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God’s Unconditional Love is the Prerequisite for our Protection

God’s Unconditional Love is the Prerequisite for our Protection

What was different about that church that night that made me feel peace and unconditional love? Why did I recover the stolen purse for a rival gang leader’s mom, which led her sons to stop harassing me? How in the world did I end up meeting Jim Bakker, who became a father figure and mentor to me and trained me for a ministry in television, fulfilling the desire I’d had since I was a kid? Could there have been someone working on my behalf?

The pieces of my life came together to make an original work of art, not a copy. God created the unique mosaic painting that has become my life.

I had no plans for these things to happen to me. Yet God knew what His plans were for me. Feelings of abandonment, rejection, loneliness, and brokenness left me thinking I was a mistake in this world. I thought everyone was out to hurt and use me. But when I read these words in the Bible for the first time, I cried: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jer. 29:11).

Sometimes we can easily feel hopeless, broken and forgotten. But just as God protected me in all the different circumstances that I have experienced and the many times that my life was at risk, He too has His hands on you for something even greater. God took an L.A. gangster and transformed my life for His glory into something far better than I ever could have imagined.

What changed my life isn’t a religion; it was having a personal relationship with Jesus. That enabled me to grow in the safety of His unconditional love. The same way I was forgiven, Christ wants to forgive you. I was living in torment because of sin, a condition that requires forgiveness and redemption. God doesn’t want you to live in sin, a place of distress, anxiety, and uncertainty. He wants you to live and not just survive. The beauty about being free from shame, guilt, and hurt from the past is that it allows you to experience the abundant life He wants you to have (John 10:10).

No matter where you find yourself in life, no matter what you’ve done, regardless of your religious background or political affiliation, the same God who was with me on this crazy journey has a plan for you too. There is hope. No one is too far gone, too hopeless, or too sinful for God’s grace. I am living proof.

With time, I have learned to forgive from my heart and have allowed God to heal my wounded emotions. I found peace of mind and a purpose for my life I was gifted with my wonderful wife, Liz, and our two kids, Mila and Mateo; my extended family; a ministry; and the ability to realize my passion and call to share my story around the world through the medium of television.

That’s what God has done for me. He restores and makes us whole again. God brought me through all those trials so I could fulfill His call to bring the message of Christ’s unconditional love to the world. Jesus wanted to live in my heart; He wanted me to have a heart like His—a pure, gentle heart; one not driven by vengeance. Instead, He wanted me to have a thankful heart, a heart full of joy, kindness, and love for humanity.

Nowadays, when I come across individuals who are in pain, lonely, shattered, and feeling rejected, I understand that I need to love them, because we are all struggling with something. My goal is to build a relationship with them, to be part of their lives and tell them that they are loved, that they are not alone. Because of what I’ve been through, I am reminded to never stop loving hurting people. I don’t believe in giving up on people so easily. We all develop differently. I still believe the church is a hospital for wounded and hurting people. But I am not ignorant to the fact that church leaders have too often set impossible standards and abused their parishioners spiritually and physically, hurting a lot of innocent people.

We all have shameful moments we don’t want people to know about. Jesus knows full well that none of us are perfect. My spirit and soul were troubled when I was living in sin, longing for hope. Jesus said, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners” (Mark 2:17, NCV).

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