you have a chance. They’ll be so excited you did.

4. Consider Upgrading to an “Unlimited TXTing plan”. They’re usually around $15. a month. This way you’re not sweating going over, and chances are you won’t use as many of your cell minutes in a given month.

5. Develop a Greater TXTING/FB/MySpace Relationship with your Youth. For me, I can usually find a half hour somewhere in the evening to connect with (and make “Eternal Deposits”), into the lives of these precious Kids. A couple of quick MySpace comments goes a long way in developing real relationships.

6. [You tell me]::