Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Messenger.

Let me ask you something...be honest with yourself for a moment. Have you ever looked up a church's website and decided to attend based on who was going to preach that Sabbath? Admit it, don't worry, I can't read your mind. 

I want to share a story that occurred YEARS ago when I was not married [just so you know, I've been married for 7 years now]. It's an embarrassing story that has been embedded in my memory til this day. It was a Friday afternoon and I was planning on spending the night at a friend's house so we could attend church together the following day. We really had our hearts set on attending Community Praise Center [CPC] because we loved the style of worship and preaching [we still love it]. We especially loved to hear Pr. Henry M. Wright preach because his messages were so powerful and full of the Holy Spirit. We went online to check who was going to preach at CPC. We did not want to go if Pr. Wright wasn't going to preach. After scouring the website, we could not find the preaching schedule anywhere! So, that is when we had the "brilliant" idea of calling CPC's church office. I got on the phone and a gentleman answered. I asked, "Um, hello, I would like to know who is preaching God's word tomorrow for the 2nd service?" ::DEAD SILENCE:: on the other end of the phone. The gentleman slowly responded, "Why does it matter to you?" I had the audacity to say, "Well sir, my friend and I want to hear a sermon from the senior pastor [Pr. Henry M. Wright]." ::MORE DEAD SILENCE:: Then the gentleman laid it on me, he said, "It should NEVER matter WHO is preaching the sermon because the Lord uses his man/woman servant to preach the word." As you can imagine, I had no words except, "uhh, okay, thank you." As I was hanging up I then realized who I had been speaking to the entire time... None other than Pr. Henry M. Wright himself! I instantly thought, "Tragame tierra!" Which in English means something along the lines of "I wish the ground would swallow me up!" Needless to say, I was embarrassed. My friend and I could not believe it! I remember we sat in silence and thought of what we had just done.

It taught us an important lesson that I still remember today; God's true messengers will always have a word from the Lord for us. It does not matter if it is the most solicited pastor, one who just graduated with his or her Theology degree, or the local layman; God will always have a message for us. 

~Let us look at the message instead of the messenger that way we do not miss a tremendous blessing.~

Friday, January 18, 2013

Are We Negatively "Classically Conditioning" Others?

"Cue the salivating dogs."

Does this sound familiar to you? If you have ever taken a college Psychology course, you must know about Pavlov's dogs and how they would salivate each time they would hear the bell ring. That, my friends, is called "classical conditioning." 

Photo Credit: blog.lib.umn.edu

Photo Credit: nobelprize.org
I took Psychology 101 at Andrews University [which I highly recommend] and 'til this day, it is the course that left a huge imprint in my memory [how appropriate, right?].

Okay, let's do a quick exercise...without thinking too long, answer the questions. 

What do you think of when you see the two golden arches? 
Yes, the answer should be McDonalds

What do you think of when you see the giant check mark? 
Yes, the answer should be NIKE

What do you think of when you see "Mmm Mmm Good!" 
Yes, the answer should be Campbell's Soup

What do you think of when you hear the name or see Michael Vick? 
Did you think of his prosperous football career or did you think of his fighting dog conviction?

What do you think of when you hear the name or see President Bill Clinton?
Did you think about how almost 6 million new jobs were created in the first two years of his Administration or did you think about Monica Lewinsky?

That made you think, didn't it? The names were the "bells" and what we thought afterwards was exactly what we associate the item or person with. 

Now onto the juicy stuff...Haha. 

The other day, as I was driving to TJ Maxx during my lunch break [yes, I occasionally shop during my lunch break], I was listening to Praise 104.1 FM which is a gospel station in the Washington, DC area. Every now and then they have recordings of Christian artists and/or celebrities that say, "Hi, this is Yolanda Adams [or whomever] and you're listening to Praise 104.1." So, as I was driving, they had one air and it was Eric Benet... I am almost ashamed to say this, but the first thing to pop in my mind when he said his name was, "[his] sex addiction while he was married to Halle Berry." Horrible, I know.

But it lead me to think about how many times we see "non-celebrities" in our lives who have either erred in their personal life or even erred us and we automatically think something negative? *DING*DING*DING*{bells} "Oh there goes that girl who cheated on John Doe's cousin's brother's nephew."  "Oh, yo! Isn't that that guy who was caught stealing from his parents?" Instead of "Oh, there is Trisha...I pray she is well." and "Oh, there is Xander, I pray he is making it on his own and is content with life." 

It's definitely something to think about and something many of us may need to improve on.

Micah 7:19 says:
"...You will trample our sins under your feet and throw them at the depths of the ocean!" 

God throws all of our sins at the depths of the ocean [aka thousands of feet below us which we aren't supposed to reach]! Hallelujah. Our folly is that sometimes we do not want to forget the fall of another and hold onto it and treat the person accordingly.

It is my prayer we be able to replace our "negative" classical conditioning thoughts of others with positive ones for a pure mind and heart. Be blessed! 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

How MY "Liberalism" Has Increased MY Love For God + Others

This blog post is a heavy one for me. Just know this is MY opinion and not generalizing, just giving MY personal experience.

I'm tired of holding it in.

So, here it goes.

Growing up, I had a certain mentality about church, beliefs, norms in church, rules in church, regulations in church, what not to wear in church, etc. I enjoyed church very much [as I still do], but remember all the rules/regulations. For roughly 25 years I was in that kind of church environment. I'm not saying that the environment was detrimental for my spiritual life because I'm still standing in the Lord [thankfully], but it DID affect me. So, as I was saying, for many years I had only one picture of what church was...My view was very one dimensional, as expected.

When my husband and I finally decided to try another church just as a change of scenery, we found things that shocked us and had us gasping at times because we were not accustomed to it. Some of our acquaintances that found out from the grapevine that we transferred over to a "different" church automatically associated us with the word, "liberal." Okay, maybe the music was a little different and maybe the evangelism outreach was progressive [example: having Christian movie nights, block parties for the community, vegan cooking classes, and weight loss competitions]. Yes, we get it. It's different. It is not the Bible time method of evangelism [which for the record is very effective still], but we are living in 2013. I still remember the Y2K (remember that?) when the year 2000 seemed like an outer space age. Well, we are 13 years into it, times change. Yes, I know the word of God never changes [Amen to that], but we can ADD ways to evangelize to the community. We can execute Bible time methods, but also add 21st century methods. It won't kill ya, I promise. Okay, enough with my tangent. Back to the point.

We were labeled [and still are] as liberals. This bothered me at first until I came to the realization of something. Being submerged in a entirely different environment opened my eyes. I saw everything in a different light. I feel more loving now towards things now that before would have me judging left and right. Again, don't freak out or get puffy. This is MY experience and MINE alone [if you can relate, cool...but remember this is ME, Anissa]. Let me confess something to you who might think I am a liberal. I enjoy having instruments and occasionally clapping in my worship [gasps!]. I don't go crazy, but it doesn't bother me. But check this out, I also enjoy worship without instruments [granted, when songs are sung with vigor and not like you're at a funeral]. I can worship BOTH ways and STILL receive a blessing from uplifting a song to God. How about that for a liberal, huh?

When it comes to loving each other and most importantly, God, I feel like I love more freely now. Again, I am NOT perfect or pretend to be [trust, I have my really bad days]. I just see God in a different light now. Before I would mainly see Him as kind of an angry God [yes, I know there are 6 things God hates and 7 things that are detestable to Him like Proverbs 6:16-19 says], but now I see him more as a loving God who cares for me. He even cares about when I have a bad stomach ache [it's the little things]. He cares when He knows I am trying to be a good steward of the money He helps us find amazing sales [it's the little things]. He cares about my salvation and my spiritual well-being [it's the big things]. I can go on and on about how He cares for me. He is an almighty, powerful, but caring and loving God.

I remember years ago we would always talk about "those other guys" who always just spoke of God's love and never of His "wrath." I was the one of the ones talking about "How can these people just preach about God's love and nothing else...?" Now, I sit on the other side where God's love is frequently preached BUT it's accompanied by Biblical truths. Today I was actually debating with a friend about this subject and a quote was born, "We cannot preach truth without LOVE and we cannot preach LOVE without truth." 

I remember back then when a young person [or adult] would commit a public mistake, they'd get displayed in front of the church a-la-Scarlet Letter style. Everyone would snicker when their "charges" were read aloud. Thinking back I liken this to wolves with sharp canines just anxious to have the fresh dead meat hit their mouth. Sounds crucial, but that's how it seemed. The "dead meat" would end up being a pregnant girl with her boyfriend; an unmarried couple that had premarital relations and told someone who told someone who told someone who ended up telling an elder who ended up telling the pastor; people struggling with addiction; a spouse who cheated on their significant other; the list goes on. It was like "the town spectacle." I remember as a child, pre-teen, teen, young adult seeing people get "excommunicated" and never seeing them again.

I never want to go back to that environment. Ever. Jesus was and still is the complete opposite with us sinners. Who are we to be "superior" to Him and act a different way because we think we are upholding God's law?

It is my earnest prayer that church environments such as these are overcome by God's TRUE LOVE and uphold God's TRUE LAW. Please join me in the same prayer.  Be blessed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

"@nissa Blogs" is Featured as a Guest Blogger!

Today, I was featured as a guest blogger on Pastor Roger Hernandez's [Evangelism + Ministerial Director for Southern Union of SDA] blog! Pastor Roger was a progressive pastor within the Potomac Conference of SDA many years ago when I was a teenager.

Recently, he came to preach at the church I attend, Arise Hispanic-American SDA Church, and from what I heard [heard because I was helping in the kitchen], his sermon was awesome and it "hit home" for many 2nd and 3rd generation Latinos! Praise the Lord!

Thank you, Pastor Roger, for allowing me to be a guest blogger on your site.

P.S. I will be posting the blog post soon. Stay tuned! 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Fearfully + Wonderfully Made

This past Christmas a close group of girlfriends and I had a "Secret Santa" exchange to celebrate our friendship and the joyous season. I have been invited to participate in various “Secret Santa” activities but none have excited me like this one. Side note: Did you know that there is a website that randomizes the names and it emails each person their "Secret Santa?" I still remember the days where you had to pick a name out of a hat. LOL. Anyways, that is beside the point.

One of my friends who is an artist/graphic designer [Peety Draws] picked my name and gifted me some creative goodies (if you have me on IG, then you know exactly what I’m talking about) including an Etsy gift card! If you don’t know what Etsy is, you’ve been missing out…Google it today—you’ll thank me later. ;-)  I had never received an Etsy gift card before so the possibilities (on what to buy) were endless. Then it dawned on me. I wanted to buy an inspirational piece to hang on my wall at home to give me that little extra boost every single day.

So, I decided to buy a beautiful distressed wooden sign that has Psalm 139:14 hand painted on it from a Christian vendor named, Simply Southern Signs
. “I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).”

In a world where society labels you with certain negative things,
In a world where your boss bullies you into thinking you are incompetent + stupid, 

In a world where the media + entertainment industries pressure you into thinking you need to be a size 0, 

In a world where it seems like outer beauty is more important than inner beauty, 

Just remember that YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made by the artist of ALL artists. 

And God does not create junk. 

The beautiful wooden piece now hangs proudly at the bottom of my stairwell and every single day I glance at it and remember WHOSE I am and HOW I was created [fearfully + wonderfully].

And in the future, whenever I have the blessing and honor to be a mother, I will pass this art piece down to my child because they too will face society’s harsh realities and it is definitely a timeless message for all ages.

Dear reader, please remember... WHOSE YOU are and HOW you were created—fearfully + wonderfully. 

Be blessed.