God is the MASTER of Blowing Minds

Missions trip fund

An envelope I received through Nyack/ATS campus mail! Giving $205 towards my missions to Brazil!

These past few weeks have been nothing short of inexplicable. I could come up with a ton of fancy words and phrases to describe the moments, encounters, prayers and day by day occurrences, but none could capture my thoughts quite like ” God is the Master of Blowing minds…”

Worship @ LCC

Holy Spirit Weekend @ Living Christ Church; Worship: Andrew Meher, Julie Hodson,  Matt Ellenberger and yours truly!


From seeing someone completely healed from a spinal injury (amongst the many who were physically, emotionally and spiritually healed during Holy Spirit weekend at my church, Living Christ church in Nyack), to watching financial provision pour in through my community to support the missions trip to Brazil,to my amazing ATS and NYACK friends who put together a wonderful last-minute Birthday party for me, God has not once stopped to amaze me recently.

CTA button for Blog ATSYes, even after the car accident (yeahhh… I crashed my car into the back of cab on the FDR…), I saw Gods incredible purpose, when I was able to share His love with my tow truck driver. Who afterwards told me, that usually Christians get angry and argue with him when he shares his beliefs and he couldn’t believe how nice I was… I mean come on; only God could put something together like that.

Fancy  Pants

My co-workers at ATS admissions showed me love on my Birthday… By writing ALL over my windows haha

God is a ninja, a master at blowing minds.

He knows exactly what we need and when we need it. He knows how to deliver, how to captivate our hearts and how go above and beyond what we could ever ask, think of, or imagine. And that’s just it, GOD DESIRES to blow our minds. He desires to do the inexplicable. He seeks for every opportunity to display His glory in our lives. He gets a thrill out of working ALLLLLLL things together for our good ( Romans 8:28). And He thoroughly enjoys putting a smile on one of His kid’s faces.

God, is a good God. Nothing, no circumstance, mishap, disease, trouble, violence, natural disaster could ever negate that truth. And truly it is up to us, to see HIM for who He is and seek HIM for what he wants to offer us; His mind-blowing presence in every corner of our lives.

Bday party

These people made my birthday a special and blessed one!

The reason my mind is being blown so much lately is because I finally understand that God wants to do the incredible and give us the incredible, because HE is the incredible one. And He wants to give us HIMSELF.

I can seek God for finances, a spouse, provisions for my job, (insert any other need here)… But friends there is something so much greater to seek God for and that’s HIM!

Don’t get me wrong; I am not saying to not pray for anything you need, I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of our prayers for all and in all things.

BUT I AM saying; SEEK HIM FIRST. You’ve heard it before, “seek first the kingdom and all its righteousness and everything else will be added onto you.” Matt 6:33

God is not a means to an end my friends. HE IS THE END. HE IS beyond anything we could ever ask for, think of, or imagine…( Ephesians 3:20)

And so my ninja God, who has so masterfully exploded my mind lately, longs to do the same for you! Because he’s a master at blowing minds and He loves to do so! =)

intentionally diverse

Me+friends from ATS/Nyack= Intentionally Diverse


Lent Devotions Day 35: “Sliding”


by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“…he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” – Psalm 40:2b


I love motorcycles.  I can now say that I used to own one.  Last summer.  For 45 days (not kidding there).

My love for bikes has been long-standing, but growing up in a home with a protective mother, the likelihood of me ever riding one was slim (actually, none).  Nevertheless, I wanted to ride.

When my wife and I moved to Pittsburgh, I met a group of God-fearing men who also loved to ride.  This was the season where my desire grew.  I was not afraid of it.  I wanted to embrace it.

One of the pastors (Ken) invited me to ride once.  I had gotten my license and had taken the safety courses.  I just didn’t have a bike.  So, I was able to ride his son’s bike… an orange Suzuki SV-1000.  This thing was a beauty.

We went on country roads and up and down hills.  We stopped for lunch and had great conversation.  I prayed as I rode and had devotions on as I enjoyed God’s beauty.

I had been riding with confidence for about two hours.  We were nearing the end of the road and had entered the long dirt driveway to the house.  I slowed down to turn and saw that Ken had stopped.  I slowed to a stop and put my feet down.  Then, a realization.  My foot, which I had placed firmly on the ground, did not stay.  It was sliding ever-so-slowly. Try as I might, all there was around was loose dirt and I had nothing to keep myself up with.  I kept sliding, with the entire weight of the bike sliding to the left with me, until it was on the ground.


You see, I thought it was all going well.  I grew so confident in my riding abilities that I let my guard down and didn’t see where I placed my foot.  This had unfortunate results.


How many times have we been moseying through life, confident in our own strengths and abilities, only to realize too late that we weren’t paying attention and we placed our support on something that gave way?

what now?

What are you leaning on these days?  Where are you standing on?  God has given you a steadfast place you can stand on.  Here is a prayer.

Lord, I repent of the places in my life where I have depended on things that were not you.  I am sorry for standing on the things in my life that were not firm and instead caused me to slip.  Lead me to the place where I am totally dependent on you.  I want to trust in You, and in You alone.

Lent Devotions Day 30: “Close”


by Rafael Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator


“Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.” – Psalm 51:11


I was putting our 5-month old son to sleep last night.  Normally, this consists of the diaper change, the “bobo” (Spanish slang/word for pacifier), and his little teddy.  I lay him down in his crib and he usually goes to sleep.  However, he has been “off” for the past day or so.  We believe it has to do with the likelihood that he’s teething.  More drool, congestion because of that, pain in gums that goes away with Baby Oragel… all the signs are there.  He was not himself.  The discomfort of what he been going through has piled up and boiled over to a point where he has not been able to put himself to sleep as easily.

I made several trips back to the room to reposition him.  I would put his bobo back into his mouth and bring the teddy bear [which he had since flung to the other side of the crib] back to his side.  Nothing worked.  Until I placed my hands close enough for him to grab me.  That. Changed. Everything.

I learned from my son that, in the midst of his pain and discomfort, all he desperately desired was to be close to his father… to feel his daddy’s embrace… to know I was there.

His circumstances didn’t change.  He’s still teething.  He’s still cranky because he’s overly tired.  He’s still overheated from the tossing and turning.  But the one thing that was different is that he felt his father.

That’s really what it’s all about.  In the midst of our pain and discomfort… in the midst of all the hurt we have… in the midst of our emotions… all we really need is to feel God close to us.

The Psalmist knew this.  Nothing else mattered.  God, do whatever you want… but don’t cast me away from your presence… don’t create a space between you and me.  Stay close to me.

what now?

God is close… whether in moments when we easily see, or quickly lose sight of… He’s there…. and many times He’s there in ways that should have been easy for us to see… had we not been distracted.  Today,… grab your journal, and write down, just in the last week, 5 different ways you knew God was there.  You might need to go into a quiet room.  Turn off the phone.  Stop the music.  Just you and God…. because He’s close… and he wants you as desperately as you want Him.

Lent Devotions Day 29: “Counterfeit”


by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator


“Then the cities of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem will go and cry to the gods to whom they make offerings, but they cannot save them in the time of their trouble.” – Jeremiah 11:12


“Show me where you spend your money, and I’ll show you what you value.”


It’s easy for us to take a week of our lives and map out everywhere we spend money in order to determine what priorities we have in our lives.  Whether it’s the daily coffee, the realistic bills, or the mundane shopping we do, there is usually something we give our finances to.

We can probably similarly look at our lives and apply the same method to determine what, in a broader sense, we give ourselves to on a daily basis.  For the sake of doing away with the cliches, let’s not throw in the “Well, I’m always thinking about God in all I do” or the “everything I do is for Him anyways.”  I’m talking about the heart stuff… you know, the stuff that no one else hears or sees.  THAT is the currency I’m speaking about.

I used to be a much angrier person than I am now.  I would live life very bitter.  I won’t stand here and claim never to get angry.  That would be a lie.  But in those moments when I would get angry, what I was saying (me, not every case, necessarily) is that my anger and self-righteousness was more important than anything else.  I had every right to be angry and bitter and I did not care who I harmed in the process.

The issue is that choosing anger and bitterness rarely (perhaps never) gives us any redemptive opportunities.  Anger and bitterness drive us deeper into despair; wallowing in our own inabilities to fix things.

These emotions are natural… I know… I get it.  It’s normal for you to feel hurt.  Things happen to us that scar us.  But we need to be careful to not stay in that emotion.  Why?  Because we run the risk of receiving what Judah received.  Our emotions are our currency, and we have been paying dividends into bitterness and anger for far too long, only to find out at the end that they have not helped us in one bit to get out of the trouble we are in.

Sure, we might get a quick-fix and get a high when we yell out at a driver on the parkway, but where does that leave us?  It didn’t wipe away the fact that driver cut you off.  It still happened.  More so, you might be angry for the rest of the day and forget why you got angry in the first place.


what now?

Let’s try something today.  When something happens that would normally make you angry and sew seeds of bitterness in you, let’s choose to bless instead of curse.  Let’s not make our self-righteousness our idols.  Let’s turn to God.  Let’s relinquish the debts we hold over people that they will never be able to pay, and allow God to take care of our troubled hearts.

Lent Devotions Day 27: “The Rescuer’s Heart”

The Rescuer’s Heart

by Luis Velez, P.A.V.E. Coordinator

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believed in him, would not perish, but have life everlasting. – John 3:16


In August 2010, as 33 miners were trapped 2,400 feet (1/2 mile) beneath the ground in a mine near Copiapo, Chile government officials decided to initiate the first phase of what would become a two day rescue mission.  The rescue operation had consisted of drilling an escape shaft that would be wide enough to fit a rescue capsule that could serve as an elevator that would bring each miner up to the surface one at a time.  After the successful drilling of a stable shaft was confirmed, the rescue capsule which could only fit one person because it was solely 21 inches in diameter was awaiting the first of eventually six rescue workers.


Manuel Gonzalez entered the capsule and was the first rescuer who would give up his own comfort, safety and possibly risk his own life by entering the capsule that would descend underground about 30 minutes to where the miners were located.  After being trapped for 68 days, the 33 miners (“Los 33”) would gain their first sight of freedom with the landing of the capsule and the emergence of rescuer Manuel Gonzalez.  Upon arrival Gonzalez then enters into what was the 33 miner’s reality for 68 days, and as one miner at a time ascended to the surface by this capsule the others waited patiently for their turn, all the while rescuer Gonzalez waited with them.  It took 24 hours for the last miner to come up to the surface.  Manuel Gonzalez would be the first rescuer to enter the mine and would be the very last person to ascend to the surface.  He had spent 25 hours in the mine.


The heart of this rescue worker reminds me of the verse found in 1st John 3:16:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”


what now?

We are left to ask ourselves:

Would we allow ourselves to set aside our own comforts and safety for the concerns and well-being of others?  Would we lay down our lives for the sake of others and be willing to go into their dark places with them and see them through, until they come to the surface better people?


Let us remember that the heart of the rescuer of our soul is in us to engage such rescue missions.

Lent Devotions Day 26: “Faith – Do You REALLY Believe In God?”

“Faith – Do You REALLY Believe in God?”

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” – Jeremiah 29:11 NLT


Do you remember hearing those testimonies growing up that struck a ‘faith’ nerve?  You know, the ones that were bold enough to trust in God’s provision for food or finances, only to hear a doorbell and find a bag of groceries at the door, or to wait until the last minute and miraculously have an unexpected check arrive in the mail?

I remember telling my wife about two years ago, “I want to be the kind of person that LIVES the faith that I profess to have.”  Sometimes I wish I knew what I were getting into.

In the move, “Evan Almighty”, I remember the interaction Morgan Freeman (playing the role of God) had with the character of Evan Baxter’s wife.  He proposed an interesting reality that, even in Hollywood, had tremendous spiritual implications and realities.

When you ask God for patience, does he strike you with patience, or does he present you with opportunities to be patient?  When you ask God for boldness, does he strike you with courage and boldness, or present you with opportunities to be bold and courageous?

This was my experience.  I asked for the type of faith I grew up hearing.  What did I get in return?  I got a plethora of opportunities to LIVE that faith out.  I couldn’t really complain for something I asked for, right?  It was hard, but I was able to go through it, and am going through it still.

When you think of ‘faith’ in the bible, perhaps the only person (or at least the first person) you think about is Abraham.  He is the father of faith.  He believed in God.

But early in life, when he was still referred to as Abram, we see an interesting scripture on him.  In Genesis 15:6, we read, “And Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.” (NLT).

Abram believed the Lord.  Have you ever believed in someone?  Has someone told you something and you believed them?

I remember asking my parents do go to McDonald’s (a desire I perhaps should NOT have had a child).  My dad would tell me would would go for our birthday or on a special day.  We did, and I believed in his word.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” – Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

How does this apply to God?  Do you REALLY believe what God says?


what now?

This is one of those moments in time where we need to remember.  Spend a few minutes meditating/praying/writing the ways in which God has already come through for you in life.  Don’t discount the small things.  How has he been there for you before?  Let that build faith for this next season.

Lent Devotions Day 25: “Letting God Be Our Refuge”

“Letting God Be Our Refuge”

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. Isaiah 43:2


Is God your refuge? “Of course.” That’s what I answered.

He is our Refuge… our Strong Tower. Of whom shall we fear?

We know the references so well that we could probably preach a sermon series on God’s faithfulness and ability to protect us.

But when we are faced with problems in our own lives… what happens then?

It dawned on me that many times, what stands between God doing or God acting is… well, me. I’m a control freak. I love taking charge, and somehow think I do a pretty darn good job at it (I really don’t by the way… it’s a proven fact).

In Luke 9, Jesus sent forth the twelve disciples.

They had been given power and authority to cast out demons and cure diseases. They were sent forth to preach the gospel. But notice what Jesus tells them to bring. He says,

“Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.”

Why in the world would Jesus tell them not to take a thing? I mean, not even water? No bread? Not even a dry cracker? NOTHING. Why?

Would they need Jesus if they had packed everything? Would they require faith if they already had all of their needs met?

Jesus teaches us a valuable lesson in how He is calling us to live.

This tugs at my core because I take joy in planning well. Planning isn’t bad necessarily, so long as it does not rob is the opportunity to trust and depend on God.

Ouch… That just hit ME.


what now?

So we have a choice… Do we see adversity and quickly run into high-gear in order to fix that which we are faced with…


Do we simply stop, use some faith, and allow God to be our Refuge? Do you trust Him? I mean…Really trust Him?

Trust is a choice.  Will you choose to trust in Him?

Lent Devotions Day 24: “When Your Life Needs Restoration”

When Your Life Needs Restoration

by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator

When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” – John 11:4

Erica and I own a house in Pittsburgh, PA. It’s currently being rented. When we bought it in 2008, it had recently been fully remodeled. The previous owner gutted it and restored it from the ground up. It’s a gorgeous home.

Two months ago we found out, however, that the front porch has some lead that is coming to the surface. If you don’t know much about lead, let’s just say its not great to be breathing in if it gets to dust form. Add to this our tenants have a 1.5 year old girl.

How is it possible that such a beautiful house can have this hidden threat inside that, if untreated, can be a carcinogen to anyone with prolonged exposure?

That’s a picture of us at times. There are moments in which God does tremendous restorative works in our lives. We move forward thinking that everything is entirely good and copacetic, but we often fail to realize the deeper, hidden things that still remain.

In our home, the heat from the dryer vent is venting directly under that porch. So, in essence, it was prolonged exposure to heat that exposed the lead. The lead could not hide anymore.

Is the lead in your life revealing itself? Can you begin to notice the once-remodeled life in need of more restoration?

Don’t fear. It’s not that bad. You see, I spoke with an expert, and while lead is bad if untreated, it is harmless if taken care of. I cannot do this on my own because I’m not an expert in this, but I’m willing to ask for help.


what now?

I pray that as the fire of God’s Holy Spirit reveals the hidden stuff inside, that you become open to the work that needs to happen. This is not going to end in death. It is so that HIS name would be glorified.

Lent Devotions Day 23: “Encounter”


by Rafael E. Lara, Worship Ministries Coordinator


Passages: There the angel of The Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush… When The Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush,… God said,… “I am the God of your father,…” – Exodus 3:2a, 4a, 5a, 6a

See also Acts 2; 9:1-20

I’m laying down, ready to go to sleep here in Redding, California. This is my first time in California. I’ve wanted to visit for quite some time, but it was the particular conference and church I will be at that provided the opportunity for God to bring me here. Kingdom Come! This is the yearly conference that Risen King Community Church in Redding, Ca has been doing for 4 years now. It has been a pivotal experience in the lives of so many who have come. I know I’ve needed to come, and I am so excited this was the time. But why am I here?

If I can sum up why I’m here in one word, it would be encounter. It’s a word that we’ve probably heard so many times. Encounter. But what does it mean?

I’m in a season in life in which God is stretching me and growing me in ways I did not expect. There is rich ministry happening at Nyack College I am really enjoying the growth in areas of development and care that God is doing in my own life as I connect with the students. But I feel this season will continue to grow and develop and other areas of ministry that I have not tapped into in my own life will begin to come out. I can sense it. But I’m not fully prepared. Why? Encounter.


The passages I wrote up there are somewhat known. Moses was called to deliver the people out of Egypt. The disciples were instructed to go and preach the word through the world, making more disciples and baptizing them. Saul,… well, that’s just another story in and of itself. He [then Paul] was the proponent of the greatest expansion of Christianity. They were all called. God used them tremendously in their own scenarios. But what is important to note is that it began,… with Encounter.

Moses didn’t just get up on a whim one day and decide to go back to Egypt. He encountered God and God sent him. Before Moses going out to do the work he was to do, He met with God… He had an Encounter.

When the disciples were in the upper room, they were there because Jesus told them (prior to ascending into heaven after his resurrection) that he would leave them a counselor. They were waiting. Holy Spirit came and filled them. They had an Encounter. It was after this that Peter preached and nearly 3,000 came to The Lord.

Saul was on an entirely different path. He was going to persecute Christians. Instead, he has an Encounter with God that changed the trajectory of his life and became the crossroads that thrust him into the ministry God had for him.

Why am I here? Encounter! I know God has something coming. I have heard it. I have sensed it. But I don’t want to jump into it until I have an Encounter!

what now? how does this affect me?
Simple. Some of you have been trying so hard to go and do the things that God’s called you to do. Maybe… just maybe, all God wants to do with you, is encounter you. Maybe he just wants to meet with you. He’s here to meet with you. Would you stop and meet with him?

Reading Helps Your Soul Level Up

When reading and listening to music, opt for music without lyrics to focus on the book's content.

Lately I’ve had quite a few reasons to read books, mostly due to class assignments and certain people’s recommendations. Hence, I’m returning to my former ways as an avid reader. Up until last year, I assumed that I was too busy to read, but one of the leadership tips I received from a school seminar was to “never stop reading.”

So far so good–I’ve read several books this semester, some alone and others along with my girlfriend. In this post I’d like to highlight some of my favorites. If you like what you read below, consider reading some of the books for yourself! The topics are very diverse, from love to leadership, so there’s a title here for everyone.


Ronald Takaki – A Different Mirror

Need a reference for solid, well-documented facts about U.S. History? Want to learn about the country from a quality, unbiased, and engaging source? Look no further than Dr. Ronald Takaki’s A Different Mirror. Takaki spent a lot of time collecting research and seeking primary sources backed up by historical evidence to piece together this thorough work. His purpose was to tell American history, not from what he calls “The Master Narrative” that casts the 400-year old country in a positive light from a majority perspective, but from “A Different Mirror.”

Many of us have observed people who haven’t quite fully assimilated to American culture and assumed they aren’t “from here.” Takaki seeks to help his audience recognize all United States citizens as “real Americans.” His book doesn’t hold back any punches either–it speaks of the atrocities that countless people suffered for this country to become a world power. If you’re looking for a horror story and a story of perseverance, you’ll soon realize that you won’t have to look any farther than unfiltered American history!


Ben Carson – Think Big

Francis Bacon observed that “worthy books are like mentors–available as companions and as solitude for refreshment.” This is one of those titles–Ben Carson lays out everything he learned that ushered him to achieve self-actualization. This includes the people who instilled into his life at crucial points, the lessons he learned from his experiences, and even his faith that grew while witnessing miracles at the medical center. Carson went from worst in his class during grade school to a world renowned brain surgeon, all because of faith and mentorship. I’ve learned all sorts of lessons reading the facts he lays out, particularly the ones he picked up from his mother’s wisdom.

According to Mr. Carson, you T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G. when you: “T is for Talent/time: Recognize them as gifts. H Hope for good things and be honest.  I Insight from people and good books. N Be nice to all people. K Knowledge: Recognize it as the key to living. B Books: Read them actively.  I In-depth learning skills: Develop them. G God. Never get too big for him!” So, are you ready to T.H.I.N.K. B.I.G.?


John Maxwell – Developing the Leader Within You

John Maxwell reflects that God desires for all of us to be leaders. So why then do only 2% of our population shape our culture while the remaining 98% are “culture zombies?” Leadership is developed, not innate; like many characteristics, hard work, discipline, and mentorship will produce a capable leader. Maxwell describes leadership simply as “influence,” but the process of influencing others starts with personal growth. If you desire to achieve new heights and influence those around you to do the same, this book is for you!

I found this work particularly helpful with my life’s work ethic as well as my participation in Nyack College NYC’s Student Government Association. In fact, what I learned from this book I put to use right away. Chapters cover thought-provoking subjects like self-discipline and integrity–fields we can all use growth in. Now in S.G.A., we cover a chapter of this book at the beginning of our meetings. Simply put, I couldn’t recommend “Developing the Leader Within You” more.


Gary Chapman – The Five Love Languages

What I love about all the books I’ve listed in this post is that they will change you if you let them. This title is no exception. Dr. Gary Chapman examines relationship(s), gives a name to the specific desires that when met fulfill couples, and admonishes the reader to meet the significant other’s need on her terms (and vice versa). The five love languages couples speak and understand are gifts, quality time, acts of service, physical touch, and words of affirmation. Not all of these languages are as straightforward as we think they are, but in this book we’re given the tools to learn and put them into practice.

The outcome of learning to “speak” your beloved’s primary love languages? Causing her or him to feel truly loved with a desire to reciprocate that love. When you go all out to appease the needs your spouse developed from childhood, you will have one bundle of joy on your hands. Fail to meet your lover’s needs, and, uh… well, Dr. Chapman is also an experienced counselor. But let’s choose the former, shall we?


God Inspired – English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible

Why am I blogging about the Bible, you may ask? This post isn’t so much about reading the Bible regularly as much as how a study Bible can augment your reading. My parents gave me a study Bible for my birthday in February with the intent to help me better understand the text. Mission success! Having a study Bible really makes the Word make sense, all the time. When we don’t understand what we’re reading, we tend to lose interest and miss out on the whole experience, right? This dilemma is a thing of the past when you use an ESV Study Bible to enhance your reading.

The study Bible comes with explanations for the chapters and verses, cross-referencing to show which verses are related, and a detailed summary of each book. Charts, maps, timelines–you name it, the study Bible has it. What are you waiting for? Get deep into the Word with a study Bible in your choice translation!


Each one of these books has mentored me in some form. I hope you accept the challenge to consider reading one or two; I can definitely testify that my mind has improved as a result of reading these books. Plus, how else will you be able to say that you’ve been mentored by Ben Carson, Gary Chapman, John Maxwell, and Paul the Apostle?

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