Pastor's Meditations

Use His Strength

                                                      

                I started to watch the movie “Samson” a few days ago (I’ve got to finish it) and so far I like it. Now, before you say anything, I know that watching a movie is not the same as reading the Bible, but sometimes I enjoy watching films about the Bible and other Christian themes.

                Samson was known for his supernatural strength. He killed lions with his bare hands, defeated armies and brought the temple of Dagon down (Judges 16:29, 30). Samson was a real man and not a myth, like Hercules and all the other mighty men and women of Marvel or D.C. Comics.

                Our adversary, the devil, is a powerful and wicked being. He uses all of his power and strength to fight against the church (since he couldn’t defeat God), but he will never prevail (Matthew 16:18). His greatest weapons of mass destruction are his lies (John 8:44), feelings of doubts (Genesis 3:1-4) and an ample arsenal of temptations.

                What can we do against such a powerful enemy? He commands a vast army of dark and evil spirits (Ephesians 6:12) and millions (one could say billions) of lost souls are blindly following him in one way or another.

                Christians are a small flock of weak and defenseless sheep, surrounded by the hordes of ravenous wolves, hungry lions and wild dogs. The Bible declares that the church, although a great number in heaven, will always be the minority in this world.

                “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14)

                The Bible also instructs this weak and often divided minority to:

                “Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)

                We can resist the devil and overcome temptation in our lives not by using our strength, but by relying in the power and strength we have in Jesus. Yes, we are weak, but Christ is strong; so strong, that He is Omnipotent.

                Here are some verses that we can use when we feel powerless and defeated:

                 “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

                “Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37).

                “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4).

                You and I can be more powerful than Samson ever was, but to accomplish this we must use all the strength and power that we have in Christ.

  1. G.

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The Glutton, the Bland and the Upright (a church parable)

                Once upon a time, a man was transferred to a new city and being a Christian, he began the difficult, but rewarding process of looking for a new church for him and his family. He visited three churches before deciding to become a member in one of them.

                On the first Sunday, he arrived at a church on the outskirts of the city. The first thing he noticed was that everyone in that church was extremely obese and glued to their pews. No one came to greet the family; in fact quite a few of them looked at the newcomers with disdain.

                The worship service was rather dry and uninspiring (only a few people sang), and the sermon while orthodox and biblical, lacked energy and vitality. It reminded the family of a fundamentalist church they had visited before.

                At the end of the service, the youngest in the family asked his father why was everyone so obese. The dad replied, “It is because they are gluttons for the Word, but are too lazy to apply it to their lives”

                The next Sunday arrived, and the family visited another church. This congregation was very active and lively. The music and the preaching were dynamic, but the message was lacking biblical flavor. In addition, this mega-church had all kinds of “ministries” and activities for every possible age group or special needs.

                The family noticed that in this church everyone was extremely skinny, almost anorexic. The father explained to his family that this condition was the result of too much labor and very little feeding. In this sense, they were the complete opposite of the first church. They had the committees, the activities and the ministries, but they were undernourished with the Word.

                When the third Sunday came, the family had almost lost hope of finding a good Bible-believing, Bible-preaching and Bible-applying church. Notwithstanding, they made one last effort after much prayer and deliberation.

                As they entered the sanctuary, they were greeted sweetly and softly by several believers at the door. While they were being ushered to their seats, they were impressed by the welcoming faces and by the reverence that was evident in this holy place. Some were praying, others were reading the Bible and some were greeting each other quietly, while the musicians made last minute adjustments.

                Was the church perfect? By no means, but they knew that God was in this place. Their suspicions became reality as they experienced a vibrant worship service that was saturated with love, joy and the Word of God.

                The great majority of the church members were in great shape.

                The moral of this parable is clear. The Gluttons represent those who hear (and know) the Word and do almost nothing with it (James 1:23, 24). The Bland are like Martha (Luke 10:38-42), in that they forget the Word when they serve. The Upright are those that hear, do, live, love and apply the Word.     

                A. G.       

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A Matter of Focus

                                                             

                What is the difference between a good and a great chess player? Well, other than natural talent and years of practice, focus or intense concentration is responsible for success. A chess master has only one goal: Play chess; learn more about chess; study every chess move and all its different variations.

                A world class bodybuilder spends hours every day at the gym. A chess master devotes the same amount of time to the game. You can probably say the same about professional athletes, expert musicians and famous actors.

                Single mindedness and intense focus is vital to become great in any enterprise. This focus and dedication is what shapes our talents, gifts and skills into a formidable force on the way to success. Most of us have the talents and the potential to achieve great things, but most of us lack the focus, effort and dedication necessary to attain our goals.

                To put it simply: To win the Prize of success we must pay the Price of suffering.

                The Bible has a thing or two to say about focus:

                You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3)

                But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.”  (Matthew 6:33)

                “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:2)

                 “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith…” (Hebrews 12:2)

                Jesus called his disciples and is calling us today, to follow Him. The only way we can do that is if we focus our minds, eyes and hearts on Him. The Christian way is narrow, the trials are difficult and the dangers are real; but our Savior has left his footsteps for us to follow (1 Peter 2:21) and his Word is a “lamp to my (our) feet and a light to my (our) path.” (Psalm 119:105 emphasis added).

                Ours must be a laser focus and devotion. As the laser is one single beam of light pointing into a single direction, we must focus all of our attention upon Jesus. Perhaps we can learn from the apostle Paul in this regard. He learned to focus and to do just one thing:

                “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).

                The “one” thing we must do is to forget the past, focus on the Lord Jesus and finish the race.

                A. G.

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    Why are you angry?

                “Aghh!”

                A frustrated man cried out in the middle of his yard. It was already the third or fourth time that his chainsaw stopped working, or to be more precise, that the chain was lose. He tried repeatedly to fix it, but the chain and the bar didn’t cooperate with him, which in turn led him into more anger and frustration.

                “Aghh!”

                He yelled even louder this time. He was so angry that he was ready to punish the stubborn machine by sending it into orbit. At the zenith of his anger, he felt a small hand on his shoulder and heard the voice of his grandson:

                “Papa, why are you angry?”

                The confused and angry man was shocked by this simple question. He was furious and enraged because he couldn’t fix a chainsaw. In his mind, he justified his anger by thinking that he was just trying to do something good for his wife and now all he wanted to do was to throw this chainsaw…

                “Don’t be angry, Papa”

                Anger is a big problem for many people in this world. Uncontrolled anger has been responsible for countless deaths, from road rage assaults, to “domestic” (or wild) violence and all kinds of wars. Anger in the heart is worthy of eternal hell (Matthew 5:21-22), for anger is the seed that blossoms into a tree of violence, revenge and murder.

                This is exactly what happened with Cain and Abel. God accepted Abel’s sacrificial offering, but rejected Cain’s fruit basket (which represents works-based religion). Cain was incensed with the turn of events (instead of repenting) and God asked him,

                Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen?” (Genesis 4:6)

                We all know the end result of his anger: He killed his own brother, in one of the most despicable acts ever committed upon the earth. If Cain would have listened to God the story would have been different!

                Anger is a burning fire that destroys everything on its path. Anger has led nations into war with one another; anger has broken up millions of marriages and families; anger has even brought senseless divisions in Bible-believing churches!

                God still asks today the same question the young boy asked to his grandfather, and the same question He posed to Jonah almost 3,000 years ago:

                “Is it right for you to be angry?” (Jonah 4:4, 9)

                It is not right, holy or wise to be angry for the wrong reasons. Be angry against sin, idolatry and evil, but do not allow sinful (and foolish) anger to control your emotions or your attitude. Choose joy.

                 A.G.

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A Wrong Turn

             Have you ever made a wrong turn in your life? There are very few things more frustrating than making a wrong turn, especially when it happens in an unknown city and when we are in a hurry.

             This has happened a few times and it has never been a pleasurable experience. I consider myself to be pretty good with addresses and directions (driving expertise is another matter), so when I make a wrong turn my sadness and level of frustration is doubled.

             A few days ago, we made a wrong turn in Miami’s heavy and aggressive traffic. This minor turn or deviation from our route turned (pun intended) five minutes into an hour. I was angry as we made more U turns than a flip flop politician.

            Wrong turns can sometimes be a blessing. I have learned to contain my ire in situations that are out of my control (by the way, very few things are under my control), knowing that “…that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Wrong turns, “accidents” and other delays may very well have been ordained by God to save us from dangers and situations that we may never know about.

           There are wrong turns, however, that can lead us straight into danger and destruction. Making a wrong turn in a highway is painful and frustrating, but making a wrong turn in life---no matter how small it might be---can be disastrous.

          The Bible is full with examples of people that made a wrong turn. Some of them recovered by God’s grace, but some turned away from God forever (1 Timothy 1:19-20).

          Adam turned to the wrong tree (Genesis 3:2-6)

          The prophet Jonah turned in the opposite direction of God’s command (Jonah 1:3)

          Aaron turned to gross idolatry (Exodus 32:1-6)

          Samson turned after evil and dangerous women (Judges 14:1; 16:1-4)

          The wise and holy Salomon turned out to be an idolatrous fool (1 Kings 11:1-11)

          Many “believers” turned away from Jesus (John 6:66)

          Only God’s grace can turn the crooked or cold heart back to Him. He did so with Abraham, after he went down to Egypt; with David, after the Bathsheba incident; with Peter, after the three denials and with the Prodigal Son, after he spent his inheritance in all sorts of debauchery.

         There are many more biblical examples of men and women that turned away from, or unto God. I want to add my name to that list. My name will never be written in the Bible, but it has been inscribed in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

         I have tried to turn away from God sometimes, or at least to turn away from a life of obedience and holiness, but my God turns my heart to Him over and over again. He will do the same for you, but if you can avoid wrong turns, even better!

        A. G.

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