faith

Overcoming The Slow Death of Negativity

I did it again. Something we all let happen to us. I let negativity rob me of joy. It never fails to amaze me. How I can allow something like the darkness of negativity affect me in such a way, which allows death to enter into my soul. No matter how big or how small the negativity is.

If allowed to overrun us, negativity can kill—albeit slowly.

And I think thats what really happens. When we allow negativity to enter into our hearts, we in fact are allowing death to creep it's way into our hearts and wrap its cold and lifeless fingers around our souls. We inch closer to what God never wanted for us to experience—a life dominated with worry, fear, anxiety, drought, emptiness and without hope.

Death Was Never Intended For Us

Death is something God never intended. God wants us to live an abundant life—one that is full of faith, love, compassion, peace, hope, and rest. One that chooses life instead of death.

When I allow criticism to make me question if I'm good enough or make me feel unliked, or someone else's success determine my value as a person or equating I'm a failure—I am allowing death to steal from me the abundant life that is mine in Jesus.

If you want to overcome the darkness of negativity in your life, then let joy overwhelm it.

Overcoming The Slow Death of Negativity

When we allow joy to infiltrate our hearts, we are choosing to follow the way of Jesus. One that builds up instead of tearing down. We are choosing compassion over indifference, healing instead of wounding, love over animosity, and sacrifice over survival.

Everyday we are confronted with the choice of practicing an abundant life or practicing one that is gripped by scarcity and death. It's not a matter of positive thinking as if you can think good thoughts and it will go away. This is shallow, and unrealistic mumbo jumbo—meaningless. It lends no dignity to the human experience.

No. To live and practice an abundant life requires action and faith. Action that puts hands to work and feet to the pavement—it requires you to truly forgive, handout mercy, and love unconditionally. It's a trust that believes no matter what happens and not matter how much it hurts, you will make it through—you can and will overcome the slow death of negativity. There is always hope.

I know what will happen once I publish this blog post. Negativity's darkness will creep its way into my heart and try to steal from me the life God wants me to experience and manifest—an abundant life full of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

And so it is. Who will I allow to reign in my heart? Who will dictate the outcome of my day?

A little transparency never hurt anyone... Right...

Before you read the next paragraph and freakout, just know I still love Jesus and I love His kingdom and His church...

A little transparency never hurt anyone... Right...

I'm just not sure if I love Jesus like I use to... Let me qualify this statement—it doesn't mean that I don't love Jesus and neither does it  mean that I don't want to love Jesus nor that I'm losing my faith in Him.

What I mean is at one time I had a laser focus and desire to follow Jesus with all my heart—no questions asked. Jesus was all that I needed. Back then things didn't distract me like they do now and I wasn't so focused on things I don't have.

Money, worries, my family, a some notoriety, the perfect living situation, dream job or dream vacation, everything on my wishlist at Amazon.com, sinful desires, and etc... There are times I want these things more than Jesus—I love these things more than Jesus.

Sometimes I find my lack of faith or lack of love in Jesus disturbing—I become my own worst enemy.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

And that's just it—sometimes I focus to much on what I don't have in this world or what I am not—this dissatisfaction becomes the lens on how I view God, and this affects my relationship with Him.

I allow these things to get in the way of me just spending time with Jesus. I sometimes get the feeling I'm about to say Jesus isn't enough for me.

So often I forget I already have everything I will ever need from God.

God really is worthy of our worship and our love. Yesterday was a great reminder of this fact! The resurrection of Jesus helps us realize life has a whole new meaning and it changes our view of everything.

Jesus reminds us there is more beyond this world.

I know that if this life were to end at any moment, I'd be moving on to something far greater than I could ever image. Things would become just how they should be—just how God desires them to be.

Hope is found beyond this fragile life—we should never be mislead to believe this life is all there is.

Wake Up...

Sometimes I need a WAKE UP like Easter Sunday to strengthen what remains and is about to die (Revelation 3:2).

We don't need to try harder, get busier, or accomplish more. We just need to focus and get back to what really matters—we need to spend time with Jesus and love Him.

To be honest, its not easy—there are strong temptations to want more and be more, but we must be diligent and persevere in loving Jesus and becoming more like Him.

There is no fancy way or magical formulas to spending time with Jesus—just be yourself... Seriously. And if you don't know how to be yourself, then ask God to help you be yourself.

Jesus is all we need.

Jesus is something bigger and something better than anything the world has to offer. Do you believe it?

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

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"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).

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

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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.

Missouri...

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.

Colorado...

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.

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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.

Four Liberating Truths

VergeNetworkLogoBlue-LargeI came across these four truths on the verge network website. The four truths are: God is great – so we don’t have to be in control. God is glorious – so we don’t have to fear others. God is good – so we don’t have to look elsewhere. God is gracious – so we don’t have to prove ourselves.

Below is a little snipet from the article on vergenetwork.org...

In Tim Chester’s book You Can Change he identified four liberating truths about God. He suggested that underlying all our sinful behavior and negative emotions is a failure to believe one of these truths at a functional level...

 

 

 

What are your thoughts on these four truths? Can you identify these truths about God in your daily struggle to walk by faith? In an upcoming four part series, I will blog about my interaction and discovery with these four truths, as I struggle daily to live them out as I walk by faith.

You can connect with the Verge Network for more great content and resources on gospel-centered Missional Communities: www.vergenetwork.org @VergeNetwork

Cynicism of Prayer

Prayer  

I am by no means an expert on prayer. Let me first get that out of the way... I pray, but not always with the consistancy I wish and I don't always believe my prayers get answered...

There I said it. Most of us if we were to admit it live in "shame and spiritual weariness," as Paul Miller aptly states about prayer. We are afraid to admit to God our lack of faith in His ability to do anything in our lives and thus become burned out, because we try to carry the burdens of life on our own. Our theology and practice is a "cynicism of prayer" not being heard or answered by God.

Prayer is continual and constant...

Prayer is not an item that we check-off from our todo list. It should be woven into the fabric of who we are becoming. Prayer is continual and constant.

Since for most of us prayer is something we occasionally do when the need arises or when we are in a setting or situation that calls us to pray; we do not necesarily see ourselves as people of prayer, but rather we would identify ourselves as someone who prays occassionally. Because of this it shouldn't surprise us when we become cynical about God hearing and answering our prayers.

It like the little child, who wants a sweet, but asks his or her parent once for a piece of candy and gets no response and then walks away dejected. It's always the persistent child who continually asks, sees a response from the parent and receives some sort of answer whether it be a yes, no, or not yet.prayer mountains

I'm not suggesting that God only responds to a frenzied and nagging conversation from us. Instead what I'm advocating is that through a consistent practice of us speaking with God we become aware and even sensitive to God's movement and action in our daily circumstances as He answers our prayers.

We also begin to perceive the things that God wants us to be about or ask.

By making prayer a continual and constant part of who we are and who we are becoming we become internally and visually aware of God in the midst of our lives.

 

Four characteristics to demonstrate as a person of prayer...

To break the cycle of praying with cynicism, there are four charateristics that I try to posture in my life as person of prayer...

Pray with expectancy

Pray with faith

Pray with courage

Pray with honesty

Above all, it is important for us to communicate with God about our doubts of Him hearing our prayers. To remain silent and not express our doubt that God hears our prayers can prevent us living a life on purpose for God. The courage to speak aloud this quiet cynicism is empowering and frees us to be the people of God.