Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | March 6, 2017

CFK 2017 Video

Our 10th Annual Caring for Katy initiative is now history — but the memories of this special day will last a lifetime. A million thanks to each of you who served our community on Sunday, February 26. What an amazing blessing it was to see our army of volunteers being the church throughout our community. Thanks for being the hands and feet of Jesus, for demonstrating God’s love in such practical ways, for having so many conversations about Jesus, and for ultimately bringing glory to God and helping to make His name famous in the place we call home — Katy, Texas. Enjoy this cool video by our media team.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 26, 2017

Caring for Katy 2017

Ten years ago, Kingsland closed its doors on a Sunday morning. Instead of coming to church, we mobilized our members to go out into the community en masse to be the church. We challenged our small groups to identify needs in our community and then to develop a plan to meet those needs — in essence, to be the hands and feet of Jesus beyond our campus.
caring-for-katy-web-logo-02So began our first Caring for Katy. The experience turned out to be greater than we imagined. We touched the lives of so many people in need throughout our community. We engaged with widows and single moms, food pantries, community ministry partners, sister churches, recovery ministries, hurting families, the homeless, and so many others. And when it was all said and done, we discovered that God had touched our own hearts in the most meaningful of ways.

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One of the very best things about our annual Caring for Katy initiative is that it allows families to make memories of serving together. Caring for Katy is, at its core, a marriage of the home and missions. The energy that results from this synergy moves the families in our church in the direction of people in need. It allows us to model for our children what it means to regard others as Christ would.

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As we prepared for our 10th Annual Caring for Katy, we looked back to reflect on the milestones along the way. What we found was amazing. While some churches I have spoken to through the years have expressed fear of how closing their doors on a Sunday might impact their budget, we have trusted God to care for us as we venture out to care for our community. Instead of wondering what might happen to us if we help others, we have consistently asked what will happen to others if we do not help.

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We must always challenge ourselves to go beyond — to do more than sit, soak, and even sour in the pews. Like Jesus, we must boldly move in the direction of people in need and care for them as He would. This is salt leaving the salt shaker kind of stuff. This is light bursting out from under a bushel and reaching into every dark and desperate corner of our community kind of stuff. This is applied theology. This is what it means to be the church.

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Our 10th Annual Caring for Katy is now history. Today, more than two-thousand of our members expressed the love of Christ in the most practical of ways in more than thirty-five locations throughout our community. The stories I have already heard are heartwarming. From a young woman whose husband was tragically killed in a car accident to an octogenarian whose home was severely damaged by floodwaters — Jesus showed up in their lives in a real way through the hands and feet of our people.

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I am grateful to be a part of a family of faith that truly cares about and is engaged in loving and serving its community. Katy is our slice of geography. We care about what happens in our community and about our neighbors. Thank you Kingsland, for ten wonderful years of Caring for Katy. Only heaven will reveal the full impact of every act of kindness and expression of love you have shared with so many in our community.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 4, 2017

A Band of Sisters

The people of Cambodia know what it means to experience loss. Every Cambodian has a story about how their family suffered during the dark days of the Khmer Rouge. Pol Pot and his minions will forever be remembered in the history of the Khmer people as the men who filled mass graves with the bodies of their own countrymen.

The Khmer Rouge illustrate what happens when those who do not value the sanctity of human life rule the day. All hell breaks loose! Life becomes a demonic nightmare. No one is safe. Trouble is always imminent and, when it comes, will forever damage and destroy the lives of those in its path.

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As Christ-followers, we are committed to sowing seeds of life in this nation steeped in death and destruction. We continue to invest in initiatives that promote the sanctity of human life and offer the suffering the soothing balm of hope — the hope that is firmly rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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We concluded our time in Cambodia by washing the feet of the women who attended our conference. These women are among the poorest in the area around Poipet, a town regarded as the armpit of the nation. Life is hard for these women. They are unaccustomed to anyone doing anything at all for them. They live with little or no affirmation of their worth.

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Kara, our team leader, shared with the women the story of Jesus washing the feet of His disciples. I shared the same story with the men who accompanied their wives. The women listened and took notes. And then, in a move that cemented the lesson in their memories, Kara selected a woman in the room and washed her feet.

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This was not just any woman. This was a woman who understands suffering and loss. In the waning days of the Khmer Rouge, she was escorted along with thousands of others to a place where they were to be executed. Miraculously, she survived. So, when Kara started to wash her feet, this woman was overwhelmed with emotion. Why would anyone stoop to wash her feet?

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The women on our team spent the rest of the morning washing the feet of every woman in attendance and then praying for each one. There was no shortage of tears. This simple act affirmed to each of the women that they are indeed valued by God.

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Many of the Cambodian women, who have a low estimation of themselves, were astonished that someone from the west, whom they regard as the highest of the high, would stoop to wash their feet. We explained that there is no caste system in God’s kingdom. He cautions His followers to not think more highly of themselves than they ought and to always regard the interests of others.

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After the last prayer, it was hard to say goodbye. All of the women had bonded on a deep level and regarded each other as members of the same family. This was a band of sisters united by their common love for Jesus Christ and for one another. That is the beauty of the kingdom of God and what can happen when we follow the example of service set by Jesus. The simple act of washing feet enabled us to build bridges of love from one heart to another.

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Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | February 1, 2017

Company of the Passionate

Poipet, Cambodia

I am interested in the dynamics of movement — of why people will leave familiar shores and risk venturing to distant horizons. This is important because every major discovery in the history of the world has been made by those who moved in new directions despite the risk. These intrepid individuals redefined the map of the world and, in the process, redefined the geography of their own lives.

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A key component in the dynamics of movement is passion, a word that comes to us from the Latin word passus, a form of the word pati which means to suffer. Webster defines passion as “a powerful emotion or appetite” and also as “ardent love” and “boundless enthusiasm.” There are certain signs that indicate whether someone is indeed passionate.

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Passion leads to presence. Those who are passionate about something show up to make a difference or to demonstrate their support. It was a passion to alleviate the suffering of others, for example, that moved the Good Samaritan in the direction of the unfortunate robbery victim. There is no better way to demonstrate that you care than to show up — to actually be present.

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Passion also leads to perspiration — to work hard to get things done. Passionate people are not afraid of being inconvenienced or having to get their uniform dirty in order to move the ball toward the goal line. Because they believe in something greater than themselves and that serves interests beyond their own, passionate people are willing to sweat it out and to slog it out to get the job done.

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Passion is in no short supply among our Cambodia team. The folks on our team have come to Cambodia’s former killing fields to sow seeds of life and hope among the most desperate. Our first days here have been nothing less than poetry in motion. From off-loading luggage filled with supplies, setting up dental and medical clinics, preparing to teach hundreds of women what it means to be a follower of Christ, and caring for kids who live in an at-risk environment — passion is on display.

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Yesterday was an amazing day as those we have come to serve reclined in dental chairs, visited our medical clinic to find relief from aches and pains, and worshiped and studied the Scripture together. All of this punctuated with the bustle of kids playing games, enjoying crafts, and making new discoveries about what it means to be loved by God. I love the fact that when Christ-followers show up in hard places like Poipet, there is joy and gratitude among the people.

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There is no question that the passion to serve the interests of the kingdom of God has brought us here. Passion does that. It alters our priorities, helps us to see others clearly, motivates us to move in the direction of people in need, mitigates the fear of getting our hands dirty, and ultimately helps us to show a world in turmoil what it means to be an all-in follower of Jesus Christ. I am grateful to be in the company of the passionate.

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Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 31, 2017

Return to Cambodia

The journey from my suburban home to the slums of Poipet in western Cambodia is long — really long no matter which way you travel. The only thing that makes the trip bearable is knowing that my heart is inclined in the direction of the poor and needy.

I live with the daily pressure of concern for the many peoples I have been privileged to serve over the years. I can no longer remember what it was like to go to bed free of this concern. It both calls and drives me. It troubles me when it suspects I am starting to slink into the comforts of my suburban life.

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Thus another long journey away from the conveniences of home. Long journeys like this are made more bearable when shared with others whose hearts beat in sync with my own. While I never mind traveling alone, I cherish the days that I am with like-hearted companions who also desire to be the hands and feet of Jesus among the least of these.

And so, I have returned to Cambodia, but not alone. My friend Kara Potts serves as our missions ministry’s point person for our work among the Khmer and did an excellent job of mobilizing and preparing our team. I have returned to Cambodia with friends.

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Over the coming days our team will serve the women and children who live in Poipet, one of the least favored parts of Cambodia. Life in this border town is hard. And it is also dangerous because it’s a favorite hunting ground of those who traffic in human beings. Those who have no regard for the sanctity of human life prosper in places like this.

Our work here is strategic and our efforts preemptive in the battle for life and the struggle against human trafficking. Our presence and the resources we invest are making a difference in the lives of the women and children we serve in partnership with our good friend Steve Hyde, the Iowa farm boy turned missionary who knows he will one day be buried here.

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And so, we have returned to Cambodia to do good — because that is what Jesus would do. We are here to affirm the value of human life, to care for the practical needs of the poor, to offer medical and dental help, to invest in women so that they in turn will be better moms and steer their households toward the life and freedom found in Jesus.

We are a long way from home and that’s ok. As Kara reminded our team last night, we have come here to live out the words of the Apostle Paul who admonished the Philippian church to do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but instead, in humility, to regard others as more important than themselves. And that is exactly what we intend to do.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 16, 2017

Serving Together

At Kingsland, we value the joy of going beyond — cultivating a spirit of generosity and service that benefits the Kingdom rather than our own agendas. In the context of church life, we acknowledge that every member has been uniquely gifted to serve the Body, and we value opportunities to discover and use those gifts to serve others. We call this “selfless influence” (service) — one of our core values. We further believe that the scope of this high calling begins in our homes and extends to the ends of the earth.

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Selfless influence is a core value that requires movement toward those in need. Whether we move in the direction of others through our prayers or our presence, we must move in their direction in order to live out this core value. The Good Samaritan exercised selfless influence by moving toward a man in desperate need and made a difference in that man’s life. We must do no less. That’s why we are committed to weaving this value into the very fabric of life at Kingsland.

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Last week we challenged our members to contribute canned goods and hygiene items to benefit five of our food pantry partners in Katy and in the greater Houston area. The response was indeed selfless as our folks brought by items throughout the week. In addition, we ordered 11,000 pounds of rice and beans to repackage into quart-size bags for easier distribution by our food pantry partners.

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On Saturday, more than 300 hundred of our students gathered at the church to sort and box canned goods and hygiene items and bags of rice and beans. The energy was through the roof as our students worked and loaded the trucks that would carry the donated items to the various food pantries for distribution to people in need. Because of their work, thousands of pounds of food is moving in the direction of people in need — a beautiful demonstration of God’s love in action.

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Thanks to the Kingsland family, our students, and to Kayla Self for taking point on this initiative. By working together we have helped our partners to continue their compassionate work of helping families in need throughout our community. And by working together we have once again demonstrated that loving and selflessly serving others is an indispensable component of our biblical worldview and a hallmark of what it means to be followers of Christ.

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Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | January 11, 2017

Trouble

Trouble. There are few things that can wear you down and wear you out as quickly as trouble. Every human being on the planet knows what it means to be in trouble, to experience trouble, and to feel the suffocating weight of trouble. Trouble is, after all, a part of the human condition. No one is exempt from facing troubles.

Jesus understood the dynamics of trouble. On one occasion, He urged Peter and the other disciples to stop being “troubled” (Jn. 14:1). Jesus used a word that described an ocean caught in the teeth of a storm. Storms have a way of tearing our confidence to shreds and leaving us fearfully clinging to any scrap of hope that can keep us afloat.

Speaking of storms, waves are often used in Scripture as a metaphor for trouble in our lives. In the forty-second Psalm, the writer expressed sadness as wave after wave swept over him. He felt as though one wave was calling and inviting another to beat him down. His troubles seemed relentless.

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Ultimately, the psalmist understood that God is in control — that everything that troubled him would be kept under a divine check and achieve divine purposes. “You rule the raging of the sea,” the psalmist wrote, “when its waves rise, you still them” (Ps. 89:9). And indeed He does. In the words of a modern-day songwriter, sometimes He calms the storm and other times He calms our hearts.

I love the Psalms. There are times when the psalms speak to us. And then there are times when we are so troubled that the psalms speak for us — times when we are in such utter distress that we must borrow the language of the psalms to cry out to God. No matter what troubles you may be facing, you can find your voice in the psalms.

Over the years I have made it a practice to do a couple of things when I am caught in the teeth of a storm. First, I make it a point to read the psalms because, eventually, I find that the psalmist has already expressed exactly what I want to say to God. And it’s ok to use the language of the psalms to complain or to cry out to God in our seasons of trouble.

Second, I make it a point to find some modern-day psalms, essentially Scripture-based songs that express exactly what I am feeling and what I want to say to God. I do this not because I am without words but because I am comforted by the fact that somebody else understands my pain and has survived it. That in itself is good medicine.

So, trouble will come sooner or later. It may linger for a moment or stay for a season. When trouble comes and the sea around you becomes restless, turn to the One who can calm storms and hearts. Trust Him to keep you afloat and to see you through to safe harbor. Look to the Psalms for your bearings and trust the One who rules the raging of the sea.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 26, 2016

On the Feast of Stephen

“Good King Wenceslas” is one of the lesser-known Christmas carols and yet one with a beautiful message. In brief, the carol is about a king and his page who set off on a cold winter day to help a less fortunate individual. They embarked on their compassionate journey, the story goes, “on the Feast of Stephen, when the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even.”

The Feast of Stephen is one of the lesser-known Christian holidays, at least among many in the West. The day after Christmas on the Christian calendar is known as the Feast of Stephen or Saint Stephen’s Day. What makes this particular holiday so interesting is that one day after we celebrate the birth of Jesus we commemorate the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr.

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The seventh chapter of Acts records the account of Stephen’s death at the hands of an angry mob. Stephen was one of the original seven deacons who helped the apostles meet the needs of widows in the early church. He is described as “a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit” and also “full of grace and power.” He was stoned after preaching a powerful sermon about Jesus.

Just before he died, Stephen “gazed into heaven” and saw “Jesus standing at the right hand of God.” The Bible makes it clear that after completing His redemptive work and returning to heaven, Jesus “sat” at the right hand of the heavenly Father. However, when Stephen died, Luke recorded that Jesus was “standing.” Interesting! Perhaps Jesus stood to welcome Stephen, the first of many martyrs, home.

Martyrdom is not a thing of the past. Since the time of Stephen, many faithful Christ-followers have paid the ultimate price for their devotion to Christ. More Christians were martyred in the twentieth century than in the previous nineteen centuries combined.

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and the more recently published Jesus Freaks record the moving accounts of Christian martyrs — individuals of whom the world was not worthy. By some estimates, 100 million Christians around the world are currently suffering some form of persecution for their faith — including abuse, intimidation, threats, imprisonment, hostilities, and death.

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The reality is that while we live our lives in relative safety, many Christ-followers in the world today will never know what it means to live a single day without the threat of violence for no other reason than they are Christ-followers. The task of reaching the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ will not be accomplished without the blood of the martyrs. History illustrates, however, that no act of persecution or terror against Christ-followers will halt the advance of the gospel.

And so, on this day after Christmas, may we remember, reflect, and pray for all those who are suffering some form of persecution, loss, and abuse at the hands of those who are hostile to the good news of Jesus Christ. And just as Stephen prayed for those who persecuted him, let’s pray for those who mistakenly believe that their acts of hatred, terror, and violence will frustrate the purposes of God. God’s purposes will ultimately prevail.

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 19, 2016

An Atheist Christmas

The group known as American Atheists have once again launched their annual anti-Christmas billboard campaign. Two years ago, their signature piece featured a little girl with a mischievous look writing her letter to Santa. “Dear Santa,” she writes, “All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”

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This year, the group is once again urging folks to skip church. “It is important for people to know,” they write, “that religion has nothing to do with being a good person…” I agree. But it is also important for atheists to know that religion has nothing to do with being a good Christian. Christianity is, instead, about a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Of course, atheists believe that Jesus Christ is a myth. At least that’s the message American Atheists promoted in their 2011 anti-Christmas campaign. That year they featured billboards with images of Poseidon, Jesus, Santa, and a devil-like figure with the words “37 million Americans know Myths when they see them.”

Scholars Burridge and Gould, authors of “Jesus Then and Now,” comment in their book that respectable scholars do not deny Jesus’ existence (p. 34). James Hannam, a scholar who came to Christianity from a scientific background, said that to claim that Jesus never existed “requires selective skepticism about which sources are reliable and how others are interpreted.” He continues, “In the end, if Jesus did not exist, it makes Christianity a much more incredible phenomena than if he did.”

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Another of this year’s billboard ads is a parody of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. The message calls on atheists to “Make Christmas Great Again” by skipping church. This particular campaign is specifically targeted at those who no longer believe but still occasionally attend religious services. This is kinda goofy since atheists have never regarded Christmas as great!

I have stated in previous years that I am neither offended nor threatened by these atheists attacks on Christmas. Instead, I have come to regard them as opportunities for non-believers and believers alike to think deeply and to dialogue openly about the meaning of Christmas and the Person of Christ. And that’s not a bad thing. We should think and talk more about Christ at Christmas.

This Christmas season, as in previous years, the people of our church have invested lots of money and time in caring for those in need throughout our community and around the world — even places like Aleppo. We are feeding the hungry, providing water for the thirsty by drilling water wells in villages without a clean source of drinking water, clothing the naked, visiting those in prison, caring for the hurting, bringing hope to refugees, and more.

We are keeping the spirit of Christmas alive by doing for others what Jesus would do — by being His hands and feet throughout our community and in the most desperate places around the planet. We are about much more than going to church, we are about being the church. Ultimately, that is what will make Christmas great this season and throughout the coming year!

Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | December 9, 2016

Why Burn the Flag?

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America” — words I learned as a child and own as an adult. I love our country and I have great respect for our flag and what it represents. My respect for our country and our flag has only deepened over the years as I have traveled extensively to more than forty countries around the globe, including many places where freedom and opportunity is suppressed.

In recent months, displays of disrespect for our national anthem and our flag have increased. Most notably, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick has repeatedly refused to stand for the playing of the national anthem in protest of what he deems are wrongdoings against African-Americans and other minorities.

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Following the presidential election, some who were unhappy about the election results expressed their personal frustration and anger by, among other things, burning the American flag. While both Kaepernick’s actions and those of angry protesters who have burned our flag fall under the umbrella of freedom of speech, I personally believe they are the wrong actions.

Our flag is a powerful symbol both at home and around the world.

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to vote for whatever candidate we choose. We have the right to campaign on behalf of our chosen candidates, to dialogue and debate about issues, and ultimately to cast a single vote. But while the flag guarantees that we have the right to do so, it does not guarantee the results. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have the right to express our views before and after an election. We have the freedom to peacefully protest, express our respective views, hold candlelight vigils, and shout as loud as we’d like. But, the flag does not give us the freedom to wantonly destroy the property of those in the paths of our demonstrations. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, we have opportunity to right wrongs. We have the right and the freedom to work as hard as we want and to invest as much as we want in the causes that resonate in the deepest chambers of our heart. But the flag does not guarantee us the results. The results are up to us and our determination to put our money where our mouth is and our time and efforts toward the change we desire. So, why burn the flag?

Dad with crew chiefs at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. | 2010 | Germany

Dad with crew chiefs at Spangdahlem Air Force Base. | 2010 | Germany

The American flag is a reminder that, in this country, every citizen has the right and the freedom to pursue the American Dream. As a kid, my father told me that I must work hard to achieve what I want and that I was not entitled to anything just because I happen to be a minority. So, I worked hard. I kept my hand to the plow. I have always earned an honest wage. The flag reminds me that I must work hard to pursue the American Dream but that the American Dream is not something that will just be handed to me. So, why burn the flag?

The American flag represents freedoms and opportunities that are available in this country and not necessarily other countries. If Kaepernick showed a similar disdain for the Cuban national anthem and flag he would certainly be transferred to a smaller playing field sans multimillion dollar contract. The same would hold true in other nations around the planet both for Kaepernick and flag burners.

The American flag is a reminder of a depth of courage and sacrifice far greater than Colin Kaepernick has ever made or that anyone who burns the flag may ever understand. Our flag is still flying because of the sacrifices made by countless men and women in uniform who courageously moved in the direction of harm’s way on our behalf. These individuals respected our symbols of freedom. They understood that the American flag speaks to rights and not results. We would do well to remember that.

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