My Black Friday Awakening.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 27, 2011 by Eric Lapata

I’ll admit it: I wasn’t brave enough to join the crowds late Thursday night as people eagerly waited for deals that retailers had to offer. However, I did drive around with my wife and nephews to check out the madness and later ventured out the next day to see if we could snag anything for cheap (For the record, my wife bought a few things, but nothing to really brag about!)

As I walked through Wal-Mart on the morning of Black Friday, I overheard people talking about the chaos that took place the previous night. One person said that he knew of at least six arrests within the first 30 minutes of Wal-Mart opening its doors. Those arrests had to do with people literally fighting over a TV, video games, or whatever they had to get to make their shopping trip a “success.” They saw worth in what they were fighting for and no one was going to get in the way of taking it from them.

Later that evening, I was driving and reflecting on the people who dedicated themselves to shopping on Black Friday. I could not shake the fact that thousands of people were lined up for hours, even days, to save money on a new XBOX 360 and Kinect . Or that people would risk being arrested to make sure they were going to watch football on their new 52 inch LED TV. As I thought about all of this, I began to become extremely bothered- not at Black Friday participants, but at myself.

You see, Black Friday shoppers showed that they would do ANYTHING in order to get their valued treasure. They showed that they would go through EXTREME measures to show the worth of their treasure. Yet, when it came to my life, I had the most AMAZING TREASURE of them all in Jesus Christ and my dedication and determination to Him didn’t even scratch the service of someone who would stay in line for hours for a new toy.

When that thought hit my mind and traveled down to my heart, something inside of me woke up. The thought of a shopper having more dedication for an electronic than my dedication for my Savior repulsed me. My soul began to scream this truth: The treasure and worth of Christ in my life needs and deserves complete and total surrender of my life. This is something I’d always known, but it took Black Friday shoppers to reveal it to me.

Here is my challenge to those who know Christ and desire to follow Him with their lives: Hold nothing back…put it all on the line…no matter what anyone says…Because He is WORTH it. 

Satan’s Truth.

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 by Eric Lapata

If you’ve ever heard Satan whisper to you that you’re not good enough for God, The Enemy is right. Alone we are not good enough for God. We have fallen short of God’s perfection. HOWEVER, that is not the end of the story. It is only the beginning.

That is why I am truly thankful for Jesus. Even though Satan may tell me I am not good enough, I can be reassured that Jesus IS good enough and through Him, God accepts me. Unconditionally. Without Exception. For Now and for Eternity.

One of my favorite songs of all time, Embracing Accusations by Shane and Shane, captures this notion that Satan may whisper his truth over us, but in reality, Satan is only pointing us to the Ultimate Truth, Jesus.

Sit back and relax in God’s arms. You’re approved in Christ.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” -Romans 8:1

 

The Deadly Disease.

Posted in Uncategorized on October 20, 2011 by Eric Lapata

People-pleasing.

A disease that has become so common in human beings that people do not even know they’ve contracted it. It begins to creep in, slowly taking over one’s mind and heart, and eventually, their individuality and uniqueness is snatched from them. It makes them do things they wouldn’t normally do, say things they wouldn’t normally say, and become someone who they never thought they would become. The disease, if not identified and dealt with, becomes deadly.

I’ve reflected on this idea of people-pleasing lately and have even seen a pattern in my own life. Too often I sell out to people’s acceptance of me to somehow garner a deep sense of value that my soul longs for.  I have come to believe and accept the lie that if a certain person likes me, or a group of people accept me, then somehow I will have worth. Yet, in the process of pleasing everyone I’ve realized a hard lesson: In striving to gain people’s approval, I lose sight of myself and God’s acceptance of me.

Do I think that it is wrong to desire to be loved and accepted by people? Absolutely not! I believe God surrounds us with people to shower us with encouragement and love. I know that I have been shaped by people around me. However, what I believe happens is that we become addicted to the approval of others and thus becomes the means to our self-worth. It’s that addiction of approval that lead us down a path that makes us into people that we never thought we would be. It enslaves us and makes us something that we are not. And, most importantly,it takes our focus off of The One that can only give us the acceptance that our lives truly desire.

If you find yourself striving for the approval of people, this may be a good time to reflect  and ask yourself a few simple questions.
1. Are there things in my life that I say or do only because I think I will be accepted for it?
2. If someone hurts me, do I not voice my opinion because I’m afraid that person won’t like me? 
3. If that person or group of people do not accept me, does it change my self-worth?
4. Have I become someone that I’m not simply because I desire to be liked?

If you have said yes to one or more of those questions, let me encourage you with a final thought. For those who long for “soul approval”, that is discovering God’s acceptance for your life, it does not come because you’re a good person. Nor does it come by doing the “right thing” or impressing Him. There are not enough good things we can do to have the approval of a Holy and Perfect God.

God’s approval for us comes in the form of Jesus. God sees us as His children BECAUSE of Christ’s sacrifice for us on the cross. God pours out His acceptance for us as a free gift; all we have to do is receive and accept it. And in the end, when we rest in God’s approval for our lives, our relationships with others function in a healthy and appropriate way.

Remember: Though the disease may be unhealthy and sometimes deadly, The Cure is better than our souls can begin to comprehend!

Our Love Story.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2011 by Eric Lapata

Below is a link to the video that my wife, Paula, and I played at the beginning of our wedding. God gave us a unique love story and we thought it would be great to share that story with everyone. Gary Yonek, a good friend and co-worker, directed and edited the video for us. I hope you enjoy our story!

I’m Just Not Good Enough.

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2011 by Eric Lapata

“I have failed too many times…I feel like right when I begin to follow Jesus, I fall on my face…I’m just not good enough.” Ever feel this way? I know I do on a daily basis. If you’re anything like me, you proclaim these words about yourself on a consistent basis. We constantly focus on our flaws, our shortcomings, and our sins and by the end of the day, we’re exhausted. Not physcially exhausted per say, but rather spirtutally and emotionally tired. If this at all resonates with your life, there is hope beyond what you can imagine.

One of the most telling stories of God’s grace that I have ever read comes in Luke 7:36-50. Luke records a unique interaction between Jesus and a woman at a religous man’s house. As Jesus sits down to eat dinner, a woman, whom we read is “immoral”, brings Jesus an expensive bottle of perfume and proceeds to fall at the feet of Jesus and weep. Talk about dinner and a show all at the same time!

The religious man, Simon, sits there and watches this unfold right before his eyes; he is in shock and cannot believe this immoral, unclean woman is touching Jesus! Jesus, knowing Simon’s thoughts, challenges his thinking:

“Then Jesus told him this story: A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?’” (Luke 8:41-42)

Of course Simon responds to Jesus by saying that the person who had the bigger debt loved the man more. Agreeing with Simon, Jesus goes on to contrast both Simon and the woman. He says that Simon never offered him water to clean his feet nor oil to put on his forehead (both customary signs of welcome  in the Jewish culture). Yet, when the woman entered the house, she collapsed at Jesus feet and washed his feet with her hair (Side note: When a person traveled back in that time, they would go from place to place on foot…wearing sandals…while stepping in horse dung that caked the roads. Imagine how disgusting Jesus’ feet must have been!) Yet, the woman didn’t care about that-she just wanted to be at Jesus’ feet.

What a difference in reaction to the presence Jesus: Simon feels like he has it all together while the woman knows she doesn’t. Simon looks at Jesus as a teacher while the woman looks at Jesus as a healer. Simon’s actions show that he doesn’t need Jesus while the woman is desperate for Him. And what does Jesus say to her? “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace” (Luke 7:48).

When our reaction to our own brokenness is like the woman’s, we find peace. Furthermore,when we get to the point where we look at ourselves and say, “I’m broken, I’m messed up, or I’m just not good enough”, let us immediately throw ourselves at Jesus feet and realize He IS good enough to set us free from anything that weighs us down.

You Only Get ONE Life.

Posted in Uncategorized on August 12, 2011 by Eric Lapata

Recently, I have been reflecting on the brevity of life. I’ve always known that we only get one life, but as of late, that thought has been haunting me. Our days are not guaranteed and at any moment, our lives can be taken away.

I do not write this to only focus on the briefness of life, but rather, I say these things to both challenge and encourage one another to reflect on the one life that we have been given.  Someday when I pass away, whether that is in 70 years or as early as tomorrow, others can look at my life and say, “Eric lived a life that mattered.” My hope is that the goal of your life is to make your life count, too.

Below I have written a few things that I want my life to be known for:

  • I want to live a life that isn’t my own. My life used to be filled with emptiness, discontentment, and futility. God REDEEMED that empty way of life through Jesus and now, I have purpose, fulfillment, and hope. I am Christ’s now- and I want Him to live through me.
  • I want my wife, Paula, to say that her dream of being married was fulfilled. I want her to say that she feels loved, cared for, accepted, and always taken care of.
  • I want my kids to someday say that their father was an exact replica of God, The TRUE Father.
  • I want to live a life that isn’t obsessed with pleasing people, but is consumed with pleasing God.
  • I want to love and forgive others because I am loved and forgiven at The Cross.
  • I want to live a life that doesn’t settle for “The American Dream” but rather, is content with God and Him alone.
  • And finally, I want to stand in the presence of Christ and after a life of serving Him and making Him known, He would utter the words: “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:23).

This is what I want my life to look like. A life that matters. A life that counts. A life not wasted. A life that can claim Paul’s words as my own: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me–the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24).

We only get ONE life. What will yours look like?

Seeing Jesus in a Homeless Woman.

Posted in Uncategorized on July 19, 2011 by Eric Lapata

Have you ever thought you were going to help someone and rather you changing their life they end up changing yours? This happened to me in the form of a homeless woman named Jeanette.

I ran into Jeanette “by chance” (by chance I mean a God-orchestarted moment) at So Others May Eat (S.O.M.E.), which is a soup kitchen in inner-city Washington D.C. Recently, The Chapel’s High School Ministry went on a mission trip to Washington D.C. to show the love of Christ to the poor, inner-city kids, the homeless.  S.O.M.E was a place where some of our students and leaders served both breakfast and lunch to those who were in need of a meal.

After serving breakfast on a  Tuesday morning, we had a few minutes to spare before getting ready to serve lunch. Another leader, Allison, and myself ran outside for a minute to grab something out of the van. Before returning inside, we ran into Jeanette. Jeanette was a sweet and kind woman who was carrying all of her life belongings in a single bag. She began the conversation with expressing her gratitude for the meal we just served her. Right away, I felt humbled by Jeanette. She had next to nothing, yet when I interacted with her, she seemed like she had everything.

After making small talk for a few moments, I didn’t want to waste an oppurtunity to tell her about Jesus. So, after thanking me once again for serving her a meal, I told her simply that we were there because we love Jesus. After the words left my mouth, my life was altered forever.

Jeanette asked me to take her hand and and she looked into my eyes. I cannot adequately describe the feeling that I had at that very moment-it was one that I have never felt before. Jeanette looked at me and simply said, “I love Jesus too. Isn’t it amazing that He gives us so much peace?” Peace. True, God-given peace. A woman who has nothing accorinding to worldly standards is talking about something that many would die to have. I stood there in utter shock knowing that my life had changed forever. I was the one that was supposed to show her Jesus, not the other way around. 

After we talked more about our common bond in Christ, she let go of my hand and we said our goodbyes. That was the last time I ever spoke to Jeanette. As I sit here and write about Jeanette, I miss her. Even though our exchange was brief, I will never forget her words, her hand in mine, and most importantly, her peace. Peace that can only come from knowing Jesus.

I’m thankful that God revealed Himself to me in a mighty, unexpected way- through the life of a homeless person who “gets it.” Though Jeanette may be poor in this world, she is definitely rich in the next one…