Pastor's Meditations

Secret Santa; Secret Sin (Part 1)

            The “spirit” of Christmas (whatever that is) is beginning to float around our school campus. This spirit loves candies, decorations, food and Santa---oh, how much it loves Santa Claus!

            One of the myriad of activities related to the season is the gift exchange known as “Secret Santa.” Every participant picks up a different name and gives a present to that person anonymously.

            On the surface, this activity seems harmless, fun and good (you are giving gifts to others). Personally, I have nothing against gift giving, even in Nativity (Christmas) time; just as long as we remember that it is not our birthday that it is being celebrated.

            I do have a personal grudge against Santa, however. First of all, he is not real, and celebrating anything associated with Santa (a name that means “holy” or “saint”) is a lie and an insult to Christ.

            This brings me to my second charge against Mr. Claus. He has usurped the place of honor that belongs only to the Child that was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1).

            How would you feel if, in the middle of your own birthday celebration someone else took your place of honor? What would your reaction be if he or she would blow the candles of your cake? Would you be happy if that imposter received all your gifts?

            Isn’t this what happens every season? Is all about a cute deer named Rudolph; or an “adorable” Snowman; or even a funny group of Elves; and of course, Santa---the biggest attraction of all!

            Children (and many adults) line up to seat with Santa at his throne in most malls across America and many other parts of the world. Once they reach his chair, they start praying, I mean, asking him for all sorts of toys and gifts.

            Isn’t this blasphemy?

            I don’t know who the original Claus or Nicholas was. Some say that he was a real good man and a benefactor of poor children in 3rd century Turkey. Others depict him as a legend.

           This world tends to make idols of almost everything. Good men become “saints” and good women (like Mary) become virgins. Santa falls loosely into that category, because he is a secular saint that is honored by unbelievers and many believers alike.

           Let the world celebrate Santa. I will celebrate, honor, worship and obey the Lord Jesus, who came to this world, not to bring us toys, but the best gift of all: Eternal life for those that believe in Him (John 6:47). Every real gift and all blessings come from the Father (James 1:17), not from the so-called “father Christmas” (Santa).    

           Alexander Gonzalez

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Salty

               I went back to school today after the Thanksgiving break, and I was greeted by some students and teachers. It was good to return to my job and see a few friendly faces.

            There were some, however, that did not share my positive and optimistic outlook. Some students and a few teachers had a “salty” attitude (term used by teenagers to denote someone with a bad and contentious attitude). This kind of negative viewpoint and stance is usually very contagious, and soon other students can become “salty” as well.

            What do you do when a meal or a drink you are preparing is too salty? Well, you have several options. You can either discard the whole thing or attempt to sweeten it by adding more sugar or water.

            When it comes to relationships, the same principle applies. If your relationship with somebody has gone sour or is too salty, you can choose to end it. You may be able to terminate some love (cheating girlfriends), professional (jobs) or personal (bad friends) relationships, if they have become too salty for you.

            You cannot, however, get rid of your salty family or “spicy” spouse. Perhaps you need to add more sugar (love) in order to sweeten the relationship. I have never heard about a couple getting divorced because they loved each other too much!

            If sugar doesn’t work, then you must add more water to reduce the salt content (bad attitude) in the relationship. Water, in the Bible, is a symbol of the Word of God, which cleanses us from sin (John 15:3; Ephesians 5:26).

            There is a different type of saltiness that is good and desirable. I am referring to the salt that brings up the flavor in every meal. If you have ever eaten hospital food, you know exactly what I’m talking about. In their effort to reduce the saltiness in their food, they also reduce (and in many cases remove) any trace of flavor, taste or quality in their “meals.”

            This is what happens when believers fail to season this world with the life-giving salt of the Gospel. Jesus said,

             “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

                Are you salty enough in Christ? This world is filled with the wrong kind of salt. Their salt is either flavorless or too salty. The salt of Christ is just right and perfect for every person or situation. Why don’t we sprinkle some of that good salt around today?

                Alexander Gonzalez

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Appetites

            I just finished eating breakfast and let me tell you: It was delicious! Our breakfasts are normally eggs, bread and some type of coffee, but today’s meal was a feast. It was so good, that I wanted to keep eating.

            I have a “normal” appetite for food. I eat three meals a day (not counting little snacks), but I don’t think I eat too little or too much. Today, however, my appetite was almost insatiable and I had to “put a knife” to my throat (Proverbs 23:2) to stop eating.

            With Thanksgiving and Nativity just around the corner, we must learn to control our appetites. We need to tame the turkey, slow down with the sweet potatoes and stuffing, be mellow with the mashed potatoes, calm down with the cornbread and cranberry sauce and delay any interaction with desserts.

            The same holds true for all other appetites of the flesh. As I wrote in the last blog (The Kiss of Death), temptation is real, powerful and deadly. I forgot to mention in my last entry, that temptation has a willing and strong ally in our sensual appetites.

            We would like to blame the devil and his forces for every sin we commit, but the fact is that we have as much to blame, if not more than the tempter. James 1:13-15 puts it this way:

            Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” (Emphasis mine)

            A Chinese (or Indian) proverb declares that inside of us live two dogs; a good and a bad one. The strongest dog is the one we feed the most. I don’t believe there are actual dogs living in me, but there are some desires inside of me that are not holy. The appetites of the stomach might be controlled with medicine or self-will, but the appetites of the flesh cannot be controlled, pacified or tamed: They must be put to death (Romans 8:13; Colossians 3:5).

            The Bible declares that when we received Christ as Lord and Savior, we were born again (John 3:3) and received a new nature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

            As a believer my desires and appetites are spiritual and holy. I have a craving for God (Psalm 42:2; Isaiah 26:9) and for his Word (Psalm 119). Let us feed on the Bread of Heaven (John 6) and the appetite for this world will end.

            Alexander Gonzalez

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“Black (and Red) Friday”

            Today is “Black Friday” in the United States. This day has nothing to do with race or discrimination; it is a financial term dealing with the bottom line. On Black Friday is when most businesses go from being “in the red” (losing money) to being in the black (making a profit).

            Black Friday is also a direct and frontal attack upon the celebration of Thanksgiving. This precious holy day, is celebrated with a family dinner where everyone gathers around to give thanks to our God. What a beautiful and God-honoring tradition!

            A few years ago, we could still celebrate Thanksgiving unhurriedly, but not anymore. You see, Black Friday actually started on Friday morning, but now it has gone from six a.m. on Friday morning, to Thursday at midnight and as of this year, to Thursday in the afternoon.

            Thanksgiving is actually my favorite holy day, but it is an afterthought for many. Stores go from having Halloween displays to what they call Christmas (I call it Nativity) sales; bypassing Thanksgiving almost completely.

            What if I tell you that we have it all wrong and backwards? In reality, Thanksgiving comes after “Black and Red Friday” and not the other way around. Now that I have you dazed and confused, allow me to explain what I mean.

            Over 2,000 years ago, our Lord Jesus died on the cross. This event is celebrated or remembered on what is now called “Good Friday.” There is no consensus as far as the actual day of the crucifixion, as some teach that Jesus died on a Wednesday, while others assert that it was on the Friday before the Resurrection.

            The main point, however, is that Jesus did die to atone for our sins and to satisfy the righteous anger of his Father. The exact day of the week is not really mentioned in the Bible, so for the purpose of this blog I will use Friday.

            On “Black and Red Friday”, Jesus gave his life on the cross for us and because of that we can celebrate Thanksgiving, because now we have Someone to give thanks to: Our Lord, our God and our Savior.

            That “Friday” was black, because it was the darkest day in human history. On that day, humanity crucified the Creator. The darkness was not only spiritual, but physical as well (Matthew 27:45)

            That “Friday” was also red, for on that day, the precious blood of Jesus was shed for the people of God. The fact that you and I are saved today, is the direct result of having been washed in the cleansing, saving and forgiving blood of Jesus (1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5).

            Alexander Gonzalez

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“Kiss of Death”

            Europeans are different from Americans in many respects. They eat differently, dress differently and greet differently. While many Americans wave or shake hands, Europeans (England not included) are more into hugs and kisses.

            The Italians, for example, are very effusive and passionate when they greet. Even the members of the Mafia (a very small percentage of Italians) are notorious for their affection; at least from what I have watched in the movies.

            One of their kisses, however, is neither affectionate nor friendly. I am referring to the infamous “Kiss of Death” given to those that have been marked for execution by the Mafia.

            This should be called the “Judas Kiss,” for it was Judas the one that betrayed Jesus with a kiss. His evil display of “affection” led to Jesus’ capture and eventual death (Luke 22:47, 48).

            Judas’ kiss will forever remain an example of hypocrisy, wickedness and betrayal. There are far too many Judas-like relationships in the world, and we find them at work, at school, at home and even at church.

            There is yet another kiss of death that is even deadlier and more destructive, than the Mafia and Judas’ kiss combined. It is the infernal and diabolical kiss of temptation.

            Temptation is an evil mistress that comes to visit us so much and so often, that she seems to be part of our family. This mistress is beautiful in appearance and often comes disguised “as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).

            There is no woman more attractive than Temptation. She looks, gorgeous and inviting and before we know it, we fall under her spell. Behind her winsome smile there is an ugly and unclean spirit. Do not kiss her pretty lips, unless you want to be ripped apart by her fangs. Keep also in mind that she never travels alone. Temptation is always accompanied by a ruthless lion (1 Peter 5:8) and by death (James 1:14, 15).

            Do not open the door to this deadly woman (Revelation 17). Don’t even look in her direction (Matthew 5:27-29). Remember that Temptation (beautiful as she might be), never has good intentions for us and there have never been good results when we follow her. If you hold her hand, she will drag you to her father’s house and there you will find only sin and death.

             Alexander Gonzalez

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