Refugees Are Human Beings! Have We Forgotten? Every Christian Should See This


Recently our world has witnessed a travesty, and a complete failure of humanity in the form of the refugee crisis.  Sadly, the events of these past weeks have revealed much about our world and how we value life. People have been persecuted, left without homes, lives destroyed in a blink of an eye. But their cries for help has been received with mixed reactions the most startling of which come from Christians. Those who are supposed to stand up for the weak and champion the cause of the broken. Those who carry the name of Christ and are supposed to be like Him. But some of these very same people are shouting with a very clear message: “Keep the refugees away”. To these Christians I offer this video.

Less arguing, More Jesus!


Jesus-weepsAs I turn on the news and go through my social media outlets, I am confronted with a blaring and disheartening observation: The world has seemingly turned its back on anything associated with religion (with a particular interest to anything that resembles Christianity).  But as sad is this scenario may be this is not what I consider disheartening.

When I see the response of “Christians” to the dilemma at hand, I am blown away by their adamant stance against leftist political leaders; the right to their expression of beliefs; the act of abortion; gay marriage (gay anything); health care; their vocal accusations of religious intolerance , the teachings of evolution in schools, and so on.  All of these things come across loud and clear from the lips of Christians.  But you know what I am not hearing from these same mouths? The Gospel.

There is one thing and one thing only that Christians should be so adamant about, and that is the Gospel. God’s glorious work (so glorious) of humbling Himself to die on a cross, to pay for the sins of many in order to make salvation possible.  This is not being preached, illustrated, or spread.  All I hear from religious people are cantankerous ramblings of the ills of society. Of course there is always the exception to the apparent norm (and for these I am grateful).

But let’s reason for a moment.  In the scriptures, we don’t see these zealous accusations from our Lord and savior, nor do we see them from his apostles.  Rather, we see a furious zeal for the spreading of the Gospel; the Kingdom of God and the Good news of a risen savior.  In fact, when the issue of “righteousness” or adherence to the law was brought up against the gentiles, Paul pointed them to freedom in Christ rather than a flurry of “don’t do this and don’t do that”(pretty much the whole book of 1 Corinthians).  So the argument that I keep hearing is “so are you saying that Christians can sin and live a godless life and is still ok?”.  Those who possess the Holy Spirit will know the foolishness of this argument, for those who have the Holy Spirit are compelled towards righteousness.  This is a Law, there is no mistake in this. If you claim to be a Christian, filled with the Spirit and have no desire towards righteousness; sorry to break to you but you don’t have the Holy Spirit (i.e. you’re not a Christian).

Sadly, it is this same truth that “Christians” miss.  God did not send us out into the world to convict it of sin.  HE does that.  He sent us out into the world to show them where and who to turn to WHEN they are convicted.  He sent us to tell them about Him.

Do they sin? Absolutely, but what do you expect? Would you expect an elephant to climb a tree? Or a snake to fly across the skies? Sinners act according to their nature, you can’t expect anything else.  Moreover, the battle for righteousness or conviction is not waged by us, is waged by God.  It is Him who begins the work of conviction.  As a youth pastor friend of mine once said, “If someone can convince your mind of something, someone else can convince your mind of something else”.  Meaning, we are not the ones who should be doing the convincing here.  But if the spirit has truly taken a hold of you, there is no need for “convincing”, the spirit will guide.

Do you not see this; those of you who are so loud to testify against these petty things?  It’s as if you are wasting your time plucking the leaves of an invasive weed without pulling it from the roots in hopes that this weed dies.  How foolish!  You must extract the weed from its roots in order for it to die and not spread.

The root issue in our world is the rejection of Christ.  That’s it.  It’s not gay marriage, it’s not Obama (I see what some of you say about him in your posts…but that’s a different blog), it’s not our health care, its’ not abortion, it’s not any of the above! It’s Jesus. Plain and simple.

Stop rolling around in the quagmire of futileness and pick up the banner of love.  Let people be drawn to the beauty of Christ and not to the reasoning (or lack of) of vain and unnecessary arguments. Does not Christ say, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me”?  Let’s start lifting HIM up, not ourselves, for scripture says “Knowledge puffeth up” but God, “resists the proud” and “Gives grace to the humble”.

Pick up the mantle of love.  Pick up the mantle of Christ.  Let’s lift his banner and see what HE does!

Amen?

Juan Castillo

 

The truth about a realistic view of life.


ImageYou could argue that people fall within three categories; those who are positive; those who are pessimists; and those who fall somewhere in between as realists.

Positive people tend to live in an idealistic world where possibilities exist everywhere and nothing is really unattainable.  On the other hand, pessimists live in a cynical world where nothing could ever be too good (or good at all) and everything has a streak of negativism.  These two are the polar extremes to the human psyche.

Yet somewhere in between the two extremes there exists what is commonly known as the realists.  These people choose to see the world as “it is” with no delusion of extreme hope for something that seems impossible.  They’re not necessarily negative and their positivism have a “realistic” limit.  Sounds like a good balance overall…

Except for its flawed assumption. 

Those who profess to be realists assume to know what’s real.  No, I’m not one of those philosophers who argue against reality; rather I propose that we don’t fully understand it.

Let me explain

Those who are positive will see situations in an ideal light.  Some could argue that their idealism is too much or unbalanced.  However, when you look at great people in history or even people we consider great today, we find a common thread:

They chose to believe in what was ideally possible, not in what was considered realistically impossible.

Martin Luther King had a dream; a seemingly impossible dream.   But his dream became reality (to some point…but that’s a different blog).  Napoleon had a seemingly impossible dream, idealistic and seemingly unattainable.  But today, we know him for the fulfillment of his dream.  Steve Jobs had a dream.  He suffered some setbacks which made his dream seem like impossibility yet today we know him as one of the greatest businessman ever (among other things).

But here is the kicker,

Jesus showed us that what we understand to be “reality” is probably the worst illusion ever.  He taught us to pray prayers that where seemingly impossible (if you have the faith of a mustard seed you can tell this mountain to move and it will move…Matthew 17:20).  He challenged us to do things that where seemingly impossible (peter walking on the water Matthew 14:22-33). And what’s even more shocking, is the fact that Jesus said, we could do greater works than Him (John 14:12).

If you want to be a realist, that’s fine:

But understand that realism is much more than what we comprehend.  That which is real will always push us to our limits and arguably beyond it.  Realism will always keep us looking at that which is ideal, because the truth of it all is that we really don’t comprehend reality.  We barely comprehend ourselves!  So in order to do anything worthwhile, we have to look at that which we have no comprehension off.  We have to look at the ideal.

Don’t let negativism and “realism” hold you back from doing something great.

You are meant for greatness.  

You are created with a purpose.

And that purpose is not bound by our understanding of that which is real.

Juan Castillo Jr.

Missed flight at the Gainesville airport (yet stillness comes)


Here is a post I meant to upload while on the recent trip to New York concerning my airport experience:

It’s 5:10am when we arrive at the airport. The plane leaves at 5:20am. I grab my duffle bag and give my friend a quick wave good bye as I hurry to the checkout desk. As I feared; boarding has been closed and the workers are at the gate helping the plane leave.  Anger starts to rise as I stare in disbelief at the empty counter.  “How can they just leave the checkout stand without personnel?” I think to myself as I grab my phone and call customer service.  This flight is important to me for my final destination is New York to see my grandmother.  However, as I speak to a very cordial and helpful customer service rep (no exaggeration or sarcasm) I start to realize something.  God is in control.  Sure I should have arrived 30 minutes early like they tell you to do.  But I didn’t. This state of ill fortune is my fault. However, even as I am tempted to sulk about my present predicament, I hear His small still voice.  Truth is, if I was meant to be on this plane, I would have been on this plane.

I don’t know why nor do I think I’m supposed to know why; but this I know: I was not supposed to be on that plane.

As this sense of still comes over me the friendly customer service rep on the phone tells me that they can put me on another plane but I needed to talk to rep at the airport.  I thank her and hang up. I am oddly at peace.

The attendants approaches the counter and I enter the line (with no one in it mind you).  Another friendly attendant motions me to come forth.  As I hand her my ID she notices that I paid for a priority seat on my original flight (only seat available so I had to pay $25 extra bucks). She kindly refunds that charge. My ticket has now been reduced in price by $25 bucks.  As she hands me my new itinerary I thank her and sit in the lobby.  The next flight leaves at 10am. It is 7am as I write this post.  There’s no one around me except the worker at the bar who’s staring at me all weird.  Maybe because I look like a hobo with my over grown hair and beard (I desperately need a haircut).  Or maybe it’s because of my new camera that currently hangs around my neck. Regardless, I am at peace.  As quickly as my anger rose, it has been replaced with a very strong sense of peace….three hours left till my flight gets here.  Good time to catch up on posts that should have been posted a long time ago yet hasn’t due to school’s insanity. Three hours of no one around…oops, one person just arrived.  My people watching hobby kicks in…No worries though. I need to write.

The night I sat next to a crazy drunk homeless guy


I had just finished witnessing one of my best friend’s wedding.  As I stood beside the now dimly lit bus stop, two things went through my head and one of those things was the realization that the man sitting on the bus stop bench was homeless (and from the looks of it, drunk…you don’t want to know the second thing….trust me).  As I halted a few feet away, the man proceeded to stare at me and say: “Hey, come sit here”, while patting the bench right next to him.  My options as I saw it where:

  1. Run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  2. Yell “Help, Help” and run away from the crazy drunk homeless guy.
  3. Sit next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.

For whatever reason options 1 and 2 somehow escaped my approval and instead I sat next to the crazy drunk homeless guy.  He proceeded to tell me that he was known as Big Country around this part of town and that he was a Christian…Followed by the fact that he was a bad ass mother%^&@# a dichotomy that I found slightly amusing.

As I sat there for what seemed like hours, he began to tell me stories about his girl who was in jail and was getting out tomorrow (by now she’s probably out) and how he missed her.  He proceeded to tell me that he was a Vietnam vet and further substantiated his vet status by lifting his shirt, revealing a considerably hairy chest with a significantly huge scar.  He then proceeded to show me bullet wounds and knife stabs.

As the conversation continued, I no longer cared if he was a crazy drunk homeless guy.  As the conversation continued, and tears began to fall from his eyes; I just did not care.  I wrapped my arm around him and tried to console his tears as he remembered the atrocities of a horrific war.  We talked about the fact that I was a student, and he asked me to write a column about him.  I told him I would.

The bus approached and I looked at my watch.  It had been exactly 19 minutes since we started talking, but it seemed so much longer and to some degree I wanted to chat some more.  As I started to go into the bus he followed me in and gave me a huge hug followed by a kiss on the cheek (awkward? Yes).  Then he said, don’t forget to write that column.

My Greyhound’s decision to be near me…Our decision to be near Him?


SONY DSC

Or she could be outside, running around like she loves to do 🙂

My room door is open and so are all the other doors in my apartment (for the exception of the front door).  She has the freedom to go wherever she wants in this apartment.  She can go to the kitchen, living room, bathroom, patio, or the dining room.  Yet out of all of those rooms; out of all of those options, she chooses to lie down next to me.  She’s not talking, whining, barking, or doing anything specifically to get my attention; she’s just lying by my side.  She doesn’t have to.  She could very well lay in the living room where there’s more space, or lay in kitchen where there is food (or at least the smell of it), maybe even the bathroom (don’t know why anyone would want to lay down on the bathroom but hey, it’s an option).  She can do all of these, yet my greyhound chooses to lie by my side.

The truth is that’s all she needs to do.  The truth is that’s more than enough for me to know she loves me.  I won’t require her to sit obediently, though I guess I could.  I won’t require her to perform tricks or wonders.  I won’t even require her to lay a certain way.  No; just the fact that she is here, when she could be anywhere else is more than enough for me.

I am content knowing she is content.  I am happy knowing I bring her joy.  She is mine and I am hers.  She is my daughter and I am herTia nut2 dad.  Nothing she could ever do could ever change that; ever.

I understand this fact.  But I being evil can comprehend the shadow of love; the immutability of that which is true;  the fact that my Greyhound named Tia is perfect, no matter what she does or does not do; how much more the Father.  I am after all human.  But God is perfect.  If I being human can share an unchangeable love for my dog; how much more the Father’s love for His children?

My dog delights me with her very presence.  Could it be possible that our very presence delights the Lord?  Could our conscious decision to be near to God as opposed to anywhere else truly please Him?  To lie down in God’s room, as opposed to the world’s kitchen, living room, dining room, or even worse, bathroom.  Oh Lord, that I may be like my dog.  That my every breath become a declaration of the want to be near you.  That I may see your room with delight not a duty; and that I may enter it knowing that I am welcome to lie down and just enjoy You.

Christian…and failing


God Is An Astronaut

It’s easy to get into the mindset of perfection especially when you are a Christian. I mean we serve a perfect Father, why wouldn’t we have to be perfect right?  On top of that, doesn’t the bible say we have to be perfect? (Matthew 5:48 by the way) and wasn’t Jesus perfect when He came to earth and we are to follow in His footsteps?  I’m being rhetorical here but you can see how easy it is to start to believe perfection is our immediate goal.  The problem with this scenario of perfection is the point when you realize that you are not perfect.  You know, that point when you realize that after so many times of trying so hard to be good and not to fall, you fall anyways.  It’s that moment when you are afraid to pray and ask for forgiveness because you have prayed that same prayer more than 70×7.  What do you then?

It’s not easy when you are used to riding the spiritual highs and end up in a spiritual low, especially when you know you could have done something otherwise that would have kept you from going into the spiritual low to begin with.   Indeed, this is where I found myself these past few weeks.  It’s nice when you are at a spiritual point that you feel as if an atomic bomb could go off and you would remain unscathed.  It’s awesome to look back and see how well you have progressed and how clean you have remained from the chains of the sins you are so used to battling with.  Nevertheless, there are those times, when it feels as if all that is needed is a slight puff from the wind to send you rolling into 500 feet of murk and grime.  There are those times when stumbling becomes almost second nature….Stumbling? More like hopelessly falling and breaking all your bones while heading down a 90 degree precipice of endless jagged rocks.  What do you do then?  Have you failed?  Is the Lord disappointed?

I catch myself thinking these thought, feeling as if I am somehow the biggest failure ever.  Saying things like “I know better”, or “I thought I was over this” only to be confronted with the harsh and Oh so painful reality that my sin is staring at my face once again.  It’s enough to make someone (that being me) question their salvation, their standing with God, their hope for the future.  If I’m honest (which I am) I have to say that these are things that I have been battling with; that is the anger and frustration of just utter failure…at least in my eyes.  It makes matter worse when you grow in leaps and bounds to that point; that singular point, where you keep thinking “it’s done” or “it’s beaten” but the fact is, it’s not quite beaten yet.  Better said, the manifestation of the defeat is not fully visible yet.

Nevertheless, this is why right now I rejoice.  I rejoice because I have a savior.  I rejoice because on the cross 2000 years ago He saw me as I am right now; and still died.  I rejoice because I have a Savior who understands me, who was tempted just like I and even though He did not sin, He knows what I am going through.  I have a Savior who desires for me to be free from my sin.  But when the waves start to drown me; He is quick to extend His hand.  That’s just it; I have a Savior.  That’s all I have and really that’s all I need.  I just wish it did not take 500 feet of murk and grime to see that.  Nevertheless, I find that God is not good at math, because He keeps forgiving me…and I know is way past 70×7.

Strugglin’


Saarbrücken, HTW, Mathematics Workshop

The other day I noticed a fellow student who understood math like the back of his hand.  Not much to understand on the back of your hand I guess….but I digress.  To him, math came easy, super easy.  I on the other hand struggle with 2+2…..which equals….4….I think.

As my college friend stood there in his mathematical triumph and genius (and I as coward with the shame of my defeat), I proposed the fact that I knew how to design and use design 3D software…something my mathematical friend was not keen to.  In fact, so “unkeen” was he to the notion of design that I could not help but to puff up my chest and revel in my superiority… (Hey give me break, I take it where I can find it!).

Where am I going with this (I am sure you are asking by now).  Our struggles are not that different than this interaction.  Some, have come to a place in their lives where their strength to overcome certain situations is greater than someone else who may struggle with the same situation.  This could be a catalyst for pride (and for making your fellow brother feel…inferior).  Nevertheless, your fellow brother may possess strengths of his own that could make you feel inadequate.

The point is, there is a reason why we need each other in the body of Christ.  There is also a reason why we need to be humble.  My strength is in the Lord.  If I overcome it’s because of Him, not because I did anything special.  Ultimately, our victories are to benefit the Body; to bear each other’s burdens and to lift each other up.  Don’t let your testimony become a weapon of humiliation; rather work hard to let your testimony truly point people to Jesus.

Love you all,

Juan

Bloody race


The race has been long and arduous as I have traveled through hills, valleys, and plains of empty.  The bends have been many and the roads have not lacked treachery.  Yet, around the last bend my eyes meet the finish line; at the distance of patience and as close as a thought.  My heart takes light as the ending manifest itself.  Yet, here in this moment, the roads reveal yet another treachery, thus catching my feet and making fall.  The moment in the air failed to describe the encounter with the floor, but I would not have to wait long for this moment to become clear.  No description needed, I now knew.

First, my hands made contact as momentum slid the weight of my body down and forward.  Pebbles, rocks, glass, and sand clung to my flesh and instantly married it.  Not a happy union and close to death doing them part.  Pain sent signals to my brain from all parts of the now motionless body hunkered on a steaming summer pavement yet strength to move failed me.  The roads treachery has finally caught up to my speeding near success.

I lay motionless on that floor as I heard the footsteps of a competitor nearing the bend.  Time was his name and he now past me by in camouflaged race shorts and shirt attire.  His face took no heed to my distress as he flew on by.  My eyes would thus torture me with the sight of his arrival to the finish line.  I had to get up.

As I mustered the strength to rise, my body screamed in agony.  Blood now blanketed me like marinated meat as I ventured towards the action of racing.  My white racing shoes now sported a pinkish brown juxtaposition of blood and mud.  Yet rain was not the culprit of the mud.   My stride was awkward and my breath short when my strength failed me yet once again. With no energy to ask my arms to protect me,  I leave my face to endure a painful reunion with the floor.  Pain is now complete.

As I lay on my familiar acquaintance, I hear the heavy footsteps of another racer as he passes by and waves goodbye.  Hope is her name and a strong runner is she.  “I can’t let her win” I think to myself, but before that sentence is finished, hope is gone out of my sight, across the finish line and out of this race.

Pain binds me and keeps me near the treacherous floor.  I hate them both and so I muster to at least leave one behind.  I rise, carrying pain on my shoulders.  Yet, pain is heavy and drags me back down to my most unwanted acquaintance; the floor.  I lay there feeling the welcoming embrace of both pain and floor as the other racers pass by.  Defeat; crosses the finish line. Discouragement; crosses the finish line. Anger, doubt, faith, peace, joy, perseverance and all the rest cross the finish line.  I lay there waiting for my end for there is only one more racer and I hear his footsteps.  There’s nothing else I can do.  I lay here and accept my defeat.

The footsteps stop.  I lack the strength to open my eyes but somehow I know the racer is staring at me.  I feel my body rise…my whole body.  I am being carried.  The only person that could be possibly be lifting me is the last racer.  I find my pain is disappearing as I give in to the racer’s embrace.  Strength slowly comes to my body as I open my eyes in time to see the finish line ribbon pass by.  I have crossed the finish line.  I tilt my head forward to see the racer’s face.  As I suspected, it is him!  Grace is His name.

Stopping for the wind: Life lived


Orange blossom

Orange blossom (Photo credit: Shakespearesmonkey)

I saw a martial arts movie (starring Jet Li…I forget the name of the movie though) where the protagonist, an insanely awesome martial artist (that would be Jet Li), somehow finds himself away from his home; on a farm.  A humbling experience for the protagonist for he is not originally poor.  Nevertheless, on this farm, the protagonist, via farming and his new friend, learns profound lessons about humility, responsibility and honor.  At any rate, the reason why I mention this movie (whose name I can’t remember) is because in one of the scenes, the farmers; who are busy farming, stop their activities and in unison stand up extending their arms to the wind.  Why? Because the wind was blowing.  Seriously, they

 

English: Jet Li at Fearless Premiere taken myself

English: Jet Li at Fearless Premiere taken myself (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

stopped everything they were doing, extended their arms in the air and stood there, motionless for about 5 minutes, just because the wind was blowing.

 

This event may seem simple (and weird), but I believe it speaks to a great principle that we seldom employ (actually many principles but I will articulate one in particular).  You see, the farmers stopped their work (needed to survive mind you) in order to experience the wind, something so relatively insignificant, but beautiful at the same time.  Those farmers understood that life has to be lived.  Ultimately, the calling to live is higher than the calling to work.  Don’t get me wrong, work is important, but in the list of priorities, life comes before work.  There is a great quote from the Dali Lama that states “The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, answered “Man…. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” We work so hard to be able to live, yet work so little to enjoy life.

 

What is life (oh the philosophical answers that can be given here)?  I believe life is about the little things: The rose sprinkled with the dew of dawn; the fragrance of

 

Orange Blossom on the beginning of Spring; the breeze’s gentle caress; the innocence of a puppy; the sight of a soaring eagle; the sound of a glass harmonica (best instrument ever); the call of a happy Mockingbird…  Life is really not expensive.  But in our greed and insatiable desire to forget life, we spend our hours trying to obtain paper in order that we may exchange it for items that will help us forget the simple joys in order to replace them with complications; confusions; and stress.  In the end, we are left with a fear of losing these possessions, a heightened danger for our lives because of these possessions, and a neglect of peace.  Does this mean we need to forgo buying items such as TVs, Radios, IPods, Laptops, etc?  Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  The answer to this does not lie in the items themselves but rather how we use these items.  I for one am addicted to my IPod.  Yet recently, I have started using my IPod less and I have been able to hear and enjoy the call of the birds, the sounds of the bees, etc.

 

Old People Crossing

Old People Crossing (Photo credit: schnaars)

We are on this planet for 80-100 years on average….that’s not a long time.  Moreover, we have roughly 14 to 16 workable hours in our day, nine of which (and for some more) are spent in an office, truck, car, field, etc.  In other words, are lives are at work, to make money to support ourselves.  So, should we all quit our jobs and demand to live? Maybe, but then again, maybe not.  I think that it boils down to being adamant to separate work and life.  Don’t waste your weekends, do something you enjoy.  Chores?  Should be done during the weekdays (the days already marred with work).  I am not an expert, but I think we let too many things destroy our lives.  There is a reason why God was so adamant about taking a Sabbath.  Moreover, studies show that if we allow ourselves one full day of rest, we are more productive during the week.

 

I think it’s important to sprinkle our lives with our happiness (what?): this is what I mean.  I don’t think is realistic to quit your job.  But during lunch break, make sure that your food is coupled with something you enjoy.  For example (again I’m not an expert), while I worked in a planning office here in Gainesville, I would use my lunch breaks to eat and also to go around and take photos of things I found beautiful and/or interesting (some I’ve

Park

Park (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

posted on my picture blog).  When I returned to work, not only was I satiated physically, but my mind was also more relaxed and more engaged.   So the question is, what do you enjoy?  Do you like reading? What’s your favorite book? Bring that with you to lunch.  How about drawing, how about walking? Is there a nature trail near your job?

 

Also, what’s on your desk, or in your wallet, or even on the screen saver of your phone?  My phone has a picture of my dog Tia on it.  When I look at it, it makes me smile (because Tia is the most awesome dog ever).

 

In a nutshell: find opportunities in your life to reclaim your life with the things that add to your life.  These things are usually (from my experience) small.  It could be a flower, or time at a park.  Ultimately, is your life and we have lived long enough with technology to know that it does not bring happiness, rather, that which is natural, free and abundant is what brings happiness; and only One who brings everlasting joy.

 

At any rate, I hope that we can go forward and take time to stop for the wind, or even take time to listen to the birds.  Life is simple.  We are the ones who complicate it.

 

Juan