DS Rev. Dr. Rini Hernandez Message
“Connect 2 God”, Isaiah 55:1-3, 6
“Is anyone thirsty?
Come and drink—
even if you have no money!
Come, take your choice of wine or milk—
it’s all free!
2 Why spend your money on food that does not give you strength?
Why pay for food that does you no good?
Listen to me, and you will eat what is good.
You will enjoy the finest food.
3 “Come to me with your ears wide open.
Listen, and you will find life.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you.
I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David.
6 Seek the LORD while you can find him.
Call on him now while he is near”

Dear friends, I come here today not to share something I learned in a book, but to share what has been an intrinsic part of my walk
with Christ since the time I first gave my life to Christ in August of 1967 as I was attending my first summer camp in Matanzas, Cuba

I would like to communicate to you what is my deep conviction: THERE IS NO LIFE IN CHRIST, THERE IS NO SPIRITUAL GROWTH,
THERE IS NO EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP WITHOUT A PERSONAL, DEEP, DAILY, CLOSE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

My personal experience is that I wouldn’t have been able to endure so many hardships and difficult experiences without that
relationship. On July 5th, 1967 our home was invaded by officers wearing olive-green uniforms, searching for documents, pictures,
anything they could use to incriminate my father. He was taken to prison and sentenced to 6 years for “a crime against the
homeland security”. This was their code to typify very committed Christians, wholeheartedly serving the Lord Jesus Christ. I was 10
years old and my brothers were 4 and 2.

That experience impacted our lives in a very profound way. My father would often times share with us about the “secret worship”
experiences within the prison, the opportunities he had there to witness Christ to others and the celebration of Holy Communion
with crackers and orange juice.  There is no way to live through an experience like that without having a strong connection to
God. Not just my father grew in his relationship with God. My mother and I also were forced to “come to the waters” and seek the
Lord.

Twenty three years later, on September 1980 all those experiences my father had helped me deal with my own experience of
persecution. That day I was taken out of my Seminary classroom and sent to a forced labors camp to cut sugar cane for 2 years with
other young people whom the government would consider to be “politically or morally defective” – Christians, homosexuals,
hippies, thieves, or simply people who like to hear The Beatles or any American singer or band.

Then all the things I heard my father did in prison, I experienced myself. People asking questions about the Bible, Jesus, God and
Bible studies happening in the evenings… without Bibles.

I remember explaining something to a group of people who had shown interest to know, and the Holy Spirit giving me the biblical
texts in a way I wouldn’t be able to repeat today if asked to do so. We celebrated Holy Communion at midnight, in the middle of a
sugar cane field, using crackers saved from breakfast and sugar cane juice.

And again, there is absolutely no way to endure something like that, unless you are able to develop a strong sense of God’s
presence in your life and you are open to the operation of the Holy Spirit in your life in extraordinary ways.

I have come to believe that for extraordinary circumstances,
God offers us an extraordinary, extravagant measure of His grace.
Eleven months before being taken to the forced labors camp, while starting my second year at Seminary, an American professor
was invited to the Seminary to teach us English so we would be able to read our Theology text books in that language.

During the week days we celebrated worship in the Chapel, and one day our English professor was invited to preach. Instead, she
shared a powerful testimony of how God had healed her from terminal cancer through the power of prayer. We were very interested
in what she shared, so Maggie and I invited her to come that evening to our home to share some more of her experience. Then we
asked her for prayer. Maggie was having difficulty in getting pregnant and a doctor had said that she would never be able to have
children.

It was the first time in my life I saw anointing oil. She anointed Maggie with the oil, prophesized about the beautiful girl that we
will be having very soon, a girl with “fingers like a pianist, very healthy and who will be God’s servant for all of her life”. She
anointed me and prayed God to reveal personally to me and to equip me for the work of ministry. I found myself praying in a new
tongue that was given to me, and I don’t even know what was going on.

My reflection on that experience is that I had a personal encounter with Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. I had never
asked for anything like that. I never knew that such a thing could happen to somebody. Yes, I have read that in the Bible, but I
didn’t know it could be actually experienced by us Christians. My Christian journey experienced a complete turnaround from then
on. I was one Christian before that night and a more devoted disciple of Jesus Christ after that night. God was preparing me for the
experience I was about to have.

That experience was a key factor in keeping me closer to God through my time in that camp. In every one of my critical moments, as
well as in my everyday life as a Christian leader, it is that strong faith tried through the fire that has kept me faithful.

It’s that strong sense of God’s presence with me and around me That makes me who I am. It is that familiarity with God, that need
for the daily presence of the Holy Spirit what impacts and penetrates my whole being as a Christian leader. I believe Christ can be
experienced in everyday life. I believe the Holy Spirit empowers us for effective leadership.

I also believe God has made Himself available to all of us, to all who seek for God and humbly recognize their need of Christ. In
the words of
Psalm 145:18-19, “The LORD is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. 19 He grants the
desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them”

Keys to understand our text on Isaiah 55
1.        Listening to God feeds us with the finest food – Don’t waste your money on food that “does no good”
•        Find time to HEAR God – quit talking so much
•        Quit things that “do no good” – behaviors, habits, making a conscious effort in living simple and avoiding the evils of
materialism and consumerism
2.        Coming to God with a sense of urgency brings life to our days – closeness to God “fixes our thoughts on what is true,
and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable
”, Philippians 4:8
•        We daily engage in so many activities that won’t produce abundant life
•        We live in a world where “death” and “signs of death” are competing for our time and attention
•        Come to God with a sense that you urgently need Him in order to reject the seductions of “the things of this world”
3.       
 Experiencing daily the presence of God will make us strong leaders like David God used him to display His power
among the peoples
•        Practicing the presence of God daily helps us understand our own weaknesses
•        Equip us with the right weapons to face and overcome the Goliaths
•        Enable us for faithful obedience in all of our relationships
4.        
The presence of God makes us “glorious” – people we don’t know would run to us
•        When we practice the presence of God, people notice it. Our face glows with an inexplicable radiance (like Moses when he
went to meet God on the mountain)
•        When we are close to God, people come to us for help, guidance, prayer, or even to offer their lives to Christ
•        When we have the discipline of seeking and meeting God, people would know where to go when they are in need or facing
a challenge, a trial or a crisis in life
5.        
Seek God while we can find Him –while He is near
•        Suggests that there will be a time when God won’t be near
•        Now is the time to experience God’s presence and sit at His feet to learn and be nurtured by Him
6.        The presence of the Lord moves us to walk rightly before God – growth in the sanctification process.  And produces a
hunger and thirst for justice and holy practices with each other
•        The presence of God produces changes in us: who could be in the presence of God and still be the same?
•        The presence of God helps us consider our actions, words and thoughts, and produces in us the desire to be more like Christ
•        The presence of God invites us to move beyond ourselves and to invest in the lives of others, to be more concerned about
social justice issues and moves us to love actions towards those at the edges of society

Reasons why we should seek God
1.        Spending time with the Lord will help us be better connected with ourselves, will increase our self-awareness. Prophet
Isaiah had a deep personal experience with God, and at some point he was able to say: “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of
unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty”
•        We will be more conscious of our weakness and short-comings
•        We will be made more humble, recognizing our personal need for God
2.        Seeking God will improve our connections with others
•        We see in the Bible Andrew meeting the Messiah and going back to find his brother Simon, so he could also meet Jesus
•        We read about the demon-possessed Gerasene, whom Jesus  made free and sent back to his family
•        Connection with God has the power to transform us to be better sons and daughters, better parents, better spouses, better
friends and better leaders
3.        Seeking God will make us more sensitive to the needs and brokenness of people, and will propel us to action
•        Prophet Isaiah in the midst of his encounter with the divine told God: “Here I am – Send me”
•        Four men opened a hole in the roof of a house to connect a paralytic person with Jesus, so that he might be healed
•        Meeting with God will open our eyes to human misery and will make us active workers for healing, wholeness and justice for
all human beings
4.        Seeking God with all of our heart will make us better leaders, more fruitful Kingdom workers
•        The disciples experienced total transformation after Pentecost and the Holy Spirit equipped them to fulfill the Great
Commission
•        John Wesley’s ministry was exponentially transformed after his Aldersgate heart-warming experience
•        My Pentecost experience totally transformed who I was as a person, as a Christian leader and equipped me to face
incredible challenges and hardships, and made me aware of my continued need for a deep relationship with God


Conclusion
1.        Sometimes as Christians we wonder why we are not experiencing sanctification as a continued process of growth and we
are not becoming more like Christ – in order to experience that, we need to seek God
2.        Sometimes we wonder why we are so shy to witness Christ to others – in order to experience boldness in our Christian
witness, we need to seek God
3.        Sometimes we wonder why we are so ineffective as Christian leaders, why what we do for Christ seems to bear no fruit – in
order to experience fruitfulness and be effective as leaders, we need to seek God
4.        Sometimes we wonder why our churches are not experiencing daily conversions, signs and wonders made by the powerful
hand of God – in order to see God at work, transforming lives and bringing more people from darkness to light, we need to seek
God
5.        Sometimes we wonder why we are not impacting our communities, why we are not connecting to the younger generations,
why we are not making a difference in the world – seeking God will produce in us creative ideas about reaching out, giving a
visible place to younger leaders and doing Kingdom work in our communities
6.        Sometimes we wonder why we are so vulnerable to the attacks of the devil, who has come “to steal and kill and destroy”, to
create misunderstandings, fights and lack of unity even among God’s people – we need to seek God if we want to be able
“to
stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers
and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places”
7.        We seek God by practicing spiritual disciplines: prayer, fasting, meditation, Scripture reading. And also be making
ourselves available to the means of grace: attending Church, worshipping, participating in the Sacraments, and serving God in the
world