“…this happens to be my seat!”

A few centuries ago when Christians came together to worship, people would stand during the service. The pews came later, and were either rented or purchased by church members. Pews were considered private property, and some people enclosed them in so-called pew boxes, or they created pews that looked different from the other pew sections in the church building. The purchase or rental of pews created an atmosphere of exclusiveness, even causing a conflict within the Methodist Episcopal Church, as in the case of B. T. Roberts.

It is funny to see how territorial we still can get when it comes to the seating in our local churches. Some people claim ownership by putting their Bible, jacket, purse, pamphlet, or any other available item on a seat, whereby others actually think that an invisible sign marks the chair to show that this is their ‘place of honor’. We get requests from the habitual latecomer to save them a seat, or we are sitting comfortable in a pew, and someone tells us nicely, but firm; “…this happens to be my seat!”

I understand that going back to seat less services is not an option, and that most of us are not familiar with the pew deeds as they were in the 1800’s. However at times it’s good to hear that the P.E.W.S. are not just there so we can sit as comfortable as possible, but that they are a reminder of the true reasons we meet as the Church.

  • Prayer; We come together to pray for others, each other, ourself, and to pursue our relationship with God (Matthew 6:9-13).
  • Evangelism; We come together to hear The Great Commission, and our responsibility as the Church towards this world (Matthew 28:19, 20).
  • Sacrificial Love; We come together be reminded that we are called to love each other as He commanded us, and to put it into practice (1 John 3:11-24).

Let’s say more often“…this happens to be your seat.”

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Lessons learned…

A few months ago I wrote a blog (Journey 2 Berlin) in which I shared about my trip to Berlin with Evangelist Mando Gonzales, Sr. Lately I’ve been thinking about our trip, and some of the things I’ve learned from him. Reflecting on the conversations we had I have to agree with the words of the Roman historian Tacitus; “Experience teaches”. I am fully aware that we can learn from our personal experiences, but how much more from the experiences of others, if we pay attention?

Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn and you will. -Vernon Howard

Little did I know that our trip to Europe was not a coincidence, but a preparation for what is to come. I could not foresee that This Journey to Europe’ would cause me to think differently. Differently because in the Urban Training Center we visited churches for 1-4 weeks partnering with-, and helping them in various ways through; drama’s, worship, evangelism, children’s ministry, and follow-up are just a few to name. However after a certain time we would return to our campus continuing our program. Not to take anything away from the effectiveness of the Urban Training Center, but we did not have to think like the pastor of a church, we were more like a van-load full of evangelists; ‘blow-in, blow-up, and blow-out’.

I am convinced that during these months in Europe God put a new desire in my spirit, mind, and heart; “to pastor a church someday”. I believe when this will happen, these Lessons learned will be helpful in pastoring a church, along with the countless lessons I still have to learn through experience, and from others;

1. Building relationships, with influential people and organizations in the community. This so-called networking can become useful at certain times, providing the needed resources in order to accomplish a particular goal, but our ultimate ambition should be to change our community.

2. Evangelism; the presence of witnessing Christians in the neighborhoods will influence the community, and it is also crucial for a church to continue to preach the gospel to the unchurched. When the church stops evangelizing, the church stopped caring, and therefore it will stop growing. Never neglect the responsibility to be ‘a fisher of men’ (Matthew 4:19)

“He who rules the streets, rules the city” -Pastor Ed Morales

3. Change; God did not save us to stay the same, but He wants us to change. It sounds too easy to be true, but as we change our community will change.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.  I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.  When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town.  I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.  Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family.  My family and I could have made an impact on our town.  Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world. -Author Unknown

4. Stewardship; when Christians are taught that the community they live in belongs to God, they begin to understand the responsebility of stewardship. Like the story in Matthew 25:14-25; the servants that became successful invested; energy, time, and money. God will give us the City and more, if we as the Church invest likewise into our community instead of keeping what we have hidden in the ground.

5. Servanthood; as the Church we are not only called to serve each other, but also our community. This is an act of love, and it will surely impact the city, and done consistently it will eventually change the city. For example the following blog  ‘I (HEART) SAN DIEGO’ by Al Valdez, senior pastor of Victory Outreach San Diego is a perfect example of a Church serving the community.

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10 reasons why to stay away from a vampire


Tales with vampires have always been popular among us mortals. We see this through the countless stories, novels, theater plays, TV series, and movies that have been dedicated towards this charismatic villain. Just think about the recent successes of the Twilight (series); over 85 million copies have been sold worldwide, and the books have been translated into 37 different languages. But regardless the popularity of Edward Cullen and many others, we all know that these blood thirsting creatures do not exist. At least I hope you do! The question may arise, why devote a blog on a folkloric being? Simply because I want to make you aware of certain individuals you might encounter (even in your local church) who have similar characteristics as vampires, and 10 reasons to stay away from them;

1. They are manipulative, and have the ability, in an almost hypnotizing way, to obtain their personal goals at the expense of other people, by using them. These individuals don’t act according moral values, a greater good, let alone godly convictions, but are…

2. Undead, meaning they are beings that are deceased yet behave as if alive. They do not have a purpose to life, nor a cause to die for, but they have an unsatisfying hunger.

3. A hunger that is fighting for its life, they are being Led by an urge, which is the motivating factor of their existence. They do whatever it takes to reach their goal, but when they don’t achieve what they desire, they snap…

4. and display a Lack of self control, and their true identity is revealed. They can become extremely angry, throw a tantrum, cry uncontrollably, or they can tell you for hours their so called problem over and over and over…

5. They suck the life out of you, and that’s how you feel after spending quite some time with them. You feel drained every time you interact with them because…

6. They don’t change, years go by and they still have the same problems, mindset, attitude, heart condition, they never grow up. Like our 104 year old Twilight friend Edward…

Isabella Swan: How old are you?
Edward Cullen: Seventeen.
Isabella Swan: How long have you been seventeen?
Edward Cullen: A while.

7. They have no reflection, and therefor they lack the ability to evaluate themselves, and to make the necessary adjustments in order to experience a radical transformation. All though their character seems unchangeable, they are excellent…

8. Shape shifters, and seem to be able to change form or identity at will. Their appearance, behavior changes like a chameleon changes its color. Their conduct shifts according to the environment, and company they find themselves in. They are actors, and in the New Testament they called them Hupokrites (hypocrite).

9. They can’t stand the Light, and avoid all situations where the possibility lingers to be exposed, or confronted. Their comfort is in the confinement of their self made ‘coffin’.

10. but the most frightening thing is that they can turn you into one of them, if you are not careful.

Unlike in the movies of Hollywood featuring this urban legend, there is no use in sprinkling these poor souls with holy water, putting garlic in their mouth, or even to drive a wooden stake through the heart. When it comes to these individuals you need a dose of patience and a lot of prayer.

Ephesians 5:1-14 (The Message)

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What To Do Now!?!


Did you ever find yourself in a place where you ask yourself this question over and over; “What to do now!?!” An ongoing mental condition, where that particular question is continuously repeating itself in your confused mind, not knowing what to do next. I have been in this state of mind a couple of times; tossing and turning during the night, and throughout the day the worries would faithfully continue. It is like being stuck in a room full with doors, and every door you open takes you to another room with doors. Uncertainty became that uninvited friend who would keep me company, showing me all my Options and the Opportunities I had, but never giving me the answer to that troublesome question: “What to do now!?!” Does this sound familiar to you, do you recognize yourself in it? Well, if you do, I have five tips that might help you when you suffer the above mentioned symptoms in seasons like this;

  1. Don’t Panic: I got this fortune cookie message in my wallet, which says; don’t panic. Not that I am the kind of person that looks for guidance in fortune cookies, but this one I have to admit was kinda special. Special enough to put in my wallet as a reminder, for moments when fear tries to take control of me, and temps me to make dumb decisions. You become like a person that is drowning, and in his panic no longer aware of his surroundings, even the help that is close by. It takes the life-guard to knock the person out to safe both of their lives, and I’m not waiting to be knocked out period!
  2. Pray: We can read the advise of the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4: 6, 7; Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. You might feel that you lost control of the situation, even of the direction that your life is heading, but remember this; God Is In Control! Never lose sight of this absolute; He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). The place were you find yourself in, might not be ideal, but with the peace of God it becomes easier to cope with, and it protects both the condition of the heart and the state of mind. Prayer puts you under the protection of God, and you prevent to ‘Three Five-ing It‘ which means to lean on your own understanding (Proverbs 3:5).
  3. Call your Pastor: With this I refer not only to pastors, but also to godly people that are able to give you godly advise. Proverbs 12:15; The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice. The reason I talk to my pastor is because, he is were I want to be, and he has been were I am at. The talks I have with him, really help me out a lot, they give me understanding, offer me insight, it makes me realize that I am not the only one experiencing this, and that I am not crazy. Take my advise in moments like these not to isolate yourself, and stay far away from people who can’t help you, or worst, join you in a panic attack!
  4. Write down the Promises: What are the promises God has given you? During times that I wonder what the future will bring, I take a piece of paper and write down all the promise scriptures God has given me so far. I look at them, read them over and over, and simply meditate on His promises for my life. Psalm 145:13 states The Lord is faithful to all His promises. I honesty can say that some of the promises I wrote down surely have come to pass, others will come to pass in His time. Seeing God’s faithfulness gives me the confidence that He who began a good work in me will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). His promises are pieces of a puzzle, and putting them together gives you a glimpse of the future He has for you (Habakkuk 2:2, 3)
  5. Stick to the Principles: When you experience a time of uncertainty, it might seem logical just to take a shot in the dark. However, when the light goes on after shooting in the dark, you will notice that you added more damage to the situation, than that you actually solved it. In situations like these learn from Galatians 6:9; Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Just stick to the basics, keep on doing the things you are certain of that they are the right things to do, and you’ll be just fine.

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EuroUTC (part 2)

You can have the desire to open a UTC, but besides students (which is not the hardest part) you also need a building. You probably understand our excitement when we heard about the building that Victory Outreach Rotterdam was planning to rent in Rhoon. The fact that the pastors of VO Rotterdam have a vision for a UTC in Europe, made it only easier.

We made our way to Rhoon, which is only a few minutes away from Rotterdam, to look at the property. The place was enormous; a building with 3 departments, room for about 80 residence, an industrial kitchen, chapel, and much more. As we walked through this place we talked about the Potential of it; a Christian Recovery Home for men and women, and off course a UTC. The facility would be rented for at least two years, maybe not a very long time, but for the UTC a good starting point. At least you have one foot in the door, and it gives you time to look for another building, especially when we see that the EuroUTC will draw many students from all around the world.

Pictures of the building in Rhoon

Whenever you do something that builds the kingdom of God, you will face Problems, or in other words Opposition. Jesus experienced this first handed as he was preaching the good news of the kingdom, and His disciples did too. We had the opportunity also, to get a little taste of it. After we made the plans in Rhoon official, the drama started. For the next few months we were featured in newspapers, the Internet, asked for a TV interview, mentioned in a TV Segment, and we had many meetings with city officials and neighborhood residence. Most of the time it wasn’t positive, and the sad thing was that the plans were not opposed, but we as people. The past lifestyle of many of our members was brought up, and that “this type of people will never change” or “they will cause for problems in our nice town”, and the list can go on and on. At one of the meetings a attendee said it nicely; Victory Outreach could’ve been the best group, but at the wrong time and in the wrong place.”

For now the plans for a UTC in Rhoon are on a hold, but the vision for a UTC in Europe is still there. The negotiations are not over yet about the property, so keep VO Rotterdam in you prayers. We need to  pray that God may open this door, or uses this situation to open another one, one that can not be shut. There is a big need, and for sure VO Rotterdam can use another place for their Christian Recovery Homes. And continue to pray with us for that window of opportunity, to see a EuroUTC becoming a reality in this part of the world.

NOTE! the links are mainly in Dutch, my apologies for this.

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EuroUTC (part 1)

The Urban Training Centers is a powerful ministry where young people are being discipled and trained for the ministry. We’ve been privileged to be involved in this ministry since 2000, and during that time we had the opportunity to be directors of both the East Coast UTC and the West Coast UTC. The UTC’s are close to our heart, because it is there were we fell deeper in love with Jesus, and here we also realized the plan and purpose God had for our lives. So, when we had to return to Europe for a season, and we were asked to look for the possibility for a UTC in Europe, we could only say; “Yes!”

The Purpose of the UTC’s is, like I mentioned earlier, to disciple and train young people for the ministry, but also to serve the many churches in their region(s). Off course there is more to it than just that, and I promise you will get a bigger picture by visiting their website and taking the time to read the UTC blogs.

We have traveled to various cities within Europe the last few months, and one thing comes to mind when you visit the churches and meet the people; Potential!

The people in the churches are hungry for more, and all though the opportunity is there to go to a UTC elsewhere, not everybody has the means or possibility to go to US, Mexico or South Africa. When you stand among these young people -in Victory Outreach we call them The GANG – listening to their testimonies, the desires they have, and their love for God, you just want them all to be able to go to the UTC. During this time of separation they can experiencing the Process, as God prepares the individual for the calling that is upon their life. It is in the UTC where they allow God to get a hold of their life, and they get a hold of God. With the program and all the training that the UTC offers, these young people will be able to make an impact in their cities, country and also this continent. Can you imagine a group of on fire young people visiting your church for a few weeks; evangelizing in the streets, ministering at the church services with music, drama, even preaching His Word? I am sure that they, you and your city will never be the same again.

We are in Europe now for 8 months, and this blog series is for all those that have a desire to enroll the UTC, those that want to send students to the UTC, and everybody else that -just like us- wants to see this vision come to pass; a EuroUTC.

If by reading this blog, you like more information concerning the UTC please visit their website, and don’t forget to leave a ‘Shout Out’.

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The Misery of Ministry

Luke 10:38-42

I love to disciple and train people in, and for the ministry. In doing so, an intentional habit is to impart valuable lessons I’ve learned through the years. Ministry has been extremely fun, challenging, adventurous and fulfilling for me, but I can also recall seasons where ministry seemed to be the cause of my agony. To be honest, at a certain moment I had to realize and to admit that it was my perspective and not so much the ministry that caused the misery. The truth was that I got distracted while doing the Lords work, I considered myself close to His purpose, not realizing how far I was from His presence.We might be able to keep the appearance for a while, but in the course of time we will suffer a severe burnout, and we should be able recognizing it before it is too late.

The Misery of Ministry becomes evident as we get distracted in doing ministry and we start to display 3 symptoms;

Complaining: This symptom occurs when we worry so much and are to busy looking at the problems; excitement becomes anxiety, worship becomes work and desire becomes duty. This is the part where our time, energy and even our finances are being used to fuel the drive to express our grief, pain, or discontent. We become so unpleasant to be around that slowly but surely even the closest people start distancing themselves from us.

If you have time to whine and complain about something then you have the time to do something about it. – Anthony J. D’Angelo, The College Blue Book

Comparing: When people start avoiding us, and involve themselves in activities other then those that occupy us, our reaction is to get upset. We become so caught up with ourselves, that I and what I do become the object of importance, and everything -and everybody else is subject to it. We compare everybody in our surrounding with ourself, and expect them to become exactly like us; a hot tempered task oriented sourpuss!

If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself – Max Ehrman

Controlling: In order to gain control we start to manipulate the authority which is placed over us and try to make them part of our team. We expect from our leaders, even from God  to make our urgency their priority. Our way of thinking has become; “It’s not what can I do for God, but what should God do for me.” We operate in a mode of despair, emergency to the point of panic, and we loose control of ourself.

You cannot control what happens to you, but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you, and in that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you. – Brian Tracy

When I start to recognize these symptoms within my own live, or when others make me aware of them, then it’s time for me to ‘step on the brake‘ and adjust my priorities. Always keep in mind, we can let ministry wait, but Jesus we should not! Ministry is servanthood and it was a servant’s work to attend the feet. Return to the feet of Jesus, to listen to what He says. There is so much that asks our attention and so many things required to be done, but only one thing is needed. We should chose what is better, and which can not be taken away from us. Ministry will always be there…

It is one of the ironies of the ministry that the very man who works in God’s name is often hardest to find time for God. The parents of Jesus lost Him at Church, and they were not the last ones to lose Him there. – Vance Havner, baptist preacher

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