Pastor's Meditations

“Disposable”

                Sylvester Stallone, known for his role as Rocky Balboa, commented in one of his movies that American soldiers are “expendable.” Whether you agree with him or not, the fact is that many soldiers are placed in harm’s way and the same goes for CIA operatives and the like.

                If soldiers are expendable, then everything else seems to be disposable. In the United States alone, there is a myriad of disposable products including, hypodermic needles, toilet paper, paper towels, cotton swabsmedical and cleaning gloves, dust masks, diapersrazorstoothbrushesdental floss, hospital aprons, contact lenses, disposable batteries, cameras, garbage bags,  paper cups and plates, drinking straws and many more.

                Relationships also seem to be disposable. Marriages end up in divorce at an alarming rate and there is a growing segment of the population that has disposed or abandoned the concept of marriage altogether.

                On a personal level, I cannot even begin to tell you how many times I have felt like I am a disposable or expendable individual. I know that I’m not the only one that has been betrayed by family, friends, co-workers and co-worshipers.

                I have been accepted, or better yet “tolerated,” just as long as I am useful, funny or beneficial in one way or the other. Once my “usefulness” runs out, I am discarded like toilet paper down the drain. The smiles are replaced by icy glares and the greetings turn into awkward silence.

                Jesus knows about all this. He was betrayed by Judas; denied by Peter and abandoned or discarded by the rest of his disciples. Paul was also deserted by everyone in Asia (2 Timothy 1:15) and later affirms in 2 Timothy 4:16:

                At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me.”

                If you feel like you are “disposable” and discarded by most, I feel your pain. It is not easy to go through life surrounded by enmity or apathy. Very few of us are popular, charismatic or oblivious and immune to the pain.

                If you are in this situation, there is nothing you can do to change your circumstances. You can try to be more useful, stronger or friendlier, but it won’t work. Some people will still despise you and attempt to discard you, no matter what you say or do…or don’t do.

                There is nothing that you can do. Accept that fact and perhaps you will one day be a better, happier person. There is nothing that you can do to have others accept you, but have no fear because you are already accepted by Christ (Ephesians 1:6) and He will never cast you out (John 6:37), forsake or abandon you (Hebrews 13:5), because He is always with us (Matthew 28:20).

                A . G.

 

               

               

 

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    “TRANSFORMERS”

                        

                Last night, I took some of my grandchildren to watch the sixth installment of the “Transformers” movie series entitled “Bumblebee.” If you have watched any of the previous films, you already know the plot: A human finds a car that has the ability to morph or transform itself into a fighting robot of gigantic proportions. The rest of the movie is a series of battles between the “Autobots” (good robots) and the “Decepticons” (evil robots).

                The only lesson I learned from this CGI production was the name itself. I have already forgotten most of the “plot” of the movie, but the name “Transformers” have stuck with me. Yes, it might be cool (and really scary) to have a Transformer car, but we already have something much, much better.

                The Bible teaches that Christians have been transformed by the power of God.

                “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

            And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

                Our transformation began at the moment of our repentance from our sins and conversion to Christ. In Him we are born again (John 3:3) to a new kind of life. Real life, abundant life (John 10:10) and eternal life begins with Christ.

                The believer’s transformation is also an ongoing process that continues throughout our lives and ends in heaven, when we will undergo our final transformation. This process is known as sanctification, which is our growth in holiness in Christ.

               “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”                                (2 Corinthians 3:18)

               There is only one TRANSFORMER in the entire universe and his name is Jesus Christ. We have been saved and transformed by Him and now He uses us as agents and messengers of his life-saving, life-transforming gospel.

              “Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20).

               A. G.

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“Second Place Grace”

                A few months ago I preached a sermon entitled “In the Presence of King” in John 18. In verse 35, Pilate answers Jesus by saying,

                “Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?”

                Pilate’s statement was emotionally rude but factually true. The great majority of the nation of Israel rejected Him as their promised Messiah. They chose to forget all the incontrovertible miracles that he performed and ignored his great teachings. John 1:10, 11 declare this in an even more explicit way:

                “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.”

                A popular saying affirms that “one man's junk is another man's treasure.” The Jewish nation rejected Christ and this exclusion opened the way for the Gentile nations of the world to receive the Good News of salvation in Christ.

                This is what I call “Second Place Grace.” Christ came first and foremost to save his chosen nation (Israel), but as they rejected Him, He poured his salvific grace upon his chosen from among the rest of humanity.

                This second place grace is illustrated in Romans 11:11-22, where Paul tells us,

            “…through their fall… salvation has come to the Gentiles. Now if their fall is riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentiles, how much more their fullness!  For I speak to you Gentiles… if their being cast away is the reconciling of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?...you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree, do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, ‘Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.’ Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.”  

                        This is what second place grace is all about! The people of Israel were that natural branches, but we were grafted in; adopted by grace and added to the number of the people of God. I would like to clarify, however, that our election and grafting into the family of faith was done before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4). Our salvation is not God’s plan B and God did not choose us after Israel’s rejection; but He did come first to the Jewish people.

                God’s second place grace is more than enough to save all those who believe in the name of Jesus. His grace excludes all human boasting and destroys pride. I am glad that I was able to return to the United States on a boat (instead of a plane) and I rejoice in the “crumbs” (Matthew 15:26-28) of grace that saved my soul from sin, death and hell.

                 A. G.

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“The Bigger Man”

                Today I saw a family of giants at the restaurant. The father was tall and his three sons were even taller. Even his wife and daughter were taller than other “regular” or normal size women. It is always impressive to see a tall individual, but a family full of giants is a sight to behold.

                This was the reaction of ten of the twelve Israelite spies. They walked through the cities and fields of the land of Canaan and were mesmerized (and terrorized) by the abundance of people of large stature. As they returned to Moses they brought this report:

            “…the people who dwell in the land are strong…we saw the descendants of Anak there… But the men who had gone up with him said, ‘We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we’…  And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, ‘The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature.  There we saw the giants and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.’” (Numbers 13:28-33)

                The Bible tells us not to fear “those who kill the body” (Matthew 10:28) or any other men (including bigger men). Isaiah says:

                “I, even I, am He who comforts you. Who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass?” (Isaiah 51:12)

                The Word of God admonishes us, on the other hand, to be the bigger man (or woman). 1 Peter 3:8-9 commands all of us to,

             “ Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.”

             This is what we learned from Jesus, the Son of Man. There is no bigger or better man than Him and there will never be. He went to the cross as a Lamb to the slaughter. He did not defend Himself and suffered the injuries and the insults for our sakes and in our place.

             Let us follow his holy example. Do not be afraid of any man---no matter how big or strong they may be and do not seek revenge over your enemies. Be the bigger person, or better yet, bring all your burdens, problems, doubts and fears to Jesus and He will take care of all of them.

             He is BIG enough.

             A. G

 

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   New Vision

                                                            

                Two months ago (by the time you read this article) I had surgery on my left eye. It was a simple procedure that lasted a few minutes, but the recovery has been slow and at times, painful. I have put enough drops in my eye to sink the Titanic all over again.

                In addition to all this, I have visited the eye doctor several times after the operation and each time I see him is as “joyful” as a visit to the dentist. He makes me read all these letters on the wall, which isn’t that bad; but then it comes one of the cruelest acts of torture ever devised by man: The blinding light. The doctor examines your eyes for what it seems to be hours and you can’t even blink.

                Why did I go through all this pain and humiliation? I wanted to improve my vision. The doctor used the light to discover the cloud (cataract) that was blurring my vision and used the knife to remove all the obstacles. Now, I have 20/20 vision once again in both eyes.

                My eye ordeal and restoration pales in comparison with the former condition of my spiritual eyes before I became a Christian by the grace of God. My eyesight was so bad, that you can actually say that I was totally blind. This is what the Bible teaches. An unbeliever is dead in their sins (Ephesians 2:1). He is also unrighteous, ungodly and unable to do that which is good or to understand spiritual truth (Romans 3:10-18). Paul also tells us that those who reject Christ are blind.

                But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)

                The light of Christ through the gospel shined over me and I was able to see for the very first time how sinful I really was and how holy God is. This is what happened to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 6:1-7) as he saw the Lord and was appalled by his own iniquity.

                Then (as in the case of the surgeon’s knife) came the Sword which is the Word of God, and cut through all the darkness in my soul and removed the chains of my sins. I can now exclaim with the former blind man:

                One thing I know: that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)

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