Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Loss

Today, is another tough day for me. Today I'm officiating the service of a Andrew Gonzalez, a young man that was murdered in Whichita Falls, Texas. The purpose and meaning of Andrew’s life will only be lifted up not by just remembering him but by what we allow God to bring through us out of this senseless tragedy. Friends I ask you join with me in sharing the message that we must stop the violence in our communities, and we must start the love, regardless of differences in race, in views, in economic statuses, we must love one another. Andrews death causes me to burn with deeper passion to do all I can to see violence stop in our communities.

Here is his obituary link


Live to Love.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

You're The Reason

This season in the midst of America's attempt to draw us into consumerism, I want to share a thought with you.
So often we hear that Jesus is the reason for the season, I absolutely agree with this statement. But I also want you to know that you are the reason for the season as well. You're the reason why Jesus was born. You are the reason that He walked this earth. You are the reason He died on the cross. You are the reason He conquered death. He loved and loves you that much!
Merry CHRISTmas!

Impact Statement

At the conclusion of the trial for the guy that killed my friend Albert, the family had the opportunity to give a statement to the guy that took my friend's life. I can honestly say that the words that came from Albert's older brother, Carlos lips were some of the most amazing words I have ever heard. I thought I would share it with you...

Carlos started out his statement by reading Psalm 35:22-28 (New International Version) a passage Albert had came across one night. I will never forget the night Albert came across this passage, he called me, absolutely excited. If you do not know Albert's story a guy attempted to assassinate him 4 months prior to his death, so this passage brought a tremendous amount of healing to Albert. And even though Albert did not know it at the time, this passage would soon become a soon to be fulfilled prophecy for his life...

Impact statement spoken by Carlos Cadena (Imagine him sitting less than 4 feet away from the guy that killed his brother and reading this to him...

O LORD, you have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Vindicate me in your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me. Do not let them think, "Aha, just what we wanted!" or say, "We have swallowed him up." May all who gloat over my distress be put to shame and confusion; may all who exalt themselves over me be clothed with shame and disgrace. May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, "The LORD be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant." My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long."

We stand today as a strong and loving family. We pray to our God that He has justice. Today we sit here before the court still dealing with an open deep wound. Life will never be the same without Albert. We want you to know you took a big part of us, but not the best of us because we will carry Albert in our hearts forever. Albert was a good husband and father to his children. He was a good son, brother, nephew, neighbor, friend, church member, and person. This has deeply hurt our family and friends. His family still looks and waits for him to come back someday. We want you to know that not only did Albert suffer when you shot him on the side, face, and left him the way you did, but you did the same to all of us.
Why did you shoot him in the fashion you did? Why the face? The family, his wife, his kids, and friends were not able to kiss him or say goodbye one last time.
Albert was trying to do good when you took him cowardly. He was trying to be a better man. You did not allow that. We hope God has mercy upon your soul and you think about it everyday on how you took his life.
Although our family chooses peace and not take revenge on you or your family, we know when you stand before God you won’t be able to lie anymore. We will continue in love and carry his dreams to Stop the Violence and Start the Love.

Brother Keeper

Hey guys, I'm sure you have heard by now that my Abilene Eagles won state. Each week I met with the team like I have done previously for the past 10 years. During this time it is just the team and myself. One of the most challenging duties I have each year is to create a theme that will hopefully motivate them to unify more deeply as a team. This year I challenged the team to become their Brother's Keeper. Last Friday I met with the team for our last team meeting of the year, as a result of the state championship being the next day. Nathaniel Redric, an incredible young man read a poem he wrote to the team. I was and still am truly moved by his talent and passion for his brothers...I thought I would share it with you.

I Am My Bro Keep
From the gruesome heat of Two-A-Days,
To practice in rain, snow, and sleet.
We’ve come together as Brothers,

Countless hours we’ve trained together
And early morning film deprives us of sleep.
We’ve sacrificed so much for one another

We’ve waged war together, hand in hand
Fighting for each down, we will not be beat!
Through sweat, blood, and tears; leaving it all on the field,

Our offense is Unstoppable.
Blackshirts Wreak Havoc each week.
Kickoff is a Suicidal Demolition Crew.

14-0, Perfection within our reach.
We play for one another, not accepting defeat.
1 Game Left. 4 More Quarters. 48 Deciding Minutes.

The Original Band of Brothers!
Winning State our final feat!
For One Final Stand, we come together 1 Last Time!

Then when that final whistle blows,
As STATE CHAMPIONS, Victorious we weep.
Hand heavy from the weight of that BIG STATE RING!

Eagles for Life,
Our Brotherhood runs deep.
Past the grave, to Eternity

Best Christmas Ever Wishes


On behalf of my family and I, we want to wish you the best Christmas ever. We pray that this Christmas will truly be different, as you worship God more fully, rebel against consumerism, give more meaningful gifts, and receive all that God has for you.

Live to Love,

The Postage Stamp

One of the greatest misconceptions of the average believer in Jesus Christ is to be used by God they must be a smooth talker, have the latest culturally relevant clothes, and be highly educated. The most influential, the most effective ministries on the planet are not the ministries that have the greatest resources, the hippest strategies, or be the most exciting, but those that display consistency. In the same reality to ultimately create a movement to silence the silence, we have to be consistent in our commitment to stick with our efforts long enough to make a difference. My first ministry position was to oversee the street outreach of an organization that is an advocate for the homeless and disadvantaged of the city where I reside. Four days out of the week, at 1:30 in the afternoon for over 8 years I would hit the streets to feed God’s children that happened to be homeless. The homeless knew that whether rain, sleet, snow, or sunshine I would be out delivering food, hygiene kits, and whatever else they might need that would aid them in their own fight for survival. Through my consistency, not my Bible degrees, sermons, or flashy illustrations, lives were changed. In all reality to silence the silence against injustice we have to make an aggressive commitment to exemplify consistency. Josh Billings, once said, “Consider the postage stamp: its usefulness consists in the ability to stick to one thing till it gets there. “ As advocates of change, as vehicles that God has divinely chose to use we must make the same commitment as a simple postage stamp that can be found in our desk drawer. We must vow to stick to fighting against injustice until we close our eyes forevermore to this present world.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Who Do I Not Love?

In attempt to find my true prejudices I thought that maybe it would be easier to ask “Who do I NOT love?” And the truth of that hit me between the eyes…The list really isn’t as long as the ones I love—those who have wounded me deeply and even more those who have deeply wounded those I love--abusers, molesters, users…I have a right to NOT love those people, right? If they hurt me so deeply that it affected my life and my choices for years to come, don’t I have a right to withhold my love for them? Oh, and God forbid that you hurt the ones I love and those who are unable to defend themselves! I have a right to hate people who are intentionally cruel or purposefully vindictive. God doesn’t really expect me to love them the same, does He? And He couldn’t possibly expect me to reach out to help them…could He? There is a woman that attends our church that I can’t figure out. Each Sunday she presents herself as this woman that is consistently beaten by her husband. Needless to say this is button you don’t push with me. If I see a man beating a woman, or hear about it that is the end of story with me. Years back I confronted this man about what he did to his wife, needless to say that he has never entered our church again but he does allow her to attend our weekly services. Many times this man has threatened my life verbally, even to this very day he would much rather have me dead then alive. As I try to justify my hatred and prejudice towards him I have to wonder what right do I have NOT to love him? Christ said to love as He loved, no more and no less. I mean Christ even died for the people that killed him. Now that is a revolutionary thought.

You Are Called

One common misconception of the average American church member is we believe it is the sole responsibility of the church leader to share the Gospel. Regardless if we want to admit it or not, once we are a believer God ushers us into place of leadership. Paul explains in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? God in his infinite wisdom could have selected any method possible to use as a vehicle to share the message of the Gospel. Yet He didn’t, He chose humanity to be the spokesman for salvation. Once we encounter our salvation experience, we in turn in our own unique abilities are called to give the rest of humanity an opportunity to accept His grace. We are obligated to share with others what we have first received.

Mikee's New Life

Hey guys, I wrote a children's book, yeah I know what your thinking, it is so out of the ordinary for me...but sometimes God's prompts me to move out of my comfort zone. Although it has not been edited, let me know what you think!

One day Mikee was shooting baskets in his driveway with his best friend Dax. His Dad arrived home early from work. His dad said “hey Mikee and Dax, how’s you guy’s shooting going? Mikee replied, “It’s going good dad, I’m sure I will do great in our first basketball game”

His dad said, “Mikee your Mom and I need to talk to you when you get a chance.” His dad went inside the house. Mikee pitched the ball to Dax and said. “Next bucket wins.” Dax then fires a shot that bounces of the rim of the goal. Dax quickly gets the rebound and “Swoosh! He hit the game winning shot with little effort/”

Mikee says, “Yes, I can’t wait till our first game/” Dax then goes home so Mikee can talk to his parents. Mikee goes inside his home and finds his parents sitting at the kitchen table. Mikee’s Dad then says,” Mikee will you come sit down, we need to talk.”

Mikee pulls out the empty chair at the table and says, “What’s up Dad?” Mikee’s dad then says, “son I know you don’t understand, and I know you will be upset. But we are going to move so I can take a better job.”

Mikee, with tears running down his face, says “Dad, but Why? Mikee’s mom put her arm around Mikee, and said, “son, your daddy will make more money, and this is an opportunity of a lifetime for him.”

Mikee then said, “Mom, Dad I don’t want more money I just want to keep my friends, what about Dax? What about my first basketball game on Saturday?”

That night, lying in his bed, Mikee began to cry even more. What was he to do without his friends, especially Eric? Would he even get to play basketball again on a team? Mikee cried himself to sleep.

The next morning Mikee set at the table waiting for his mom to finish cooking breakfast.
Eggs and toast were on the menu for that day. Mikee was so upset he could barely eat.

It was almost time for school; Mikee grabbed his backpack, kissed his mom on the cheek and ran outside. It was a good thing that he ran out when he did, the yellow school bus was just pulling up to the front of his house.

Mikee climbed the steps to the bus and saw his best friend Dax. Dax said, Hey Mikee, I got you a seat over here!” Mikee set next to his best friend. “Hey Mikee, why you so sad?” Mikee started to cry and said, “were moving Dax, my dad got a dumb new job.”

Dax, with a sad look on his face said, “no, you can’t leave me! You’re my best friend. What about our basketball game on Saturday? Who will I sit on the bus with? Who will I shoot hoops with? Whom, will I have sleepovers with?” Mikee began to cry even more, I don’t know Dax. I don’t know.
Three days later the movers showed up at Mikee’s door. In just a few hours, Mikee and his parents stared at his empty house. All their things were now loaded on the moving truck. Dax had snuck up behind them. Mikee’s mom jumped back and said, “Oh my gosh Dax, YOU scared me”

Mikee’s dad said to Mikee, “Hey buddy, we got to get going, why don’t you go ahead and say goodbye to Dax. As Mikee’s dad walked away he shook Dax’s hand and said, “Dax, you can come visit us anytime, we are only a few hours away.”

Mikee then looked at Dax, and without a word they gave each other their secret handshake. Dax, said, “Mikee, don’t worry, you will meet new friends, and who knows you might even get on a better basketball team.”

Mikee gave Dax a hug and got in the car with his parents and off they went to travel to their new home. Two hours later they arrived at their new home.

Although it was weird being in a new home, Mikee was excited about his new room it was a lot bigger than his old one. After a late night of unpacking, Mikee lay in his bed in his new room and began to doze off. The next morning, Mikee awoke early to noise of his parents hanging pictures on the wall.

“Good morning son,” his dad said. “Good morning, dad!” “Mikee, I got some exciting news for you!” his dad said. “Oh yeah, what’s that dad? Mikee asked. “Well, my new boss found out how much you love basketball, and he got you on his son’s team, your first practice is tomorrow, “ his dad said. Mikee, with a huge smile on his face, said, “Really dad, you’re the best dad in the whole world!” Mikee couldn’t wait till the next day.

All day long, he tried to keep busy, unpacking more of his room, playing in his new backyard, and even reading a book. It finally came time for bed, and Mikee couldn’t have been more excited to go to sleep. He knew the next morning his hopes of being a pro basketball player would become one step closer.

Mikee, Mikee, wake up. It’s time to eat breakfast so your food will have enough time to digest before your big practice, his dad sad loudly. Instantly Mikee jumped out of bed, and rain down the stairs to eat breakfast.

A couple of hours after breakfast, it was now time to go to his first practice. Mikee was a little nervous being the new kid and all, but he was excited too. He walked through the gym doors with his dad by his side, and saw 8 unfamiliar faces, that would soon become his teammates. “Hello there, Mikee, we have been expecting you,” an older man said to Mikee. Come to find out that was his Dad’s new boss and the coach of the basketball team. He was really nice.

Mikee noticed a blonde headed boy near him had quit dribbling. “Hey Mikee, I’m Elijah my dad is the coach, the blonde headed boy said. Mikee then said, “Nice to meet you, you’re a good dribbler.”

Mikee, found peace knowing his new teammate Elijah was so nice to him. They had a good practice. In fact, Mikee did really good and impressed the rest of his teammates.

Mikee couldn’t wait till his next basketball practice. Mikee went home to eat dinner and get ready for his first day of class at his new school. After dinner, Mikee took a bath and went to bed.

The next morning Mikee woke to his mom’s voice telling him breakfast was ready. “What’s’ for breakfast Mom? Mikee said as he walked into the kitchen. “Your favorite, smiley face pancakes and breakfast.” “Great, Mom thanks for cooking!”

Mikee, loved the taste of his buttermilk pancakes, but the smiley face design made the pancakes taste even better. Mikee’s mom said, “you better hurry and finish your breakfast, the bus will be here soon.” “Yes Mama,” Mikee politely told his mom. Mikee’s mom said, “one last thing mister, hurry upstairs and brush your teeth.” “No problem Mom,” Mikee said.

Mikee ran upstairs, brushed his teeth and in a flash grabbed his backpack. He darted downstairs, ran to his mom gave her a kiss and ran outside just in time to see the flashing lights from his school bus approach him.

Nervously, Mikee climbed up the steps to the school bus and peeked around the corner looking to see if there were any seats open. In a split second, Mikee heard his name being called. “Hey Mikee, I saved you a spot,” With a sigh of relief on his face, his new teammate, Elijah had saved him a seat.

“Thanks Elijah for saving me a seat, I was a little nervous getting on the bus.” Mikee said to Elijah. “No problem!” Elijah replied. After a short bus ride they it was now time to enter through the doors of Mikee’s new school. Much to Mikee’s relief he quickly found out that Elijah, was not only his teammate and new friend, he was also his classmate. Mikee said, “boy it’s my lucky day, I have you in class too Elijah. Elijah, with a smile on his face said, “great, will have a fun time.”

The teacher was nice to Mikee and he even seemed to make a couple of new friends in his class on his first day of school. The rest of the week went by fast. His second practice of the week went well, and he couldn’t’ wait till his first game on Saturday.

Mikee could barely sleep Friday night as a result of him being so excited about his first game. Saturday morning couldn’t come quick enough; He awoke to his dad’s deep voice. “Son, its time to get up, your game is just a few hours away,” his dad said. Mikee replied, “No problem, Dad.” Mikee jumped out of his covers and ran to his dresser to get his basketball uniform.

Mikee after getting dressed stared at the clock. He was so excited he couldn’t even eat. Finally, it was time for him and his mom and dad to go his basketball game.

Mikee played great, he led the team in scores with 12 points. Mikee was excited not only to lead the team in scoring but also more importantly his team won. After the game, Elijah ran up to his dad that was the coach. “Hey Dad, do you mind if Mikee, stays the night with us? He can even go to church with us!” In a split second his dad said, “I think that is great idea Elijah!”

Elijah sprinted over to Mikee who was standing next to his mom and dad. “Hey Mikee, do you want to stay the night with me?” Elijah asked. Mikee turned to his dad, “Dad can I? Dad can I stay over Elijah’s tonight?” After a brief conversation with his wife, Mikee’s dad, “said sure son.” Elijah said to Mikee, “great, just bring some clothes to sleep in and bring some jeans and a shirt, so you can go to church with us tomorrow.”

Mikee, “said, okay see you soon.” Mikee’s parents were so grateful that Elijah had been so kind to Mikee. They were becoming good friends in a short time.
Mikee and his parents headed home to pack his things.

On his way home Mikee said to his parents, “Mom and Dad, this new town might not be so bad after all. First I got on a good basketball team, and then I got a new cool friend, Elijah.” With a big smile on his face, his dad said,” I’m so glad you are starting to like this town, Mikee.”

Mikee arrived home and ran upstairs to pack his bag. In a flash Mikee had his bags packed. “Don’t forget your toothbrush, son,” Mikee’s mom yelled from downstairs. Whoops! Mikee thought to himself. In his speediness he had somehow forgot his toothbrush.

Mikee and his dad got in the car and off they went to his new friends house. In less then 10 minutes they were at the front steps to Elijah house. Ring! Ring! The doorbell sounded. The door then swung wide open and with Elijah and his dad standing in the doorway.

“Hey Mikee, come on in.” Elijah said. Mikee’s dad then thanked his new boss for showing such kindness to his son. Mikee was excited to stay with his friend at his house. The boys ran up stairs and began to play video games.

After an hour of playing video games Elijah said “Hey Mikee did you bring some jeans and a shirt to wear to church?” Mikee replied, “Yeah, I did. Hey what’s your church like?”

Elijah’s face lit up, “it’s great Mikee, we get to play games, we learn neat stuff by reading the bible, and we sing to worship Jesus.” “Hmm,” Mikee said, “I never been to church before.” Elijah said, “Mikee, since you haven’t been to church, have you ever heard about Jesus?” Mikee’s head lowered to the ground in shame.

Mikee looked up, “Well, I know people wear pretty jewelry that shows him hanging on a cross for some reason.” Elijah quickly blurted back, “Mikee you are right he did die on the cross, and the reason he died on the cross was for me and you. So that we could go to Heaven.”

Confused Mikee said, “Huh? Jesus had to die so we could go to Heaven? Why? That doesn’t make sense.” Elijah then began to share with Mikee Jesus’ story. “Well Mikee, you know when we do wrong, like lie, or disobey our parents?” Elijah said. “Yeah. I have got in big trouble for doing that in the past, “ Mikee said. “Well, that is called a sin Mikee, Elijah stated.

I memorized this verse in Sunday school it’s Romans 6:23 it says, “The payment for sin is death, but the gift that God freely gives is everlasting life found in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “See Jesus died as a sacrifice for our sin so if we accept Jesus into our heart, God will forgive us and let us into heaven one day.” Elijah explained.

“Cool!” Mikee said, “I understand a little bit better.” “One last thing Elijah before we get a snack and go to bed,” Mikee said. “Sure,” Elijah replied. “Have you ever asked Jesus to save you from your sin?” “Of course I have,” Elijah replied.

Elijah went on to say, “Yeah one Sunday the pastor, which is the man that speaks about the Bible, talked about Heaven and Hell. He said that if people don’t ask for forgiveness of their sin and ask Jesus into their heart they couldn’t go to Heaven. At the end of his message he told the crowd that if anybody wanted to ask Jesus into their heart so they could go to Heaven to come forward. So I went forward and asked Jesus into my heart,” Elijah stated.

“Wow, that sounds pretty cool.” Mikee replied.

“Hey Mikee, let’s go grab a snack before we go to bed.” Elijah said.

“Sounds good.” Mikee stated. The boys ran down the stairs to the kitchen to grab a snack.

Elijah’s mom walked in and asked the boys “you boys ready for some cookies? They are fresh out of the oven?”

“Wow,” Elijah said, “Perfect timing, Thanks Mom!”

“No problem sweetie, why don’t you grab Mikee and you some milk from the frig.”

Elijah walked over to the frig, and grabbed the jug of milk.”

After chomping down some chocolate chip cookies and some milk, the boys decided it was time to turn into bed for the night.

“Elijah! Mikee! You guys wake up, it’s time for breakfast!” Elijah’s mom yelled from downstairs.

“Mikee, you awake?” Elijah softly asked.

“Yeah, I’m awake, boy I slept like a baby last night.” Mikee said as he yawned.

Elijah and Mikee hurried downstairs and were greeted by warm cinnamon rolls and orange juice.

“So you ready to check out my church? Elijah asked with a smile on his face.

“I’m always up to try new things,” Mikee quickly responded.

“Great, well let’s finish these cinnamon rolls off, and go get ready for church,” Elijah told Mikee.

After changing their clothes and brushing their teeth, it wasn’t long till they were on their way to church with Elijah’s family.

After a fifteen-minute ride in the car, Mikee found himself walking up to a building that didn’t look like most churches he had saw before.

“Is this your church, Elijah? Mikee asked in shock.

Elijah laughed, “Why you ask it like that? Yeah it’s my church.”

Mikee quickly replied, “It just doesn’t look like a church. I mean where’s the steeple? It looks more like a grocery store than a church.”

Laughing even harder, Elijah said, “Mikee all churches don’t have to have steeples, our church building did use to be a grocery store, come on let’s go in, I want you to check it out.”

“Sounds good,” Mikee quickly agreed.

Mikee and Elijah, along with Elijah’s family entered through the church doors.

Mikee was amazed; Mikee and Elijah’s family were greeted at the door by a couple of nice ladies. As Mikee looked around the foyer of the church, there were all types of art hanging on the walls, there was a coffee bar to the left where a couple of ladies were serving free coffee and pastries.

“This sure doesn’t look like what I thought church was suppose to be like,” he thought to himself.

Elijah excitedly said, “Hey Mikee, let’s go this way, I want you to check out my Sunday school class.”

“Sure,” Mike replied with a little bit of nervousness.

Elijah and Mikee were greeted at the entrance of the long hallway way by the children’s pastor.

“Hey guys, welcome to Sunday school!” The young lady replied.

“Hey Lindsey, this is my friend Mikee.” Elijah informed her.

“Hey Mikee, it’s so good to have you this morning. If you need anything please holler at me.” Lindsey gently said.

Mikee couldn’t believe how nice the people at church were to him. This also helped eliminate some of his nervousness.

During Sunday school, the boys were taught a lesson on how Jesus died on the cross to save the people of their sin. The teacher read John 3:16 in the Bible “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Mikee, thought to himself, “wow this is starting to make a lot of sense, he remembered what Elijah had told him the night before about Jesus.”
Sunday school came to and end and Mikee and Elijah, met up with Elijah’s parents in the sanctuary. They found seats about four rows from the front. Mikee once again was in shock, the sanctuary was painted with numerous different colors and there were a lot of band equipment on the stage directly in front of him.
In a matter of minutes the lights dimmed, and the band walked on stage. The drummer hit his drumsticks together and the band whaled away on their instruments.
“Wow, this church is cool!” Mikee thought to himself. He was so excited about what he was experiencing at church.
The band played for quite some time, Mikee loved every one of the songs they were playing. In fact he thought he had heard a few of the songs on a radio station he stumbled across a couple of weeks prior.
After about thirty minutes of the band playing, some young guy walked on to the stage. He pulled a stool out that was hidden towards the back portion of the stage. He positioned it on the front part of the stage and sat down.
Mikee leaned over to his buddy Elijah and whispered, “Whose that young guy up there?”
Elijah whispered back, “that’s our pastor.”
As the pastor began to talk, Mikee was so drawn into what the young guy was saying, that he was literally sitting on the edge of his seat.
During the pastor’s message, he used several video clips to paint a picture of the love Jesus had for all people. This was the third time in twenty four hours that Mikee had heard how much Jesus loved him, and all the rest of the people in the world.
The pastor finished his message with a story. He went on to say that when he was a fourth grader in high school his dad got a new job and they had to move away to another city. The pastor exclaimed how sad he was because he had to leave his best friend, his teammates, and a community he grew up in behind and start all over.
Mikee’s jaw almost fell to the ground, he could not believe what he was hearing, and he couldn’t believe the pastor went through what he was currently going through. The pastor went on to say that his new next neighbor became his best friend and invited him to church where he turned his life over to Jesus Christ.
Elijah glanced out of the corner of his eye and looked at Mikee, Elijah too was in just as much shock as Mikee, as a result of hearing his pastor’s childhood story.
The pastor closed his message by asking the band to come back up on the stage, as the band gently played the pastor asked a question that would change Mikee’s life for eternity. He said, “With everyone’s eyes closed and heads bowed, I would like to ask you a question. Is there anyone in here that would like to turn their life over to Christ, and ask him to come into their hearts so that one day when you close your eyes to this earth you can go to Heaven for eternity?”
Mikee’s heart was beating rapidly; he knew he wanted to give his life to Jesus.
The pastor went on to say, “If that’s you, if you would like to ask Jesus into your heart please meet me at the front of the stage.”
Instantly Mikee jumped out of his seat and made his way to the front of the stage.
As he approached the stage the young pastor, smiled at him and said, “what’s up ill man, how’s it going?
Mikee quickly replied, “just like you, I just had to move away from my hometown, I have only been to this city a few days, and my new friend invited me to church. I had never been to church before, and I too would like to ask Jesus into my life, just like you did when you were a boy.”
The young pastor had tears in his eyes, while preparing for the message early in the week he could not understand why he felt the Lord impress on his heart to tell his congregation his childhood story of meeting Christ, but at that very moment it all made sense.
The pastor asked the young boy his name. Mikee with a huge smile on his face said, “My name is Mikee.”
“Well Mikee, my name is Chris, would you like to ask Jesus into your heart?”
Mikee almost didn’t give the pastor enough time to finish his sentence, “I want to, I want to give my life to Jesus.”
Chris, the pastor went on to say, “Okay Mikee, that is the greatest and most import decision you will ever make in your life. The Bible tells us to confess our sins and ask forgiveness for all our wrongdoing, and ask Jesus to become our Lord and Savior. The Bible goes on to say if we do these things, Jesus will forgive us of our past and one day when we pass away from this earth we get to go to Heaven.”
The pastor then said, “Please repeat after me.”
Mikee with the help of the pastor prayed, “Dear God, I know that have done bad things. I know that you sent Jesus to die on a cross and save me from my sins. I know that Jesus rose from the dead and is coming back someday. Please forgive me of all of my sins, and come into my heart. Thank you for dying for me, saving me so that I can go to Heaven when I die. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
Both the young pastor and Mikee had tears in their eyes. The pastor gave Mikee a big hug and said, “welcome to God’s family! I want you to know that God wrote your name in a big book, called the book of life, along with all the other people around the world that ask Jesus to save them.
At that moment in time, tears of joy flooded down Mikee’s face as he realized not only did he had a great new friend named Elijah, but he also found the best friend he could ever have, Jesus Christ.



As you lay on your death bed you might be forced to ponder a few questions such
as the ones listed below:

What did my life add up to?
Did I really matter?
What did I live for?
Who will remember me?

This Sunday we are starting a new series called CHAZOWN, this year instead of creating a New Year's resolution, how about creating a New Year's solution? Hope you join us, for this challenging and insightful new series!

A Year In Review

In about 20 minutes or so it will be Christmas Eve, wow how the year has flown by. This year has brought my life great times of success and failure, times of joy and times of weeping, but as the year begins to come to a close I wouldn't trade it for the world.
Some of the highlights of the year include my first project The Superman Syndrome doing better than I could imagine, Stop the Violence still impacting lives, justice to the guy that murdered my friend Albert, the team Im the chaplain for Abilene High winning a state championship, my daughter getting 3rd in state in soccer, my lil girl advancing quickly in marital arts, my wife becoming a senior in nursing school, and last but not least the news of our family expanding, yes that's right by the end of the summer we will have a baby. I'm sure I have left out a few things, but these come to my mind.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Ebenezer Stones

Windows rolled down, music blaring, cruising down the black pavement of a long stretch of road on my way to a rally to speak I notice a historical marker on the left side. Somewhat surprising, I actually had plenty time to get to the rally so I pulled over to observe the historical marker. The Historical marker read “The Rev. C. G. Stephens, founder of Red Gap Community (1 mil. W), joined the Rev. W. B. Cobb in 1878 to organize the Red Gap Baptist Church. Forerunner of the First Baptist Church of Cisco, The Red Gap Congregation had 13 charter members who met in a one-room log schoolhouse. This small membership organized seven churches into The Red Gap Baptist Association. The junction of the Texas & Pacific Railroad and the House & Texas Central Railroad established Cisco and began the demise of Red Gap. The congregation moved to Cisco in 1881 and built a church house at 10th and Avenue E. The next year they constructed a 36'x50' building at this site. A deadly tornado in 1893 totally destroyed the building. A new structure, completed the following year, burned in 1924. The collapse of an earlier oil boom, which had brought rapid growth to Cisco and the church, caused financial losses. The congregation met in Cisco City Hall and school houses until a new structure could be completed. This fellowship started a mission at Liberty Hill (4 mil. NW) and a Spanish language mission in northeast Cisco. Former pastors of this church have become presidents of Baptist colleges, missionaries, evangelists and special service ministers.” At that very place where I stood history became alive to me.
Since 1890 thousands of authors, craftsmen and laborers have helped plant over 50,000 histories into the American landscape. Historical markers serve to educate citizens and visitors alike about the people and events which have shaped our past and present. They offer an informative ride back in time to America’s past and have, ironically enough, become a part of that very history which they document.

Historical markers are no recent invention, in fact the first historical marker ever mentioned was found in 1 Samuel 7:2-12 which reads “ It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, "If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines." So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. Then Samuel said, "Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you." When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, "We have sinned against the LORD." And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah. When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines. They said to Samuel, "Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines." Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel's behalf, and the LORD answered him. While Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. But that day the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."

As Christians, we should find ourselves deeply challenged by Samuel’s actions. First Samuel recognizes it is only by God’s help that they were victorious, secondly, he give God the honor and praise by erecting an Ebenezer stone as a historical marker that conveys the message of when God mysteriously intervenes on behalf of the Israelites.

Ebenezer stones come in all shapes and sizes. They can be found as journals, pictures, videotapes, paintings and drawings, or any other physical demonstration of the Lord’s aid. Too often as Christians we fail to recall those times where we experienced mighty moves of God because we are so lost in the power of the present problem. The entire Bible could be classified as an amazing Ebenezer stone as one observes the beauty in the redemptive stories of people of the Bible.

One day while sitting in my office finishing up some paperwork my secretary buzzed me on my phone. She notified me that there was a mother that had shown up asking if she could visit with me. I remember walking around the corner and meeting a middle aged woman that looked like a very weary and run down lady. The mother went on to explain that her son had been recently arrested for possession of marijuana. As we continued in conversation she went on to ask me that day to go over to the house where her son was hanging out. Come to find out this was another typical day of work for me. Too often I end up in a foreign place asking God what in the world am I doing here? We showed up at the doorstep, knocked on the door several times and to no avail no one answered the door. We went on to pray over that house, and that day we asked God to convict the hearts of the teens that were staying there.
Six months later I found myself feeding the homeless on South 14th street in my city. Out of the corner of my eye I see three tough looking guys wearing their colors walking down the alley. I quickly walked in their direction, ultimately asking them if they wanted something to eat. Harsh words, abrupt laughter, and ridicule sent me on my way searching for others in need. Twenty minutes had elapsed, and once again I found myself crossing the path of these three gang members. Once again I got out of the van, but this time I took a different approach. I begin to share my testimony and how God had set me free from a dazed life of drugs and alcohol. One of the young man then said to me, “Chad, I have done way too much crime for Christ to love me.” After a great deal of time fading away, these three young men gave their life to the Lord in the middle of a convenient store parking lot. They went on to invite me to a local house that their gang hung out, which ultimately established an Ebenezer stone in my life. As I showed up at the house with my pastor at the time, I instantly had flash backs rush through my head. I had just arrived at the house I had prayed over 6 months prior with a worried mother. As the night progressed I had the beautiful opportunity to witness God save 12 gang members. The following night I had the privilege to watch them get baptized in horse troth in the front yard of their gang house. Weekly as I drive down South 14th street in my city, and pass Sycamore street right on the corner sets a huge Ebenezer stone for me. Although the young men that got saved at that particular house have grown up and went their separate ways, that house forevermore provides a reminding monument of a mighty move of God.

Have you ever paused and thought about some of your Ebenezer stones?

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Christmas, wow what an interesting season. A time when we should pause, and reflect on the gifts that surround us daily, for some reason has become a time of chaos, increase stress, and an absence of joy. I mean let's be honest, I don't think Christ desires Christmas to be a time of long shopping list, even longer check out lines, and an increase in the amount of stress we carry, but we do, I do. In all honesty this is the first time I have really looked forward to Christmas in a long, long time. I can say in all truthfulness that our family has the right heart and the right focus this year. We are not focused on purchasing the right gift for the that special person, we are simply focusing on the true purpose of Christmas, Christ presence, not presents.

One thing that I am personally focusing on this year is being able to receive. I have the hardest time receiving gifts....Is it my pride? Is it my profession? Is it me being pacified? Sadly enough it is all three...

Read with me Luke 2:1-10 At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancĂ©e, who was now obviously pregnant.
And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.

Mary had to receive to be a blessing to all of humanity, by giving birth to our Savior.

I guess to sum up my thoughts, John 1:12 does it best “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

I want to receive more than ever, not presents but His presence.

Live to Love.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Still I Stand

Well the week has almost came to a close. Wow! What a week it has been. As you have read previously I have experienced a roller coaster of emotions throughout the week, due to the trial of the guy that killed my dear friend Albert. As I sit in my chair, about to close my eyes to this day there is one thing that brings a smile to my face...regardless of the pain I felt this week, regardless of the feelings I experienced, regardless of the weariness I am currently being exposed to...there is one thing I know, Still I stand. Still I stand on behalf of Christ love, still I stand against injustice, still I stand up against violence....Still I stand.

Live to Love.

This Week

Dear friends, this week the trial of the guy that killed my friend Albert Cadena has been taken place. I am under subpoena so I can't talk to much but what I can tell you is I have shed more tears than I have in a long long time. Honestly at times like this my ministry flat out hurts, often I wonder why I didnt take the easy way out, by joining a staff at a large church where people are just a number not a friend. But for some reason God has called me to walk with these people, to know their stories and allow them to collide with my own. My heart hasnt been this heavy in a long time, often this week I have thought many times, I cant do this anymore, but somehow I know God will Get me through this.

Yesterday God impressed upon my heart, Chad the Stop the Violence, Start the Love Movement is so much bigger than you, then Abilene Texas. You are a part of this one incident, but think about all the people around the world that have experienced, or currently experiencing, or in the future will experience what you are going through. I am giving you a closer glimpse of the pain of violence, now respond...

Im wounded, heartbroken, and weary, but I know somehow someway I will get through this... Today as I take the stand to stand on behalf of justice and share the message that the violence must stop, I ask you to link hands with me and pray. Pray that God will use all of us to be instruments of love not hate, pray God will use you and I as messengers of peace, not war. Most of all today love on those people that surround you, you just never know when that person might be stripped away from you in a split second.
On my blog at www.beyondplastic.blogspot.com I have enclosed a portion of Albert's story that I'm enclosing in my second book The Plastic Man, I would love for you to read it and pass it on to others.

I love each one of you, thank you for the blessing you are to me, to the communities you involve yourself in, and most of all to our Savior. May God's glory be present, may his purpose be known, and may his grace penetrate those we encounter as a result of the words we speak..


Live to Love.

-C. Mitchell

Monday, December 7, 2009

On A Much Lighter Note

check out this link, the fourth guy on the left, on the bottom row is clueless...ha ha
just copy below link in your browser

Please Remember

As I sit in my recliner next to my fire place with a blanket draped across my lap my mind wonders....A couple of minutes ago i went outside to get something out of my truck, and literally could barely stand the cold. Instantly I began to think about my homeless friends that live out on the streets. My heart breaks knowing that here I sit in the warmth of my home and some of my friends literally are freezing outside in the elements. Tonight, I ask that you join with me in lifting my friends up in prayer. I have witnessed first hand what the cold climate can do to some of my friends out on the streets. I remember one morning I went to check on my homeless friend Manuel. Fighting the cold, I made my way to his shack. Honestly, as I approached his shack I prayed that I would not find my friend, Manuel an elderly homeless man dead. As I approached his camp I quickly yelled out his name. After a few minutes the door to his tin shed slowly opened. After talking to Manuel for a couple of brief moments, I asked him if he needed anything. Much to my amazement he said, "Chad, do you have a drink of water?" I will never forget what he did next. He pointed to a milk jug that rested on the dirt floor of his shack, it was completely frozen due to the weather. Tonight as you lay in your bed, please remember my friends out on the street.

"I mean, I don't think I'm alone when I look at the homeless person or the bum or the psychotic or the drunk or the drug addict or the criminal and see their baby pictures in my mind's eye. You don't think they were cute like every other baby?"-Dustin Hoffman

I also ask tonight that you remember each human being is God's child...

Live to Love.

My friend's legacy lives on.

At the request of one of my church members, I went to the hospital one Monday morning to visit a patient—a man I had never met. He was a gang member who had been shot in both feet in a failed assassination attempt. I was curious about his story but not completely shocked about his situation. I had often ministered to gang members. I accidently left the post-it note with his name and room number in my car so I approached the nurses’ station knowing that it was unlikely they had another patient who had been shot twice, “I’m Chad Mitchell. I’m looking for the guy that recently had his feet shot.”
Admittedly, I don’t exactly dress like your typical pastor—no shirt and tie for me! On that particular day, I wore baggy jeans, a black flat-billed baseball cap, and a black Adidas jacket so I probably looked more like another gang member than a pastor to those at the nurse’s station and my name didn’t mean a thing. The charge nurse abruptly answered, “We don’t have anyone in here with that description. You need to leave!”
I didn’t really think much about her reaction; I just went to my car and found my post-it note and went back into the hospital. Much to my surprise, Albert Cadena’s room was only a few feet from that very same nurses’ desk! Why did she tell me they didn’t have him on her floor? I saw the number on his door and walked into the patient’s room and introduced myself. Albert replied, “Yeah, Tony told me you were going to swing by.”
In a split second, several nurses rushed though the door and filled his hospital room. For the life of me I couldn’t understand what was happening as one of the nurses yelled over to Albert, “Are you okay?”
Albert grinned and replied, “Yeah, it’s cool! He’s a pastor!”
All the hospital staff breathed a sigh of relief, “We sure are glad; we were about to call security! We thought he was the suspect!”
After a few chuckles at my expense, the commotion died down as Albert’s protectors left the room and he began to share about what had happened to him and I became engrossed in his story of violence and grace…

One day, Albert walked into an unfamiliar house with some acquaintances. As he entered the home, a strange feeling overwhelmed him. He glanced at the floor and it was completely bare. For some reason, the carpet had been ripped out. He looked on the left side of the room and noticed that all the furniture had been shoved into a corner. And even more confusing to Albert, all the belongings had been covered in plastic. A guy swaggered over to him and said, “Albert, I think you need to leave now.”
Even more confused, Albert went to the front door to leave but it had been nailed shut. He turned to go out the back door, and a man carrying a 12-gauge shotgun stood in the doorway. That guy ran up to Albert and shoved the shotgun against his stomach. Reacting solely by instinct, Albert grabbed the end of the barrel and pushed it toward the floor and instantaneously, Albert’s life changed forevermore. The assassin pulled the trigger and shot him in the left foot. Immediately, the gun fired again and the bullet struck Albert’s right foot. Falling to the barren floor, Albert began to fight for his life in a pool of his own blood. All his acquaintances and the shooter fled from the scene. Albert never knew for certain who dialed 911 but in a matter of minutes which seemed like hours in his agony, policemen burst through the door. EMT’s rushed him to the nearest local hospital.
In the emergency room, Albert was quickly examined by two doctors, blood was drawn and tests were performed as the physicians sought the best solution to save him. Without hesitation, one doctor hastily assessed his injuries after hearing what had happened and seeing the blood tests. He was callous and cold to the consequences of violence because he saw a gang member high on cocaine—a waste of time and energy. He told his colleague, “We have to remove his feet.”
The other surgeon, after examining Albert’s injuries and the test results, saw not just another addicted gang member but a husband and a father. That doctor saw a man whose life could be changed by grace and he offered hope, “I think I can save his feet.”
Given only seconds to choose, Albert was forced to make a fateful decision that would change the course of his life either way. One doctor held no hope that he would even survive unless his feet were amputated and the other offered only the slightest hope that Albert could survive with both feet intact and months of painful recovery ahead, but it was hope nonetheless. That doctor walked up to Albert’s bedside and asked a question that would forever impact Albert and those who hear his story, “Albert, your blood has a high level of cocaine in it. I am about to ask you a question. I want you to be totally honest with me. Are you going to change your life?”
Stunned by the question, Albert asked him, “What do you mean?”
The surgeon continued, “Well, the other doctor just wants to cut off your feet and be done with this situation, but I am willing to try to save your feet if you are willing to change your life. So let me know if you are willing to change your life or not because if you don’t want to change, I’m just going to let the other doctor cut off your feet.”
Albert knew there was only one answer and he made a promise that he meant with all his heart, “Doc, I will change my life.”
As soon as the words were out of Albert’s mouth, the surgeon set all the cogs in motion in an all-out effort to save the life and the feet of a drugged up gang member who may or may not live up to his promise. Grace suddenly interrupted Albert’s life. Do you get that that? Grace interrupted—butted right in to all of Albert’s plans and expectations, even more importantly right in the middle of satan’s plans to destroy Albert’s life. Albert wasn’t looking for Grace, didn’t expect it, didn’t ask for it and certainly didn’t earn it; yet Grace—that is, Jesus Christ—interrupted. He intervened and presented Albert with an offer he couldn’t refuse and he accepted it. That day, Albert chose hope and received grace. And the changing power of grace is why I showed up at the hospital that day to hear this story. God had orchestrated our meeting so that in the days ahead of us, He could use me to show Albert how grace could really change his life forever and to walk with him through some of those changes. We became fast friends and brothers that very day.

A month later, Albert was dismissed as a patient from the hospital with orders to continue rigid and painful outpatient rehabilitation treatment for months afterward. The very next Sunday after he left the hospital, Albert entered through our church doors to attend a men’s recovery class and our Sunday worship. He still had his feet although he couldn’t quite comprehend God’s full measure of grace. But he was willing and determined to change his life nonetheless. Just two Sundays later after my sermon, Albert met me at the altar and surrendered his life to the Lord. His life-changing journey began. That very day, grace won. Christ took the violence that satan had intended to destroy Albert’s life to save it… for eternity. He picked up all that Albert left behind at the cross and used it to bring him grace, salvation, and restoration. And He put it all into action immediately!
A week later, evidence of real change in Albert became concrete when I answered my phone and heard his voice on the other end, “Chad, I gotta tell you what just happened! Remember, I told you that the police still haven’t caught the guy?”
The man who had attempted to kill Albert had never been arrested. Hopeful, I answered, “Of course I remember…Did they finally catch him?”
Even as a pastor, I wasn’t really expecting Albert’s next words, “No, they haven’t but I just saw him! My family and I were eating at Mr. Gatti’s when all of a sudden, I look to my right and there he is! There the guy that shot me sat eating pizza!”
Thoughts raced through my mind. Since the moment Albert had contact with the police about the shooting, they had cautioned him and asked him time and time again not to retaliate. In the weeks since I had met him, I came to discover that his criminal history file was inches thick due to his involvement in gangs, drugs, and violence. Albert had been ingrained with the vengeful ethics of “blood for blood” to maintain his honor within the gangs. Ever since the shooting, the police had continually requested that he do something that went against his hardcore code of vengeance. They were calling him to tread unfamiliar territory and do the exact opposite of what he had become his nature and reputation in the gangs and the streets of Abilene. As all this cycled through my thoughts, I couldn’t wait any longer for the answer to my burning question. I interrupted him, “Albert, what did you do?”
No doubt, the very same thoughts replayed in his mind in the seconds that followed. I had to ask him again, “Albert! What did you do when you saw him?”
In a shaken and quiet voice, he simply answered, “I did nothing.” Even I, a pastor who believes in the power of grace, was stunned. Just a few short weeks before, Albert would have taken the life of the assassin who had attempted to take his without a second thought. But in the midst of his own helpless suffering, Albert Cadena had been forced to make a vow to live differently. In just over a month, this violent gang member’s heart really had changed. He took the grace he had received that day in the emergency room and showed mercy to his own attempted murderer right there in the Mr. Gatti’s Restaurant.

Albert ripped off the ribbon and wrapping of Grace like a kid at Christmas. In the weeks that followed his salvation, the people that loved Albert saw more and more changes in his behavior and in his attitudes as he put Grace to work in his life. He vowed to become a better husband, a better father, and a better man. He shared his story of grace and salvation with everyone he knew and even strangers he had just met. He was faithful in Sunday worship, our men’s recovery class, and our midweek men’s Bible study called Iron. He was brand new to the Gospel but He shared it more than many of us who have been raised on it. Albert’s purpose and passion was to be a testimony to Grace as, together with me and other men in his recovery group, we launched a new ministry team—B.A.D. (Born Again Disciples)—whose mission was to reach out to the gangs and the violent streets and neighborhoods of Abilene where Albert had lived his own past. We desired to share Christ’s message of love and grace so that those men could also be changed by Grace. Through Grace, Albert became like Paul and could just as easily have voiced Paul’s own words, “For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle…But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace to me was not without effect.”2
Do you see it? Throughout Albert’s story and every story woven with Grace, we see evidence that what satan intended to destroy, God used for good—to build up and to save.
My friend Albert had the desire to live the perfect Christian life but his old life didn’t suddenly just disappear. He started out great but as the “new” wore off, his past began to play tug-o-war with him. Turning his back on his old friends and life in the gang was an extreme challenge just as it is for any reforming gang member. And he was still healing from his gunshot wounds, suffering a lot of pain. His old friends and even enemies who resented or didn’t understand his new faith and his vow to change his life kept calling him back to his old ways and habits. We walked together side by side through much of his new journey—him and his family. Albert often gained ground inch by inch and sometimes he made great strides. And sometimes, the conflict with the old life and the new and especially with his old friends’ refusal to let him go would draw him back to his old life. But no matter where he stood in the moment, his salvation was very real and the desire of his heart was to be all that God wanted him to become. His struggle was also very real. Even so, Grace was doing its work, slowly changing Albert’s heart and his old way of thinking from the inside out although sin was working overtime, fast and furiously, to make sure evil didn’t lose. Out of his passion for the BAD Ministry, Albert continuously reached out to his old friends and acquaintances. Sometimes he was trying to help them up and other times they were determined to pull him down. Albert was a work in progress and his new life was not perfect.
No matter how long we’ve been Christian, we all fight this battle because of our sinful human nature. We have to hang on to hope with patience, determination, and perseverance. We can focus on our failures and mistakes and be overwhelmed. In doing so, we will surely fall. Or we can focus on Him and consciously listen for His voice at every turn and temptation.

On Memorial Day, I received a phone call. Albert’s body had been found in an alley. He had been shot in the face and the side. Suddenly, without warning, my friend and beloved brother in Christ was taken from us by horrific injustice. My life and the lives of so many of his family members and friends were devastated by his loss and we are forever changed by this one single act of violence. In the days that followed, we learned that Albert had gone to these murderous men in defense of another friend. The details and the whole truth of Albert’s death are still unfolding to this very day. It became very clear to all of us as we have faced our grief and pain that God saved Albert’s life six months before his death in order to offer him grace and redemption. Albert accepted and received grace and dedicated the rest of his life to save the lives of others. Through the willful and malicious intent of men’s vengeful choices, violence finally snatched Albert from this life. A wife is left without a husband, children are left without a father, a mother is left without a son, and I am left without a dear and cherished friend but Albert’s story and his dream still continues. By sharing his own testimony, Albert’s dream was to rid his neighborhood and the streets of Abilene of violence and crime as he shared the love of Christ and the mercy he had so graciously been given. Now each of us that knew and loved him—his family and friends, his Christian brothers, Mission Abilene and the B.A.D. Ministry are still determined to share his story and fulfill his purpose and the desire of his heart.
Evil thought he had gained victory the day Albert’s body lay in the alley but months beforehand, Albert’s fate in eternity had been sealed. “Will you change your life?” On the day Albert was asked that fateful question in the emergency room, he met Death and Grace face to face. He became the rope in their game of tug-of-war. But Grace wasn’t finished. It hadn’t completed its work. And in spite of Albert’s struggle with his old life and even his ultimate earthly demise, Grace still won. God saw his circumstances but He knew Albert’s heart. I think if Albert could have shared a last word with me, he might have quoted Paul, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.”12
Our hearts break and our minds struggle to comprehend why violence abounds and lives are so unjustly destroyed or taken from us. It’s easy to give up hope in tragic circumstances but grace isn’t done yet! The restoration of grace doesn’t end on earth. Its completion comes with eternity.
At this very moment, Albert Cadena has entered into the presence of Jesus Christ. He is perfectly restored and renewed in eternity. I can only believe that he is also realizing even at this very moment that the last few months of struggle and change have led him to this very moment of rejoicing. Albert’s story still isn’t finished. His legacy continues in the many lives that have been changed and are continuing to change because of his testimony. Even today, his life story continues to touch lives and change hearts. Albert’s life may no longer be of earth but his story lives on through the lives of others. The same grace that interrupted Albert’s life has touched not just one, not just a dozen, but hundreds through our campaign to stop violence and injustice in our city. Grace restores not one life but many.

Live to Love.

Heavy Day

As my day has almost come to an end, I must say it has been an extremely heavy day. Today started a trial for the person that killed my friend Albert. I miss Albert so much, he was such a joy to hang around, his excitement for the Lord, and his passion to change his life still inspires me. I miss his late night phone calls when we read the Bible together, I miss picking him up for Tuesday Bible studies, I miss seeing him smile as God continued to manifest himself more and more in his life. I write all of this to say please pray for me along with his wonderful family, the Cadena family. Many of us will be testifying during this trial, and honestly will have to face first hand the gruesome details about his murder...I will post a story about him that I am including in my second book. I pray his life inspires you. Please feel free to pass along my blog to your friends, encourage them to love the people that surround them, sadly enough we never know how long those people will be in our lives. They can be ripped out of our life in a blink of an eye. Once again please pray for us all, I am having an extremely tough time with this.

Live to Love.