That time when no one but a homeless man said hello to me...

Photo Credit: Pixabay I have this set route that I take when I walk to the office in the morning (Occasionally, I add some diversity to my route for zombie apocalypse reasons...).

Sometimes there are people along the way, and sometimes no one is within eyesight This morning the path was especially full—people were everywhere.

As I walked by them, no one said hi in response to my good morning and almost no one made eye contact.

I believe in many ways that I'm an unassuming fellow. So there should have been no sense of them being threatened by me when I said a pleasant, "how do you do."

I even tried the universal how's it going meaning I don't really want to have a lengthy conversation, but want to be polite sort of greeting.


Most of the people I walked by were looking at the cell phones, listening to music, or just completely ignored me—not even a head-nod.

Except for this one guy. He's a homeless guy who I pass by occasionally—sometimes he's not there in his spot... He said hello to me and commented on what a nice morning it was.


The video below has been making it's way around the internet. I know many of you have seen it—I felt it was applicable for the situation I experienced the other day.

Look Up

What's wrong with your grace?


Is your view of grace self-centered or other-centered?

I've been thinking about grace a lot lately. So often my view of grace becomes focused on ways for me to not deal with my sin anymore—in a way it becomes a crutch for me to not feel guilty, convicted or hurt.

I fall into a pattern of living life in my new person and freedom that self-centered grace provides for me—which isn't necessarily bad. However, when grace promotes a sense inner denial and protection of my inner-self from my outer-self or my public image, it becomes self-centered, shallow, and dishonest.

Grace is and was never intended to be self-serving, but instead altruistic in it's very nature. It's never about protection and or opacity, but about vulnerability, and transparency. The grace Jesus talks about and demonstrates is about embracing the world through the lens of love, compassion, and empathy.

Self-centered grace creates a false image of who we really are, and keeps us from drawing closer to God. It keeps us working at becoming a better person, and sets up a false dichotomy of grace earned and not freely given. It truly keeps us from becoming who we were meant to be.

Where as other-centered grace reveals our need to be totally honest with God and with the people around us. This grace requires us to seek deep renewal and meaningful life-change. It is no longer about individualism, but it is about community. While grace might start inward, it was always destined to move outward. This grace is not about me and my salvation, but it is about the salvation of others—of all creation being made new.

Here's the thing. You can't live the grace that Jesus talks about on your own power or your own strength. You need Jesus and only Jesus.

So. What's wrong with your grace?



Coolest Thing I've Heard This Week


One of the coolest things I've heard this week,

"Because your church provided dinner for us, we were able to eat together and not be spread all over the place." - A teacher from one of the schools we served.

I love it when the church helps create community. Some how and some way it's part of us fulfilling the gospel and Jesus' command to love our neighbors.

And a BIG THANKS to Eastside Church for partnering with us.

We are moving to Oregon: Something Worth Risking Your Career For.


"Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for." - Andy Stanley

This is something I've asked a time or two throughout the years. I'm not trying to beat my own drum or make myself seem more spiritual than I am—those of you who know me really well, know this is definitely not the case. The fact is however, I have asked God for this a few times throughout the years.

I want to cut to the chase. I explain the full story in the rest of this blog post. It is unusual for me to write such long blog post, but I wanted to give you— my readers as much of the full story as possible. BUT for those of you who just want to know the current status of what is going on in the Puentes family, I will tell you up front...

This past year I have asked God that question, "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." No, not necessarily in those words, but nevertheless with the same heart, meaning and intention—and He answered.

We are moving to Oregon! I have accepted a position as the new lead pastor of Ascent Christian Church in Prineville, OR. The Ascent is a four year old church plant, planted by the OCEF. There are some good things happening at The Ascent, and I am very grateful for the people, who have from the beginning, made Ascent Christian Church the best church for the city of Prineville.

Ascentcc header image 2We are super excited for this new opportunity to serve God in a new and different way! While this is a great opportunity with many positives, there will be some challenges. In many ways, The Ascent is still a church in it's infancy.

Since it is still a "new church," the church meets in a high school auditorium, there is still many ministry opportunities that need to happen, directional leadership and organization clarity need to take place, and the people need discipling and pastoring.

I will be the only paid pastor on staff, and since the church is not yet financially self-sustaining, Fina and I will have to raise a portion of our salary—which is a challenge for us because we're newbies at this... But we will trust God and follow His lead.

Our desire for The Ascent is to reach the city of Prineville, OR for the gospel of Jesus Christ! To allow the Holy Spirit to use the church to bring hope to hopeless, healing to the hurting, belonging to the marginalized, and grace to all. As a church we want to be disciples of Jesus who reflect our passion and mission to "becoming more like Jesus... together."

Our dream is that Ascent Christian Church will be a reproducible church and plant churches both locally and globally for the advancement of the gospel and the exponential movement of the kingdom of God.

Ascent 2 logo 2We would be honored to have you to partner with us by investing in us and in what God is doing through Ascent Christian Church for the city of Prineville, Oregon. We'd humbly appreciate your prayer and financial support. You can follow along with us on this journey, know how to pray for us, and hear about all that God is doing, by receiving email or snail mail updates.

Click here "Contact Page" and then click on the mail icon to send me an email. Once you send me an email, I'll add you to an email or snail mailing list—your choice, which will be sent out in January and then monthly after that. You can always call me too if you have my phone number...

ALSO... You can partner with us financially. Yep. I got to pay the bills and feed the kids, and that takes money—unfortunately... Our commitment to the church is to raise support for two years (That's $1800 a month for two years—a total of $43,200...). Any way you can help us financially would be great!

You can send financial contributions to: Ascent Christian Church P O Box 2117 Prineville, OR 97754 Make checks payable to Ascent Christian Church... Please indicate on the check "Puentes Missions" so we can apply it to the correct account. (Your contribution is a tax deductible donation).


The church website is still being developed. However, online giving is available:  (Be sure to check the box - I would like to designate this donation to a specific fund AND select: “Help Pastor Joe Puentes & Family”).


December 15th will be my last day on staff at LifeBridge Christian Church, and we will be moving to Oregon in January 2014. We will make a quick stop-off in California for Christmas (It's been 13 years since we last spent Christmas with our family. Yep, December of 2000 was the last time...) We hope you do decide to partner with us on this journey. I'm sure you will get a glimpse of what is happening in either this blog, Facebook, or on Twitter...

If you want to read more about the journey that led up to this decision, please continue reading this blog post.

The rest of the story...

The first time I asked the question "God give me a burden worth risking my career for..." it resulted in major life-change for my family and me. We left all that we had known, family, friends, church, great career, and a beautiful area of the country we grew up in (Sonoma County, CA). We, my wife and three small kids, moved to the middle of the good ol' U.S.A and stopped in Joplin, MO. We did this so we could faithfully follow God's nudging and attend Ozark Christian College and pursue a calling into full time vocational ministry.

I was twenty-eight years old, my kids were 8, 6, and 4 years of age at the time, and I left a really good job and career. This wasn't something that was leading us to bigger and better things necessarily—it was a call to trust in God fully and trust Him alone; we either stepped out in faith or not do it.


We took root in Oronogo, MO (Just outside of Joplin, MO), and felt like we were going to live there for the rest of our lives. We loved our church, our friends, and the community we called home. My wife worked at Ozark Christian College and I served on the staff at Christ's Church of Oronogo; both great ministries for the advancement of the gospel and the kingdom of God. WE LOVED it!

ccoWebHeader 2The second time I sort of asked God the question, "Ask God to burden you with something worth risking your career for" big changes again happened to the Puentes family. I need to clarify by what I mean "sort of." What I mean when I said "sort of," I was feeling a nudge from God to think beyond our comfort-zone and beyond ourselves. I was feeling a nudge to faithfully seek Him out and His leading.

I was feeling there was something beyond what we were doing, something new, and something different. NOT something better or something bigger, but something that would lead us to grow closer to Him and grow our faith more—it would cause us to trust God fully and Him alone—we either stepped out in faith or not do it.


What happened next was we found ourselves moving to gorgeous Colorado and to the scenic views of the majestic Rocky Mountains. We took a ministry position at a great church! LifeBridge Christian Church is a church that truly lives up to being the best church FOR the city and not the best church IN the city. LifeBridge is a dynamic church, both locally and globally. The best part about the church is the people and it's externally focused DNA! The people truly are the ones who make this church a special place to be.


I've never been a part of a church where her people mobilize in unprecedented ways in both dollars and physical man-hours; nothing exemplifies this more than when the recent floods that struck all up and down the state of Colorado. I say all this because I am thankful for coming to LifeBridge and for the blessing I have received. This is the place and time in my life I have matured the most.

I have learned so much about leadership, ministry, the local and global church, neighboring and missional living, being gospel-centered—and thinking bigger about church and ministry in general. I can never thank the leadership of the LifeBridge enough for letting me come and be a part of this church!

I was 34 when we left Missouri and moved to Colorado. My kids were 15, 12, 10 years of age at the time we moved to Colorado. We have made so many friends and memories during this season of life. Just like our friends in Missouri, we also consider our friends in Colorado more than friends—they are family!

Wrestling with God...

Within the past couple of years, I have been wrestling with God. I kept feeling that God was moving in my heart to do something different. I wasn't sure what it was. I thought maybe it was to leave full time ministry, live in the mountains, move to another country, become a farmer, but the one thing I knew for sure was I was suppose to not do youth ministry full time anymore.

This was huge for me to discover. I have been a youth pastor for over seventeen years and saw myself as a lifer! So I approached my senior pastor about a year ago and told him I was that it was time for me to not do youth ministry anymore—long story short, I resigned my position as youth pastor at LifeBridge and he graciously offered me a neighborhood pastor position at the church.

Well another long story short—we've had an amazing past year serving as a neighborhood pastor at LifeBridge. We have been so blessed to be a part of the story that God is writing through this great church! BUT as you have already read, we are moving on—not to something bigger or better, but to something new and different. Something that will challenge and stretch us. It will move us to a deeper faith and trust in Jesus—and Him alone.

In the end...

Photo Credit: Mullermarc, Unsplash

So me at 40 years old, and my kids being 20, 17, and 15 years of age, we are moving to Prineville, OR. We're on another adventure! We are anticipating God to do all that He has promised and more.

In the end. What I realize is that Fina and I have been writing a bigger story for our kids and ourselves. We are putting into tangible and actionable steps, a story of what it means to surrender to Jesus and faithfully follow Him wherever He leads and no matter the cost.

To be honest, we aren't some Super-Christians who have it all together. We don't always read the Bible, we don't always begin with prayer, I don't always understand the big churchy words or complex church things, we aren't always joyful, and we don't always have peace—especially when we are trying to faithfully follow Jesus.

We have a willing heart and simply obey and ask Jesus "What's my next step?" We are just trying to be obedient to our Father in heaven—we love Him because He first loved us.

This journey isn't ours alone—it also belongs to the people we've met along the way, it's the cities we have lived in, it belongs to the church locally and globally that we unite with, and ultimately it is Jesus' story because without Him, the depth and meaning to what we are living out wouldn't be there.

Superman, Underoos, and little kid career aspirations...

Photo Credit: CapedWonder Superman Imagery The last night in a conversation, my wife brought up Christopher Reeve and his Superman movies. I will go out on a limb and say I believe out of the four Superman films which starred Christopher Reeve, Superman I and II were the best Superman films to date. Reeve's himself is rumored to have said that Superman II was his favorite...

It was a great conversation. It brought back a flood of memories of my childhood.

When I was a little boy my mom would keep a little kid's journal, which would list some of the glowing accomplishments a little boy of five would have achieved: missing some teeth, got his first new lunch box for school, just started kindergarten, made a new friend, got suspended from kindergarten, AND what career aspirations a child of five wanted to be when they became adults.

For the record, I didn't necessarily get suspended in Kindergarten, I was sent home for two days because I made my friends J.J. and Sam ditch class with me. We hid in the tractor tire on the playground and didn't go back to class. Somehow this made Mrs. Link freakout... Really what happened was that J.J. and Sam sold me out to the school authorities and the Police—who were called to the school to investigate.

The main thing about the journal that I always looked forward to helping my mom fill out was the career aspirations section, also known as "what do you want to be when you grow-up" section. I looked forward to helping my mom fill this section out, because I had big plans; plans that I knew only I could achieve. And I wanted to share this fact with the world.

When I was a kid, I wanted to be...

I knew my plans and career aspirations were unique only to me. No other five year old boy on Southwood Drive, let alone all of Roseland, a southwest area of Santa Rosa, CA, would even dare dream of thinking. What I wanted to be when I became an adult was a two-fold project. First, I wanted to be Superman and then take the skills and superpowers from being Superman and turn them into becoming a Super-Assasin.

I had spent some time honing my Superman skills. First, I organized my thoughts and made a plan. I did push-ups, sit-ups, stared at my sister hoping my heat-vision rays would kick-in. I would practice saying "up, up, and away" and then jump off the couch. I even got the standard Superman uniform—Underoos...

Superman Underoos 1978I was set. The next thing to do was to put into reality all my planning, hard work, and training. So the day arrived when I had that opportunity. My mom was busy doing whatever it was mom's did, my sister was down the street at a friends house, things were set...

I put on my standard Superman uniform—my Underoos, climbed the backyard fence next to the awning of my house, shimmied up the awning, and grabbed the power-line connector which was on the roof; "voila" there I was standing on top of the world, the roof of my house.

As I was getting ready to speak the magic words, "up, up, and away" and then jump, I mean fly off the roof of my house; my aunt, who will remain nameless, happened to just be getting out of her car, look up and see me. She casually yelled at me, Joey! What are you doing? To which I replied, "Aunt.....! Look at me, I can fly like Superman!"

No one else can ever be you...

That day my dream of being a Super-Assasin didn't die, instead it was tucked away, reshaped, redefined, and redirected.

All my awkwardness that made up the little me, has been molded into who I am today. I was a creative, weird one at that I admit, who dreamed out-of-this-world and at times unusual things. I was and am an introvert, who can seamlessly interact with extroverts. In fact some people think I am a dominate extrovert, which I am not.

I loved to read books, create elaborately well researched, and historically accurate and well organized battles with my toy soldiers all by myself, but at the same time I also loved playing tag and pick-up games of football with the neighborhood kids.

I can be very messy and off the wall, but yet I like organization and structure. The creatives think I am like them, and the Type-A's think I am equally like them.

I am a thinker and contemplator, but I can also demonstrate a propensity to make impulsive and crazy decisions.

How many five year olds do you know have the creativity to think they can fly by jumping off the roof of a house, but before they do, they systematically think through all the training rigors, weapons systems, and necessary gear, like the standard Superman uniform, before they actually attempt to make the jump... Yep. That's what I thought...


This is me. I believe I was created to do some unique things in this world. Things that no one else can do, well maybe not exactly like me anyways. I was created to add a unique quality to my community of people. Something only I can bring to the group. I also believe this is true for all of us.

God has uniquely made you to be you.

Oh yes, you shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—you’re breathtaking! Body and soul, I am marvelously made! I worship in adoration—what a creation! You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something. Like an open book, you watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, The days of my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day. - Psalm 139:14 The Message

It has taken me awhile to embrace this fact and all these things about myself. The beauty of life is that there is only one you, so be yourself. No one else can ever be you. Yeah, you might need some reshaping, redefining, and redirecting, but there is only one you.

Seek to be you and only you. And then share it with others. If you don't then something will be missing from the community of people you belong to, and they might never discover who they truly are.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you became an adult?

5th wheel trailer, the open road, and community...


So it happened. Someone is living the dream I want to live, and now I am jealous. I overheard a conversation the other day where someone said their daughter and son-in-law is buying a 5th wheel trailer and hitting the open road; living, working, schooling, playing, parenting, and exploring life without the constraints that typical young families are bound by, all in a 5th wheel trailer on the open road. Mmm hmm, that sounds like the life for me...

Picture this: A young couple and their little niños exploring national parks, seeing new cities, discovering open country, being able to visit family and friends when they want to or NOT want to, and living in different spots throughout the United States... I don't know the reason why this family is doing this, but I know why I want to do it.

The thought of not being shackled by what is deemed the American dream seems so freeing to me... No, it seems so simplistic and minimalist, and so refreshing in every way imaginable.

I guess a lot of us deep down would desire to live like this wouldn't we... I mean I get overwhelmed sometimes with stuff, task lists, bills, appointments, work, attitudes, and PEOPLE... For me I sometimes feel so overly connected to everything and by everything, that I just want to disconnect from it all. I want to hit the open road and explore, be free...

The reason that so many of us want to be disconnected is not that we are overly connected, but it's because we are connecting in community in the wrong way... For many of us we seek to find our identity in the people we hangout with, in the work that we do, and in the stuff that we have. Many of us bring to the table what I like to call U.L.'s (Unidentified Life). An unidentified life is someone who doesn't know who they are, they don't know where they are going, they don't know their purpose and value, and they don't know who they belong to.

  • I suppose for a lot of us, we don't know who we are. We don't understand that we are a unique creation. An intimately involved God formed us and breathed life into us. When the Creator, after speaking into existence this place called planet earth and everything in it and formed the first first humans; He saw all that He had made and deemed everything "very good" (Genesis 1:31). We are loved by a creator, who was willing to give everything up so that we can be in a relationship with Him. Galatians 4:5-7, says that we can be adopted sons and daughters, and heirs of God the Father through the redemption that comes through Jesus. We are his best of creation and his children.


  • Many of us don't know where we are going. We don't know that the places we travel to and experience now, the jobs we have, the playing that we do, the people we meet, and the families we create all along the way are only little pit-stops to our final and eternal destination. Many times our vision for where we are heading is very short-sight. It's kinda like driving through the Tule fog in Central California. There are times when you can't see your hand if you were to put it in front of the windshield glass. Also, visibility can vary rapidly from place to place. Very quickly; visibility in only a few feet, can change from 10 feet to near zero visibility. It's easy to get lost or worse get into an accident. Life can be like that; during times of unclarity and uncertainty we need to be continuously and carefully aware of our immediate surroundings, and be reminded of where our ultimate destination is going to be (Philippians 3:20-21; Ephesians 5:15-16; Hebrews 11:1-40 & Revelation 21:1-7). This earthly place is not our home, we are travelers on an open road heading to a better place.


  • For about half my life I lived with little to no purpose. I couldn't see how I might fit into the world or what it was I brought to the table. This is true for a lot of us I suppose. For many of us we can't see our unique value and worth. No one else can contribute to the aspects of life what we uniquely can as an individual to the collective whole or the community of people we belong to. You are unique! The Creator has gifted each of us with uniqueness to add value to the whole community of people in which we belong too. "We are His workmanship create in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." - (Ephesians 2:8-10). No one can do what only you can do. You are necessary and needed by the people in your community.


  • For many of us we don't know who we belong too. This one is a toughie in this country at least. We're Americans (insert #Merica), and we don't belong to no one. We are free, we are our own people, we are independent, we have no king... I totally get this mindset, but if we would only look at it from a different way. Instead, look at it from this point of view: God has brought us back from the dead. We are no longer identified by the things that we are not or by the things that we do, but we are identified by being made fully alive in Jesus. We have been filled in Him in which the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily. Jesus is before all things and in him all things hold together. Jesus is the image of the invisible God and by him all things we created - all things were created by him and for him (Colossians 2:9-10 & 1:15-20). We are no longer our own, but we have been bought with a price, because of this we are no longer dead, we have been raised with Jesus and now our lives are hidden with Christ in God. We are not slaves, but to be God's chosen ones, holy and beloved (1 Corinthians 6:19-20 & Colossians 3:1-3; 3:12).

I like how Colossians 1:13 reads,

"He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son." 

We have been transferred from darkness to a beloved Son's kingdom, in which we too are also beloved

When we begin to learn and embrace these four realities about identity, then will seek to be connected not disconnected. Living an unidentified life is exhausting and can burnout a person, but living a life that has correctly found it's identity is invigorating and long-lasting. We are called to live in community and that community can take many shapes and forms; it can be on the open road in a 5th wheel trailer or it can be in an apartment building. It's not where you live, but how you live and who you live it for.