Weekly message for Cypress Church: An unexpected Cuban adventure

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

This past week I was taken on an unexpected adventure in Cuba. Yes, I had planned to go there to learn the ways God was at work in this country, but also to see how our church might partner with the growing church movement in Cuba. It was amazing. People are finding faith in Jesus and wanting to grow in their understanding of the Bible as well as how God wants them to live. The Cuban people were receptive to the message of God’s love and were hungry to learn more about Jesus. I had previously thought this country may not be as interested in growing in faith, but they are, and wanted to hear more. One of the pastors said to me that, “we leaders need to be encouraged and instructed by others, and the Lord sent you to us.” I had the joy of teaching a three-day seminar on how to develop a closer relationship with Jesus, and I was blown away by their desire to learn how they greatly appreciated this teaching. For me, this was an unexpected adventure.

1 Thessalonians 5:11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Peter 4:8-10 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Yes, Cuba has a communist government, and yes, there has been much in Cuba’s history. However, Cuba does allow churches to exist, and there are many small gatherings all over Havana and the country. The particular group we went to support has seen over 100 such gathering arise, and there is more to come. Cuban people are open to hearing about the Jesus of the Bible. They want to hear how Jesus can bring them into a right relationship with God. That was surprising, and unexpected, as my misconceptions of this country had previously led me to feel they might not be so open. It was an unexpected Cuban adventure. I also learned from these Cuban church leaders as they humbly took on their call. I was also challenged, inspired, and encouraged. This was another unexpected adventure in Cuba.

Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,

Cuba is full of wonderful people who are kind, caring, helpful, love to party and dance, oh so hospitable, and full of joy. The people we met were friendly and helpful. I saw Cubans caring for fellow Cubans. A group of young boys who you would think would be into themselves, laughing, playing games, making trouble, helped an older woman to get her cart up the curb. These boys jumped into action with out being prodded. It seemed like a regular part of their thinking to look out and help others. Even the most stern looking person would smile when they saw some children or when another would smile back. That smile was so big and bright and seemed to melt away and doubts or questions in your mind about them. Not only that, but I also found Cubans very helpful and conscientious. We were walking up and down a street looking for a restaurant where a friend’s son worked, but we just could not find it. A man walking along noticed our confusion and asked to help. He was just what we needed. His help and the kindness of others was again an unexpected Cuban adventure.

Now sure there are probably some who are not so nice or may even be mean, and crime is real in every part of the world and being a savvy alert traveler is essential. But, I did feel safe there. Yet again, another, unexpected adventure in this beautiful country of Cuba.

Now, I say all this because I did have a few biases and preconceived notions about my experience. Yet this whole unexpected adventure made me realize, I easily form biases, and in a way I made some unfortunate judgments.

Luke 6:37 Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

I was again challenged to keep and open mind, and love people like Jesus. Jesus loved the least Matthew 25:31-46, the Last Matthew 8:1-4, and the Lost Luke 19:1-10

Jesus loves Cuba! Actually, there is even a huge statue of Jesus over looking Havana. I did not know that, again an unexpected adventure.

I went on this trip expecting to gain insight on future trips, yet was challenge once again to love people, all people just like Jesus! Our world would be so different if we would lay aside our preconceived notions and biases, and love. On my way home I received a very warm and encouraging email from a Cuban pastor. He was the pastor from the church where I did the bulk of my teaching. He said, “Mike, here you have a home in Cuba, the doors of my house will always be open for you…I wish you were nearer so that you could come frequently.” When we parted he hugged me tight and just kept saying thank you. I now have a new Cuban friend, another unexpected adventure.

Church can be a great place full of unexpected adventures. If you don’t regularly attend a church, we would like to invite you to Cypress Church or any of our branch churches. Our website has more information: http://www.cypresschurch.net. You can even attend one of our live-streaming services on line (see http://live.cypresschurch.net/).