Monday, September 29, 2008

Saturated in the Word

Life is increasingly filled with more to do, so to help out more I've taken on the task doing the dishes at our home. It's a solitary task and provides me an opportunity to think.

During a recent cleaning episode I was thinking about the stressful situations that had been building and I was looking to hear from God something encouraging, something that would refocusing my thoughts. I was laying my thoughts out before Him and asking for His perspective. That's when He brought the sponge to my mind.

"The sponge." you ask?

Yes - consider the sponge.

A sponge spends it's life absorbing and getting squeezed, and when squeezed, pouring what it has absorbed over something else. It's one of the central figures in my dishwashing adventures.

It was funny to think about at the time and It's still funny to consider the parallels between the sponge and life, especially the life of a Christian. Sometimes it feels that we go through alternating periods of getting squeezed. Yeah, it feels like we do...

But, have you ever considered what comes out of your life when you're "squeezed?" Have you thought about how what pours out of your life is directly related to what you've absorbed - what you have allowed in? I did as I washed my dishes. I was intrigued. I asked, "God, show me."

He brought to my mind the scriptures that speak of Himself being like water to our thirsty souls (1). He gave to me the words "be filled" which is referenced so many times throughout scripture (2). He reminded me that the mouth speaks out of the abundance of [what us in] the heart (3). It is unmistakable to me that what we are filled with is what will pour out of our lives - especially, and perhaps most importantly, when we are "pressed" - during those times when we feel as though we are being squeezed.

Some would say that the appropriate response of a Christian is to pray pressure away - "get thee behind me Satan!" I'm certaintly not a fan of feeling like I'm being pressed too hard, but God help us to see the opportunity to begin pouring out the surplus of the life-giving Spirit the God has desired that we be filled with. Moreover, he has invited us to ask him to fill us!

Even Christ, as he was headed the cross was unmistakenly fixated on His Sovereign purpose of being "crushed and bruised" for us, for having His life be "poured out" for us.  Or consider Paul as He looked forward to completing the purposes that God intended for his life and be penned these words: " life is being poured out as a drink offering..." (4)

We have the responsibility to fill our minds and hearts with the Word of God, to seek that He would fill us with His wisdom and His Spirit (5). But let us not stop there. Let us continue on and ask God that what He has poured into us would flow freely from us as we are presented with opportunity.

Don't shrink back. Christ didn't and Paul said the same. In us dwells the same Spirit that longs to reach out of us. That's what we were created for!

Today, take inventory of what your heart and mind are filled with. What you find is what will pour out of you when the time comes. Ask yourself: will it bring life to someone? Will it be seen by another as the evidence of Christ in your life? Will they see the unmistakable fingerprint of a good and loving God?

So, consider the sponge.  It's purpose is to absorb and be poured out.

Is yours so different?

This is your day, God. I am your child. Let me be filled with your Spirit and use me to bring honor and glory to your name.

Handy references:
1. John 7:37,38
2. Ephesians 3:19 (and much more...)
3. Luke 6:45
4. 2 Timothy 4:6
5. James 1:5, John 16:24, Matthew 7:7

Friday, May 30, 2008

Make the Most of Every Opportunity

I picked up a rental car the other day. I had traveled with my family through a car ride and two airports, looking forward to another three-hour car ride which would bring the day to about 12 hours of travel time. I was tired. I just wanted to get in my rental car and get on the road. I was ready for the day to be done.

I had purposefully worn my "Athletes for Christ" shirt that day. I figured it would be a good opportunity to make conversation as I met people in the airport, sat next to them on the plane. I thought that it might be an "in" to reach out to someone and share the gospel, perhaps.

After 9 hours of travel I was tired by the time I got to the rental car. I didn't want to stand in line. I didn't want to be asked "do you want extended coverage with that?" I just wanted to leave.

"What Christian organization do you work for?" the man across the counter happily asked. He was typing into his computer looking up my reservation, smiling.

"Oh, I don't work for this organization. I got the shirt from a friend who made them."

"That's cool. I have a friend who does the shirts for our church" he said.

"Oh yeah? That's cool."


"Do you want basic coverage or extended coverage?"

"Huh? I don't get it? What's the difference?"

The conversation moved into a funk of mundane rental car contract details ... I was way too tired to understand them and had my wife step in for a minute to make sense of it all.


The clerk and I went out to the car and he asked, "what kind of church do you go to?"

"Oh, a non-denominational church..." and we exchanged some more "surface" discussion.

"Well, great to meet you - just pull your car up to that guy there and give him the yellow copy."


I was so glad to be done: we were going to be on the road!

A lingering thought of a missed opportunity nagged at me. I was tired, mind you - I'm sure you know that tired - having traveled all day with three kids, 8, 7, 2 with the end finally in sight. It's a great excuse, really. But geez, I even wore my shirt for the very purpose that the clerk tried to engage me in! What was I doing?? I missed my opportunity - the one I set myself up for. There was more that could have been said, more I could have done. I could have jolted my mind out of my sleepy stupor and woken up to engage this man.

I had lost focus.

Like a speeding car, our days pass by quickly with flashes of people, places and things, and then we stop and suddenly the day is done. In the blink of an eye, people and events go by unnoticed as our cars, our allotted time presses on.

It's one thing to "miss" opportunities intentionally. It's a different thing to miss opportunities because we're not being intentional enough. While I pray I find myself in the latter more often than the former, I also pray that I may be more intentional in my life, with each opportunity. I pray that my eyes will remain open to see the people and events that I will miss if I close them.

Maybe you feel like your life keeps moving on and you never "arrive." Maybe your days feel like they have no purpose - you never think of "opportunities." It's true: life keeps moving on, but your life as a Christian should be the fullest of anyone's. It should stand out in a positive way. It should be filled with purposeful opportunities. If yours doesn't stand out, if it isn't filled with opportunity, think of this famous quotation: "If you don't know where you're going, you'll never know when you've arrived." Maybe you don't live intentionally, with purpose because you don't know you have one - you don't know where you're going? If that's true, pick up your Bible and begin with the book of John.

Read the how God sent his son Jesus to give you hope, and then to give you power to spread that hope to others. Read how Jesus spoke of living life without fear, but with faith. Read more and discover how you and I should have a "peace that passes understanding" - especially in the midst of our problems.

Read and feel the Spirit of God stir within you a desire to make the most of every day, of every opportunity to reach out to another. Read on, and know the grace of God that is present when we've missed the opportunities.

Today's your day - the only one you've got. Don't sleep through it, don't speed through it. Wake up and make the most of it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Dear Jesus

My two-year-old says prayers before bed at night.

She says,
Dear Jesus.
Thank you Jesus.
I love you Jesus.
Too simple?

I don't think so.

If, someday, you need to talk to Jesus but don't know where to start, try "dear Jesus" and the rest will follow.

If, someday, you find that you're overwhelmed by the days as they relentlessly keep marching on, take a deep breath, slowly exhale and say "thank you Jesus." He can calm a storm.

If, someday, you reflect on all the blessings that you have been given but feel you could have done more along the way, just quiet your thoughts and simply say, "I love you Jesus." He knows the rest.

The simplicity of our relationship with Christ is sometimes covered up by our ability to think things through. Faith like a child? I see it growing in mine. Lord, let it grow in me.

Mid-day Lasagna, Faith and the Mustard Seed

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you...
Luke 17:5,6 (NIV)

It's always been a rather confusing parable to read, and can come across a bit disheartening as well. After all, I haven't seen any physical mountains move out of the way, so I suppose that my faith must not be as big as a mustard seed! Geez, that's sort of a downer...

But let's take a look at the life of mustard:

The mustard seed is small. It needs rain, sun and fertile soil to grow in. When it grows up, depending on the amount of rain, the amount of sun, the fertility of the soil and lots of other things, it will grow to be 5 or perhaps 6 feet tall. It will become a relatively large shrub. It will then produce lots more tiny mustard seeds and the cycle will continue again.

Inquisitive as I am, I want to look deeper into the complex life of mustard. The mustard seed, as it starts, does not concern itself with the future. It does not ask: "will I grow into a large bush? A small bush? A bush at all? How will this all come to pass? Will other mustards like me? Can we have pizza tonight?" and other such questions.

See, I've seen a mustard seed, and while I didn't think to ask at the time, I'm quite sure it didn't ask these sorts of questions of itself. Nevertheless, devoid of people-like questions, the mustard seed indeed grows into a bush - a large bush - with no worries at all.

As I was considering this parable one Sunday morning, the Holy Spirit brought these other verses to mind and presented it all together in a nice package. An "aha!" moment.

Consider this:
  • "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1)
Faith, however small it may be, is not based on today. Faith lives in the future. Faith believes in and hopes so much for what God will do in the future that it can touch it now. Faith is so sure of the future promises of God that they become tangible today - that which is unseen becomes clearly visible right now. How good will my future be? As good as the promises of God!

How is possible to be so sure of that which has not yet happened? The beginning of Philippians (1:4-6) reads:
In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul states that he always prays with joy because of his confidence that the "good work" that was begun will be brought to completion. His today-confidence in future-completion is so sure that he's joyful "now."

Mmm... Lasaaagna!
Have you ever thought about mid-way through the day that you'd really like to have lasagna for dinner? That kind of thought can become so real that you can taste the lasagna. You can smell it. Right then and there, hours before eating, you're having lasagna. It's a cruel trick to be sure, but it can be quite real. I believe that Paul must have had a similar picture in his mind of what the future would look like for the Philippians as they grew in faith.

To scope this out more fully, it's critically important to note that the evidence that Paul was using for his today-joy regarding the future-completion was based on the person doing the work - the "he" in "he who began!"
  • "He who began the good work in you is faithful to complete it" (Philippians 1:6)
Paul's faith in the completion of the good work that was started was based on the faithfulness of the "he" in verse 6. How was Paul so confident about the future that he was joyful "today"? Because God was faithful. How can you be so sure that the lasagna will taste like you love it? Because of the cook, of course!

See, Paul knew that the heartbeat of God for the Philippians was that the seed that was planted was going to grow and would be brought to completion. Paul knew that God had planted a seed there with the intention of caring for it until it was fully grown - completed.

Concerning the analogy of the mustard seed, faith is the confidence that the bush will be there when the seed grows up. When through the growing season there has been rain, sun, fertile soil and regular weeding, the seed will someday be a large bush. When? Dunno. How? Dunno. Will it happen? For sure. For me, today my mustard seed-sized faith is full of mustard bush-sized hope.

Mustard Seed Growing Guide
Is your faith the size of a mustard seed? No matter - it'll be a bush someday. Quit focusing on the seed. How can you be sure of the bush? God gave you that seed so that it would be a bush. Feel the sun today? Smell the rain in the air? Don't worry so much - you can't control the sun or the rain. They'll come and go whether you worry or not! Those are simply there to grow your seed of faith. Maybe you need to weed a bit in your spiritual garden? By all means, it'll help that seed grow, and if you don't, those weeds may choke your seed out.

Today, have hope. Your faith may be small by someone's standards, but it's as big as the God who gave it to you. How big will your faith be? As big as God is faithful to grow it up. That's where your hope lies - in the faithfulness of God. Follow God and your faith will grow too.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Power of Imagination - The Battle of Good and Evil

I just watched the third movie in the Lord of Rings trilogy as it appeared on cable television. I own the trilogy and really enjoy it but I haven't seen it in a while. One of the things I enjoy is that I am reminded of the power of the imagination - particularly when imagining the great struggle of good and evil.

Ephesians 6:12 (NIV) states:
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
As true as it is, this truth sometimes gets drowned out in the monotony of day-to-day life. Going to work, buying groceries - it's all so uneventful. But movies, songs, writings make dream worlds almost tangible. They transport us to new places in our minds. The imagery of written words can become palpable through movies designed in imaginations of the producers. There's something very powerful about seeing it!

While viewing this particular movie I find that I can't help but think about the ongoing battle with sin in this world. Sin that cannot be seen by the eyes sometimes lacks ugliness, but viewing the reality of what sin is through imagery is compelling. The truth is that sin is on orders of magnitude more destructive than the epic T.V. battles that can be created. Sometimes reality just can't be seen with the naked eye.

For us, we look forward to the day when Christ will return and destroy forever the power of the "spiritual forces of evil" that Paul speaks of in Ephesians. We battle with those forces every day, with an enemy that comes to destroy us. We take heart, however, because God himself states that "the battle is the Lord's" and the war is already won.

Sin is ugly. For us as Christians, however, it is merely reason to fight more fervently.

Do you know someone overcome with sin? Your co-worker? Your family member? Yourself? There's no need to be captive to sin: Jesus has overcome the world and we are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hope In Christ

Hello—I am Dan Hernandez. Please don’t forget to roll the “r,” and the “e” at the end is not a long “e”.

I know, you are probably thinking, this guy has issues. You’re right, but don’t worry, I have some in my congregation who will point these things out again and again, and that’s always fun.

I have been a pastor for over 25 years, and absolutely love it! Ministering to people and watching them grow as I myself mature in the Lord is my greatest blessing. Over the years I have walked with many who have found themselves in valleys too dark and difficult to describe. I have wept with mothers who have had to bury their children. I have caught the salty tears of teenagers who through no fault of their own lost a mom and dad, and were forced to walk on totally unfamiliar and lonely paths. I personally lay in ICU fighting for my own life, listening to doctors and nurses scrambling to keep me here. I clearly remember lying there now on the 9th floor out of imminent danger, watching the second hand on the bold face of the clock in my room. I found myself measuring time by minutes. Life is crazy like that at times. We might not find ourselves in a hospital ER, but life sure throws at us things that warrant ICU attention.

This is written to those of you, especially men and women in ministry, who find themselves not on top of the world, but rather under one. Your question isn’t “why?” but, “does anyone even care?” In the most difficult times in my life I have discovered the most wonderful significance of HOPE. We preach on faith, and we have series on love, but hope seems to fall off the radar screen when we think of Christian virtues.

I am convinced that strength, and I mean God sized strength, is unleashed within us when we are convinced our lives have a purpose yet to be fulfilled. This reality is magnified when we choose a purpose beyond ourselves. It is not only essential to keep hope alive; it is hope that keeps us alive. The most tragic reality is that to give up on hope is to become paralyzed in the present, and to begin to live in the past. Oh, to be filled with a passionate urgency fueled by a real sense of destiny!

One of the most quoted proverbs of Solomon is that "without vision the people will perish." He also said, "hope deferred makes a heart sick." He seems to be telling us that we need to have a dream we are pursuing, and at the same time experience enough of that dream to keep us inspired. We need to both aspire and accomplish. Without a vision for your life, without a sense of purpose, you will begin to die a slow death.

At the same time, if hope seems only an illusion, if you give up on hope, your heart and soul will become sick. Remember, it is not only essential to keep hope alive; it is hope that keeps us alive. Hope is the fuel through which we create the future. The apostle Peter writes that he was injected, given a lively HOPE! If you are not looking toward the future, you do not have one.

Please don’t mistake my words as making small the valley or situation you face today, all I ask is that you look up. Look within. Sometimes our crises are solved by moving from success to significance, or from failure to significance. One should outgrow success and must press through failure. Isn’t the real issue not “success" or "failures," but rather making a real difference, living a life that counts? And a life that counts is one not measured by successes or failures, but rather by a HOPE that goes beyond all that life throws our way.


By Pastor Dan Hernandez
Water of Life Ministries
Rockford, IL.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bible Study Helps has a great resource for studying the Bible. You can find it at

There you'll find references tools including Bible translations, concordances, lexicons and commentaries.

In addition, you'll find history lessons, sermon helps, devotional materials, quizzes and a lot more.

Look into this great resource for personal or group Bible study.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

God, I Don't Want to Throw Up

Did you ever pray the "God, I don't want to throw up" prayer? Well, I did. Many times... And my guess is that you did as well. When I was in grade school it went something like this:

Self-talk: "Oh no. It hurts... Errr.... I hate this."

Self-talk: "My brother said that he just thinks himself out of not throwing up... I'll try that and just relax."

Self-talk: "There we go... Calm, deep breaths. It'll be alright. It'll pass."

(moments later)

Self-talk: "Ugh. It's getting worse. Quick, think of something!"

Prayer: "God, I think I might throw up. But you see, I don't
want to. You don't want to see me like his either! I hate throwing up. It's painful, it's smelly and it gets up my nose. I would rather die. But I'm young, so you know I don't really mean that. You get my point, right?

God, it's just that... I don't want to throw up. I know you can do it, so if you
get me out of this (just his once), I'll never do a bad thing ever
again. Ohhhhh.... (groan)"

(moments later)

Self-talk: "Breathe... It's working... Oh, there we go... It's going away. It's going to be ok. I'll just sit here a bit."


The deed was done... The evening's dinner was everywhere.

Prayer: "God, I just threw up. What's up with that? What more could I have done to get out of this? I promised that I wouldn't do a bad thing again..."

And naturally, the night would continue until my illness its course... Crazy kid.

I didn't really feel that I had done anything wrong to warrant my plight - I did know that it was just the flu, but I did feel that I had to bargain with God so that He might be moved to supernaturally heal me and I would be sparred my most-hated wintertime drama. I thought that because there was no apparent action on His part by my simply asking, I needed to pull out the cards and see which ones He was willing to trade.

Despite that humorous childhood example, I really did believe, as I do more-so now, that God really can heal sickness and that even if He chooses not to, that it's only for good. But especially, though He may not heal, His peace will be our strength through it all. I really do believe that He wants good for us more than we can realize - and that His good is usually not the "simple fix" that we crave so much. After all, He is the "Prince of Peace" and we are His children.

I suppose what we learn as we grow up and experience events far greater than the winter flu, is that the the peace of God really is beyond our understanding. We find that His peace is less about our circumstances and more about our trust in Him. It is more about what we don't see, than what we can. We learn that His peace, as with all His attributes is complete, unchanging, irrevocably steadfast because it is bound to Himself and to us if we would simply trust His unchanging Word.

Christ's example is for us as He prays in Luke 22:42: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." Who desires greater things for a son than his father? Surely our Father will bring about the best in, for and through us and we can't bargain to gain more favor or more love. Though the wind sometimes rages, He can calm the storm, and in the times when He doesn't, His grace will be sufficient.

Jesus calls Himself, "The Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace." Today, be encouraged.

Dayenu - It Would Have Been Enough

It's the beginning of a new year and I'm not sure where the last one went! I remember some highs and some lows, some great times and some struggles. But looking back we're able to reflect on how God has taken care of us.

I sometimes get caught in the "have I done enough?", "am I doing enough?" struggle of Christian life. I reflect on what I have (or have not) accomplished and begin self-comparing, picking apart, measuring, assessing.... But I'm certain that no matter how much I have done or can do I have never done and can never do "enough" to afford the riches of God's mercy. And really, it's rather comforting that my God always "outdoes" me. He always does more. He always has, and I'm certain that He always will.

Times of reflection draw to mind the Hebrew song, "Dayenu" - closely translated, "it would have been enough." What I love most about that song is that it so clearly speaks of God's over-abundance of mercy and grace - sung about a people who consistently turned away from Him. Perhaps reflecting on the past year is a good time to recite a few stanzas of that song. You can then read a full explanation here.

"If He had brought us out of Egypt
and had not carried out judgments against them
- It would have been enough

If He had carried out judgments against them
and not against their idols
- It would have been enough

If He had destroyed their idols
and had not smitten their first-born
- It would have been enough

If He had smitten their first born
and not given us their wealth
- It would have been enough

If He had given us their wealth
and not split the sea for us
- It would have been enough


If He had brought us in to the land of Israel
and not given us the Holy Temple
- It would have been enough "

Looking back over one short year versus thousands of God's faithful care described in the Bible has a way of instilling hope for the coming years and humble appreciation for the past. If God had just given us the basic things of life over this past year and not blessed us with abundance, it would have been enough - and more than deserved!

It's amazing. God's faithfulness and care is always more than enough, always beyond what we need, always beyond what we can ask or think and so much more than we could ever earn. I don't know what's in store for 2008, but I'm sure of this: I have no idea what God can and wants to do. So I'm strapping in: I think I'm in for an awesome ride!

Happy New Year!