Pastor's Meditations

“The Substitute”

              In 1996, the movie “The Substitute” came out in the theaters. A retired mercenary goes undercover as a substitute teacher at Miami High School in order to dismantle a criminal organization using high school students.

              Being a substitute teacher is one of the toughest and most undesirable jobs around. If students have a hard time respecting their regular teachers, they have no problem at all ignoring, disobeying and defying the “subs.” In fact, when regular teachers are absent, the students jump for joy knowing that they will basically have a free period.

              A substitute preacher fares a little bit better when he fills the pulpit in a church, but he will never be respected like a “regular” preacher or pastor. His role is to fill the vacancy while the church searches for a “worthy” candidate.

              There is nothing wrong or inherently inferior with working as a substitute in any profession. Subs give freedom to teachers and schools, and churches are benefited by “fill-in” preachers. In baseball, relievers are like substitute pitchers that bring relief to a tired or embattled starter.

              There is one person that identifies completely with substitutes. I’m referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. He cares for subs, not only because He is a loving God but also because He was a Substitute Himself.

              The concept of substitution began really early in the Bible. An animal died to provide covering for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). Another clear example is found in Genesis 22:13, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (a type of Christ). When he was about to plunge the knife into his son’s heart, they heard a voice from heaven and saw,

              “…there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Emphasis mine)  

              Jesus is the Substitute of repentant and believing sinners. He died on the cross that was meant for us. He suffered the full extent of his Father’s wrath (being sinless and perfect) to satisfy the Father and to secure our eternal salvation.

               Do you still think that substitutes are worthless?

              A. G.

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Out of the Cave

              Almost everyone in the world knows the story about the “miracle” in Thailand. A youth soccer team (12 boys) and their coach were trapped inside a dangerous and nearly flooded cave for eighteen days, before being rescued by a team of Thai Navy Seals and many others.

              It must have been a great moment when the boys and their families finally reunited after this horrible and traumatic ordeal. They had been missing for 10 days before some British divers discovered them and another week or so elapsed, before all of them were able to make it out of the cave.

              It took a lot of work and coordination to extricate the team from the nearly flooded cave. The rescue teams installed pumps to flush out the water, expanded some of the narrow cave openings and even installed a 2 mile rope from the entrance of the cave all the way to where the boys were trapped. Even with all of these preparations and precautions, it took an 11 hour round trip to rescue one child at a time.

              What do you think it took for God the Father to save our souls? If you said “everything” you are right. The cave rescuers sacrificed themselves (one of them died) to save those boys, but our Father sacrificed his own Son to rescue us from the cave of sin and death. Romans 8:32 teaches that,

              “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?”

               Yes, all of God’s children (Christians) were trapped in a cave of sin and in a pit of desperation and death. We were not only trapped, but there was no possible way out for us, that is, until Jesus came down to earth and rescued us. He,

               “…inclined to me, And heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, Out of the miry clay, And set my feet upon a rock, And established my steps. He has put a new song in my mouth—Praise to our God” (Psalm 40:1-3).

                If you are in a cave of doubt, defeat, guilt, anxiety or depression, get out of that cave immediately! If you can’t, call out to Jesus and He will rescue you. The best thing to do, however, is to avoid pitfalls and caves altogether. We might not be able to avoid all of them, but if we follow Jesus closely and obediently we will avoid many dangers and sins.

                 A. G.

 

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Turn off the Lights

            I have a quirk…well I have many quirks. Among them is that I have a fixation with turning off the lights where ever I go, especially around my house. If I see a light on, I just feel the urge to turn it off.

            I believe that this obsession is a direct result of my upbringing when I lived in Cuba and natural abhorrence for wasting resources.

            I was always very poor when living in Cuba and we were forced to save and conserve everything, from electricity, to food and even soap bars. I have remained frugal to this day and if a room in the house is not occupied, I promptly turn the lights off.

            It is the one thing to turn the lights off around the house, and quite another to run away from the light of the gospel. I did hide from this Light for many years, as I “lived” in darkness and sin.

            The Bible speaks about mankind’s affinity and love for the darkness:

            And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19)

            Even as believers, we shun God’s light more often than we care to admit. Temptation is a cloud that covers our eyes from the truth. As we fall into sin our conscience is muted and the Holy Spirit is grieved (Ephesians 4:30).

            Don’t turn the light of God off!

            Listen to the voice of your conscience and don’t shut its alarm off. God uses our conscience to warn us about evil, but as Christians we have even bigger lights at our disposal.

            A disciple of Christ is guided by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit leads us to the truth and as we all know,

“The truth shall set (us) free” (John 8:37).

            The truth of God’s Word is the other light that God uses to keep us from walking again in darkness. David said it best when he wrote:

            “Your Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.” (Psalm 119:105).

            Don’t forget to turn the lights off in your house, but always walk with Christ in the light, because we are children of light. (Ephesians 5:8).

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I Can’t Do It

“I can’t do this!” The boy cried out in desperation.

“What is wrong, son?” The concerned grandfather asked him.

“I can’t do this, I can’t. I don’t know how to swim!”

The grandfather smiled and replied to his frustrated grandson:

“Well, can you explain to me what have you been doing in the pool for the last two hours?”

Negativity and pessimism are traits that we all share. There are some among us that are more optimistic and positive than the rest of us, but even they have their “down” moments. Our sinful nature and adverse circumstances bring all of us down every once in a while.

Even the great heroes of the faith became the prey of feelings of negativity, inadequacy and depression. Jonah and Elijah and Job prayed for death. Moses and David were overcome with depression sometimes. Jeremiah wanted to stop preaching. The apostles had many doubts and deserted Jesus at his arrest.

Every child and servant of God has been in a similar situation. We have come to the realization that our inability is real. We can’t do anything on our own; we must rely and depend totally on Christ. Anyone that believes otherwise is a fool.

Jesus said,

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

King Solomon realized his inability when he prayed to God for wisdom. God granted his request and he went on to be the wisest man around for many years. We too, can pray for wisdom (James 1:5) and God will make us wiser. We can pray for many other things, including strength and power and we will be able to do “all things through Christ” (Philippians 4:13).

Yes, without Christ we can do nothing. I cannot survive or succeed if I don’t surrender myself completely to Him. However, I can do things that are humanly impossible (like forgiving my enemies) in Christ.

There is no more room then, for continuous negativity for those who believe in, and depend on Christ. We may fall down from time to time, but He will lift us up. We may struggle with depression, anxieties and indecisions when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges, but Christ will give us the victory.

A. G.

 

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   A Leveled Pool

                A man decided to buy a pool one summer. He dreamed of spending time with his family swimming in the pool and he had saved a little money through the year, hoping to make his dream a reality during the summer time.

                Summer arrived and our friend went to the store and acquired a brand new pool. The big box barely fit in his car, as he drove home excited with his new toy. The above ground pool came with all the parts and instructions and it was surprisingly easy to assemble. In less than three hours, the whole pool was set up and ready to be filled with water.

                There was only one problem: The ground wasn’t leveled. There was water overflowing from one side of the pool, while the other side was half empty. In addition to this, the bottom of the pool was as bumpy as the surface of planet Mars. It was a total disaster!

                The man was distraught but determined. He emptied the pool and took it apart. He learned how to level the ground properly, bought the materials and tools that he needed and proceeded to do the job right the second time around.

                An unleveled pool is very much like a life that is built upon the sand. It doesn’t matter how pretty our “house” is, if the foundation isn’t good. We need a leveled and strong foundation for our lives, and there is only one available: The Rock.

                You might have many gifts and talents in your life, but if Christ isn’t the foundation of your house (life), everything will crumble and fall, like the walls of Jericho. Jesus Himself, warned us about this in Matthew 7:26, 27:

                “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

                We must build our lives upon the Rock. All other ground, as the hymn says, “is sinking sand.” But Jesus is not only the foundation, but He is also the Builder. In Psalm 127:1 the Bible declares that,

                Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it;”

            Is Jesus the Foundation and Builder of your life? If the answer is yes, you can be sure that your life

is secure in Christ, because it has the best foundation in the universe. Let the winds blows and the storm

bring the rains. You will remain standing after all is said and done, because your life is anchored upon the

Rock and because the Lord himself will complete the work that He began in you (Philippians 1:6)

  1. G.

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