Archives For May 2013

Growing a church can be one of the best experiences a pastor can have. Yes, every church is different but, there are some similarities. One of the most disturbing is how the moment your church starts to pick up momemtum. it attracts dysfunctional people. The day great things start to happen, they show up. Here are five types of people to watch out for:

  • Predatory: Sexual or spiritual, they have similar objectives: gratify self and inflict major pain. Be less concerned about hurting them by screening them out than hurting others by ignoring them. Discernment is a spiritual gift.  Ask for it daily.
  • Large and in charge: They say they want to “be a part of the team”.  What they are really saying is “I want to be the boss,” and think this church gives them the chance.
  • Against: They come because they are against their old church.  They make comments like “My old church was so _________. I’m so glad this church is not like that!” When they realize you’re not perfect, and neither is the church, they will leave.
  • Needy: These people could monopolize all of your time and energy. The people in their old church are probably jumping for joy that they left! The only jumping you will doing is off of an imaginary bridge when you respond for the fifth time in three hours to an “urgent” text message about “why Sister Janet doesn’t like me.”
  • Transient: They’re here just to check it out. They’ll go back to their old church when they realize that here they are actually expected to work. It takes 110% commitment to grow a church and they just don’t have it.

Four recommendations:

  • Have a clear vision.  Unclear vision leads to wasted time resolving side issues that should have been settled in the beginning.
  • Have a specific, written, membership covenant and have the people that will join the church read, agree, and sign it. Mosaic SDA Church in Hillsboro, Oregon has one of the best that I have seen. (You can see it here.) It will save you a lot of grief later, when conflict arises.
  • Provide continual reminders of the vision. Vision leaks. Just because you presented it, don’t assume people heard it, understood it, or remember it.
  • Have patience. You don’t just want more people, you want the right people.

Any prayer requests? Leave them here…

I was born in Cuba, under a tyrant’s rule. Even before I was born, my dad knew that he wanted a better life for us. As did my mom. That’s why she insisted I was named Roger, instead of what my dad wanted to call me, Nabudoconosor, (Nabuco for short). She said, “One day we will go to America, and I want my son to have an English sounding name”. I was just two years old when my dad, the pastor, decided to apply for a visa to leave the country. What followed for him was hell on earth. He was assigned to a sugarcane cutting detail that worked six days a week.  Every forty-five days, he would come home and spend a weekend with us. Then he would leave again, back to the 16 hour days, lack of food, harassment of the guards, mosquitoes, and everything that could be the brutal definition of misery.

 After 2 years, we finally got good news. Our visa was approved! But wait. Timing was not on our side. My mother was pregnant with my brother Isaac, 8.3 months to be exact. Law would require for her to first have the baby, then travel. But my father had enough of the tyrant. He had had enough of the secret police, the lack of possibilities, and impossibility of freedom.  So my mom packed all she could in the one allowed “maleta” (or suitcase) that we could take out of the country, put on the biggest dress she could find and we headed for the airport. Right before we passed the soldier that checked the passports, my pants dropped. She bent over to pick them up, and the guard didn’t notice the belly with the 10.5 pound baby inside.  We got on the plane. Finally, freedom was ours.

Freedom came with a price. It always does. Freedom, by definition, is not just the absence of tyrany, but the deliverance from it. Deliverance is never easy, but it’s worth it. The price we paid for freedom was high.

1. We paid a financial price. We were only allowed to take out from Cuba one piece of luggage. No property deeds. No savings account balance. None of our hard earned cash. Nothing valuable was to be taken out. We did it, because we wanted out. We came to the point where we were willing to leave anything, for the one thing that meant everything. Freedom.

2. We paid a relational price. All our family, loved ones, friends, and co-workers were left behind. We traveled to Spain were we could count in one hand the people we knew and still have some fingers left over. The desire to be free is even stronger than the “ties that bind”. We elected to be free by ourselves, than to be in bondage with our family.

3. We paid a stability price. Cuba to Spain. To Costa Rica. To Miami. To Aibonito, Puerto Rico. To Las Piedras, Guayama, Cayey , then Cidra, also in Puerto Rico and lastly, back to USA. Those were some of the places and countries we traveled to as pastor’s kids. We sort of got used to it. “We’re moving” seemed my father’s favorite phrase. We basically had Elizabeth Taylor’s attitude towards her husbands: “We won’t be staying long”. We found support in each other and made many friends along the way.

4. We paid a health price. My health suffered because of malnutrition. Since food was in short supply in Cuba, especially when my father was gone, my mother gave me a bottle of water and brown sugar at night, to ease the hunger pains. This concoction calmed my hunger, but left me with a mouthful of rotten teeth. My father had it the worse. His health suffered the brunt of a concentration camp atmosphere.  Any person that for two years is undernourished and overworked endures a physical toll that lasts a lifetime. But it was a price he was willing to pay.

I could not have chosen freedom myself. I didn’t have the knowledge, ability, strength, or resources to do it. My father did. Thanks to his sacrifice, we have a better life. Thanks to the self-less love of one, many could call freedom a possibility. He gave me the opportunity to dream.

Whatever you are leaving right now, if God said go, don’t look back. It will be worth it in the end.

Holy Interruption —  May 21, 2013

I was very engaged with an article that I was writing. Words were flowing, thoughts were coming. The structure was being carefully crafted, to be sent out and bless people far and wide. Then it happened. My son came into the room and asked me if we could play. What would you do? What do you do, when “interruptions happen?”

Most of us see interruptions as negative occurrences that come to disturb our carefully crafted calendar, but it need not be so. Jesus performed most of his miracles after an interruption. Here are three principles to make interruptions your ally:

1.    They may seem like interruptions to you, but they were on God’s calendar.

We define interruptions as “an encounter or event that was not planned.” If we look at the life of Jesus as an example, we can see his reaction to interruptions.
*The first miracle. Jesus went to a party to celebrate a wedding, ended up providing wine for everyone.
*The encounter with the woman with an issue of blood. He was on his way to Jairus’ house to perform a miracle, ended the day by doing two.
There are many more examples. Jesus blessed children, resurrected dead people, healed others, all out of the programmed schedule for that day. That interruption you are experiencing might be God’s chance to perform a miracle.


2. Submit your calendar to God, which involves surrendering control of yours.

Someone said that if you want to make God smile tell him your final/definite plans. There are two types of personalities. Systematic and spontaneous. The systematics especially have problems when plans change. Whatever your personality, begin each day with the realization that being organized is good, but not to the point that organization resists divine interruption. Submit your calendar to God. You’re not in the driver’s seat, and Jesus is your co-pilot. Wait for interruptions that may come into your life today. Remember what the prophet Isaiah said:

Isaiah 41:4 “I am the only God and I keep under control everything that happens in this world. I have existed from the beginning, and will exist until the end. ”

3.      Instead of thinking how the interruption affects you, think about how it helps others.

Analyzing personalities again, there is one that we know as “Type A”. This personality is focused on achieving goals, doing things, or completing an aggressive agenda. It’s easy for this type of personality to move ahead like a tractor trying to achieve goals. God is calling you to pause for a moment today, and instead of seeing the interruption like a stone in your shoe, think about how your help will be a blessing to the person who does not even have shoes. True ministry is “focused on others.” We don’t use people to achieve our dreams, we help others discover theirs and help them to achieve them.

Think about it-What interruptions frustrate you? How have you allowed interruptions to be a pest, rather than a blessing? Let God direct your calendar today.

Santa Interrupcion —  May 21, 2013

Santa Interrupción


La mayoría de nosotros vemos las interrupciones como algo negativo. Pero no tiene que ser así. Jesús hizo muchos milagros, después de una interrupción. Aquí hay tres principios para crecer:

1. Puede que parezcan interrupciones para ti, pero estaban en el calendario de Dios. Las interrupciones las definimos como “un pedido o encuentro que no estaba planeado”. Si observamos la vida de Jesús como ejemplo, podemos notar su reacción a las interrupciones.

*El primer milagro. Jesús fue a una fiesta a celebrar una boda, termino proveyendo vino para todos.

*El encuentro con la mujer de flujo de sangre. Estaba en camino a la casa de Jairo para realizar un milagro, termino realizando dos.

Hay muchos ejemplos más. Jesús bendijo niños, resucito muertos, levantó paralíticos, todos fuera del schedule programado para ese día (por lo menos a lo que humanamente se refiere)

2. Someter nuestro calendario al de Dios implica rendir nuestro control al suyo. Alguien dijo, que si quieres hacer sonreír a Dios, cuéntale tus planes definitivos. Hay dos tipos de personalidades. Sistemáticos y espontáneos. Los sistemáticos, especialmente, tienen problemas cuando se cambian los planes. Sea cual sea tu personalidad, comienza cada día con la realización que ser organizado es bueno, pero no al punto que resistas una interrupción divina. Somete tu calendario al de Dios. Tu no estas en el asiento de conductor, y Jesús no es tu copiloto. Espera las interrupciones, que hoy vendrán a tu vida. Recuerda lo que dice el profeta Isaías:

Isaías 41:4 “Yo soy el único Dios y mantengo bajo control todo lo que pasa en este mundo. He existido desde el principio, y existiré hasta el final.”

3. En ves de pensar como esa interrupción te afecta a ti, piensa como le ayuda a otros. Analizando otra vez las personalidades, hay una que le llamamos “Tipo A”. Esta personalidad se enfoca en alcanzar metas, hacer cosas, o completar una agenda agresiva.  Es fácil para este tipo de personalidad, pasar por encima como un tractor de las personas con tal de alcanzar los objetivos. Dios nos llama a detenernos un momento hoy, y en vez de ver la interrupción como una piedra en tu zapato, piensa en como tu ayuda será de bendición a la persona que ni siquiera tiene zapatos. El verdadero ministerio, es “centrado en otros”. No se usan las personas para alcanzar tus sueños, se descubren cuales son SUS sueños y le ayudas a ellos a hacerlos realidad.

Para pensar- ¿Que interrupciones te frustran?   Deja que Dios dirija tu calendario hoy.

Guest blogger- Edwin Vargas

What I Learned in a Church Plant

I am pastoring a recent church plant in un-churched Portland, Oregon. Here are three things I learned in my first year there.

1.    We Bring Assumptions, DNA and Personal Definitions.

“Pastor, I had never experienced our mission till I saw my co-worker responding to a baptism call.”  It had been 7 months since this 27 year old, 2nd generation PK Adventist, had been a part of the church plant’s core and she was finally understanding the mission. I’m learning that pastors & members bring to church plants 3 things; Assumptions, DNA and Personal Definitions. As a pastor I can assume that members understand what it means to be a church plant in terms of mission, methods, and job descriptions. Being aware of our assumptions can help us understand each other better and facilitate mission. Each one of us brings to the church plant a portion of our previous church DNA. Some of that DNA may be wonderful to perpetuate while some can be harmful to keep around. It is important to identify what to keep and what to get rid of right now. Success, sacrifice, and excellence can be described in a very personal, different ways. I’m learning that the more specific we are about our definitions the more accurate we can become in setting goals.

2.    Collaboration Leads to Multiplication.  

Instead of looking at the church we rent from as landlords we view them not as rivals but as partners in ministry. The Discovery Church and their Pastor Dan Snavely have being instrumental in helping our church plant grow.  They believe that by helping our church plant they’re investing in God’s Kingdom. In the last few months we’ve had 10 baptisms most of them young adults committing their lives to Christ. Our collaboration has led to multiplication from averaging 30 in attendance to almost 100 in the last few weeks.

3.    Excellence as a core value, for most.

As I visited this 25 year old guy I noticed his tattoos. They contrasted with the smile on his face as he told me, “I have been overwhelmed with the desire to raise my voice and praise Jesus. I’m counting the days for next Sabbath”. But I’ve heard another story from a few Adventist brothers. “The service is a show.” Two people can participate of the same service and experience different things. It almost seems that if there is too much excellence in music, lights, & graphics then it’s a show. I wonder how that idea reconciles with the excellence in the OT Sanctuary and the Temple. If everything exalts Christ and presents the Gospel, it should be excellent. Even if some

Please pray for us as we go forward. To connect with us, please check out our facebook page!/remixadventistchurch?fref=ts


I got this nice t-shirt from a friend and mentor. It’s a gift he has given as an investment into this Journey Fellowship, a church plant we are starting in Memphis. I am grateful for it…but it makes me think. Right now this is the most tangible thing we have to represent the dream of a new church.

We have no building, no new converts, no ministries…just this website, a dream and this t-shirt. As we (my family and a few friends) have been working on it, I have realized something interesting has begun to happen.

I have begun to pray more (Lord knows, I needed to do more of that). My faith has been stretched a whole lot. It’s the difference between walking on dry land and walking on water…it’s unknown and unprecedented. The exercise of this faith has caused me to trust God more.

I have doubted myself more. I am not as confident in my own ideas and plans. I am desperately seeking a clear direction from God. There is a searching to hear God’s voice and know God’s will that I haven’t experienced before.

My family is praying toward one goal in a way we haven’t before. My kids in their child like faith pray over this like they would to get a new toy at Christmas or get away from punishment when wrong. We have been reaching out to our neighbors to make friends in authentic ways.

I had a humbling thought today. What if after all of this…all this praying, all this seeking to know God’s way, all this family praying, all this reorienting of life to reach others, that this new venture never gets off the ground? Or what if it gets off the ground and sputters back to earth like a paper plane? What if this t-shirt is the most tangible thing I am left with after this Journey? Will it be ok?

After all, my relationship with God has gotten deeper. I have prayed like I have seldom done before. Could that be the real reward for all I am doing? Could getting closer to God and having a better relationship with Him be good enough for me?

I know your situation may be different. You may have been praying earnestly for a loved one to be healed. Your family may have gathered around that bed and called on the name of the Lord. And you know you have gotten closer to Him and to each other as a result. What if that’s the reward at the end even if the healing does not come?

What if the job you have been praying for, the financial blessing or the relationship that is tearing apart you have been seeking God for don’t turn out the way you are praying for? But you get so much closer to God..much closer than you ever dreamed or imagined you would be…would that be enough.

What if the goal isn’t what we started off with, but we end up with – a better, deeper relationship with God (and maybe a t-shirt)? Maybe you may be disappointed until you got more than you expected.

David es uno de mis personajes favoritos de la Biblia. Tuvo una vida muy interesante, y bastantes conflictos con su propia familia. Su hermano mayor fue una fuente de dolor en su vida. El siguiente pasaje describe uno de esos encuentros dolorosos:

1 Samuel 17:28 Pero cuando Eliab, el hermano mayor de David, lo oyó hablar con los hombres, se enojó. —¿Qué estás haciendo aquí? —le reclamó—. ¿Qué pasó con esas pocas ovejas que se supone que deberías estar cuidando? Conozco tu orgullo y tu engaño. ¡Sólo quieres ver la batalla!

¿Qué haces, cuando la gente trata intencionalmente de hacerte daño? ¿Cuál es tu estrategia cuando a propósito te tratan de herir a través de humillaciones publicas? Aquí hay tres sugerencias. Quizá sea el momento de desconectarse de algunas de estas relaciones en tu vida:

1. No eres tu, son ellos.

El dolor de las palabras hirientes es un regalo que nadie quiere, pero algunos de nosotros lo aceptamos con demasiada frecuencia. Cuando el hermano de David lo hiere, es porque él (Eliab) esta  molesto, frustrado y celoso de que David tomó lo que él pensaba que era suyo por derecho. Si no quieres ser criticado, pídele a Dios que no te bendiga, porque uno viene con el otro. Cuando eres criticado, entiende que muchas veces ella revela el sujeto y no el objeto. Tu tienes el derecho de negarte a continuar en una relación que te trae dolor constante. Esto es especialmente cierto en algunas iglesias, en las que algunas personas no sólo están dispuestos a morir por la verdad, están dispuestos a matar por ella.

2. Detecta patrones.

Nota la frase que utiliza David en 1 Samuel 17:29 “¿Qué he hecho yo ahora?” David respondió. Esta frase indica que se trataba de un patrón continuo del hermano de David. Todo el mundo puede tener un mal día. Lo que debemos buscar son los patrones de disfunción. Nos mentimos a nosotros mismos cuando toleramos el abuso de un reincidente pensando: “las cosas van a mejorar”, o “tal vez me estoy preocupando demasiado por nada”. A menos que ocurra una intervención, y la persona busque ayuda, el pasado es el mejor predictor del futuro.

3. Sigue adelante.

Es más fácil decirlo que hacerlo. Lo sé. Para algunos de nosotros, el dolor familiar se prefiere la sanidad desconocida. Pero hay que hacerlo. David lo hizo. Dice 1 Samuel 17:30 Se acercó a algunos otros … La mayor parte de los casos de abuso emocional que veo en las personas, toma demasiado tiempo para que las personas lleguen a la conclusión de que esto no es normal, las cosas no van a mejorar y el tiempo no cura ninguna herida cuando el ofensor tiene un cuchillo entre las manos. David se alejó. Yo también puedo. Todo el mundo no te va a querer. Eso es un hecho de la vida. En lugar de obsesionarte con el Eliab de en tu vida, concéntrate en matar tu gigante.

¿Alguna otra sugerencia? Sigamos hablando. Si estas pasando por un momento difícil en este momento me gustaría orar por ti. Deja tu nombre o mensaje y lo hare.

David is one of my favorite bible characters. He had a very interesting life, and a good deal of conflict with his own family. His older brother, specifically, was a source of pain in his life. Here is the passage that describes one painful encounter:

1 Samuel 17:28 But when David’s oldest brother, Eliab, heard David talking to the men, he was angry. “What are you doing around here anyway?” he demanded. “What about those few sheep you’re supposed to be taking care of? I know about your pride and deceit. You just want to see the battle!”

What do you do, when people intentionally try to hurt you? What is your strategy when they purposefully bring emotional pain through putdowns and judging? Here are three suggestions. It may be time to detach from some of those relationships in your life:

1. It not you, it’s them.

Pain from hurtful words is a gift nobody wants, but some of us accept too willingly. When David’s brother chastises him, it’s because he (Eliab) is still upset, frustrated and jealous that David took from him what he thought was rightfully his. If you don’t want to be criticized, ask God not to bless you, because one comes with the other, but when criticism comes, understand that many times it reveals the subject, not the object. You have a right to refuse to continue in a relationship that brings you constant pain and hurt. This is especially true in some churches, where some people are not just willing to die for the truth, they are willing to kill for it.

2. Look for patterns.

Notice the phrase that David uses in 1 Samuel 17:29 “What have I done now?” David replied. That phrase denotes that this was a pattern for David’s brother. Everyone can have a bad day. What we must look for are patterns on dysfunction. We lie to ourselves when we tolerate abuse from a repeat offender thinking: “it will get better”, or “maybe I’m making too much out of it”. Unless an intervention happens, and the person seeks help, the past is the best predictor of the future.

3. Move on.

It’s easier said than done. I know.  For some of us, the familiar pain is preferred to the unknown healing. But it must be done. David did.  1 Samuel 17:30 He walked over to some others… Most of the cases of emotional abuse that I see in people, it takes much too long for people to come to the realization that this is not normal, things will not get better and time heals no wounds when the offender has a knife in his hands. David walked away. I can too. Everyone will not like you. That is a fact of life. Instead of obsessing with the Eliab’s in your life, concentrate on taking care of the giant.

Any other suggestions? Keep the conversation going…If you are going through a hard time right now in this area, I would love to pray for you. Leave your name or message me.