Statistics show that 34 percent of American children live apart from their fathers, and half of all children will be fatherless at some point during childhood.
I grew up without a father figure, but at a young age God took me under His wing. By His power, I escaped many negative effects of fatherlessness but still bore some scars. I never heard, “That’s good, son. Nice catch. Nice throw. Nice anything.”
God created us in His image to be His children. In the garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate fellowship with their Father and lived under His care. Then the deceiver enticed them. The children bought the lie and forfeited the relationship. They were suddenly afraid of their Father and foolishly tried to cover their shame with mere fig leaves. This was the first futile attempt on the part of fallen man to deal with the sinful, adverse effect of being deceived by the father of lies.
God the Father immediately put a plan in motion to restore mankind to intimate fellowship with Himself. He set out to establish a family of faith through whom He could bless the nations of the world. These chosen children of God would reveal the heavenly Father to fallen humanity.
In the historical narrative of the global Hispanic community, the Latino church has just recently experienced its own Protestant Reformation.
Although the Roman Catholic Church had prevented for centuries any significant penetration of the Reformation initiated by Martin Luther in the 1500s, the first serious Protestant impact in Latino America has come via the evangelical wing of the church—particularly the Pentecostal movement. But the trajectory of this new reformation is anything but predictable, and, as Dallas pastor David Sandoval predicts, its effects will reverberate within the walls of the church at large.
“Hispanic Evangelicals 1.0, or the first century of Latino evangelicalism, was focused on personal piety and experiential Christianity,” he notes. “Hispanic Evangelicals 2.0 will continue to do such, however they will expand their reach to include corporate piety and holiness. We focused for too long on the length of a dress, jewelry, hairstyles and physical appearance—all while our teens were getting pregnant, dropping out of school and totally disconnected from the church.
“So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NIV)
The world defines freedom as a life without any restraint: “I can do anything I want to do and say anything I want to say without anybody telling me what to do.” Everybody else may get burned by you, but you get to do it your own way. The world says you can have your freedom but only by being totally selfish.
Yet, the Bible says the only way to true freedom is through Jesus: “If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free” (John 8:36, GNT).
Real freedom is freedom from fear, where you’re truly free from guilt, from worry, from bitterness and from death. You’re free to quit pretending because you’re free to be yourself.
How do you get rid of those kinds of fears? By letting God love you! The apostle John teaches that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear...” (1 John 4:18, NIV).
Ever since God called me to preach, I’ve battled with deep insecurity about my delivery style. I can’t electrify a crowd like T.D. Jakes, pack an arena like Reinhard Bonnke or get audiences to turn sermons into trending topics on Twitter like Craig Groeschel or Steven Furtick. Those guys hit home runs when they preach. I get base hits—or strikes.
For years I felt like the reluctant Moses, who complained to God by saying, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent” (Ex. 4:10). For years the Lord kept pushing me out of my comfort zone, urging me to surrender my fears so that I would take the microphone willingly. Once He told me: “I didn’t call you to be T.D. Jakes. I called you to be you.”
On many occasions after speaking in a church or conference, I would sulk. I battled constant discouragement and wondered if my words had hit the mark. Did I preach OK? Did the message sink in? Finally I asked an older pastor if he had ever struggled with disappointment in his pulpit performance. He smiled and told me: “Son, I feel that way every Monday of my life.”
I’m learning an uncomfortable secret about preaching: Those who dare to allow God to speak through them will always squirm in holy agony. Preaching the gospel is both a glorious and a horrifying responsibility. When we speak under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and impart the very truths of Christ, we get so dangerously close to Him that our pride is challenged.
In the aftermath of recent tragic killings, such as those that have taken place in New Mexico, Connecticut and Colorado, our nation has focused on ways to curb gun violence.
But gun control proposals now circulating in Washington and in many state capitals don’t address a more important issue—the constant stream of violence put forth by the entertainment industry. Every year brings a flood of movies, not to mention cable and television programs, that are filled with violence. Whole segments of America’s music industry make their profits from song lyrics that glorify gratuitous violence, and there is seemingly an endless number of video games that are nothing more than murder simulators.
The result of this constant inundation is that our culture has been effectively desensitized to murder and mayhem. Blood-lusty Romans gathered in the Coliseum 2,000 years ago to watch people slaughtered by lions for the purpose of entertainment, and our society is no different. We gather around computers, televisions, and movie screens to watch scene after scene of more graphic violence than anything the Romans could have imagined.