Pastor's Meditations

The Burden of Fruitfulness

                Once upon a time, there was a beautiful garden; as beautiful as the Garden of Eden. In this “paradise” you could find all sorts of fruit trees; from tropical fruit such as mangoes and bananas, to apple and pear trees.

                In this enchanted garden, all the trees were green, tall and extremely fruitful. The wearied and hungry travelers could find ample sustenance in their luscious fruits and shade under their expansive foliage.

                The trees seemed to be happy, especially during the daytime, but at night one could almost hear their painful cries and complaints.

                “I can’t take this anymore!” One of the trees cried out.

                “Yes, this burden is too heavy for us!” Another complained.

                One by one all the fruit bearing trees raised their complaints about all the fruit they had to carry every day. They had been fruitful for many years, but now they were old and tired. Bearing fruit had always been a privilege and a blessing for them, but lately it had become a burden.

                As every tree was trying to upstage and eclipse each other with bigger grievances, a barren and squalid tree appeared on the scene. There were no fruits, flowers or leafs on this “tree” and as far as branches, there was only one stretching across the trunk.

                “You complain because you have been blessed with much fruit.” The new tree started.

                “You feel that this fruit is a burden and so it is, but it is not a heavy load”

                All the other trees began to complain again, but they were silenced by a revelation from the newcomer:

                “I carried the most precious cargo and the most evil burden one day. Many years ago, a spotless Lamb was nailed on my branches and trunk and along with Him all the wickedness of humanity.”

                The whole garden was now in total silence as the stranger continued,

                “The fruit that you bear today comes from me. I was once a beautiful tree like you are today, but I was cut down for you. I became the Tree of Death so that you can be alive and fruitful forever.”

                The garden became alive once again, but there were no more cries of complaint; only shouts of gratitude and praise. The trees realized that the burden of fruitfulness is the greatest blessing in the world.

                A. G.

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Costly Victory

                Last Friday night, a team of Suwannee High School teachers defeated two other teams en route to be crowned champions of the “Bro-Ball” Volleyball Tournament. It was a great victory for this group of middle age (and beyond) educators, especially because we defeated our younger and definitely more athletic students.

                It was also a costly victory for some of us. The “veteran” team went home joyous but in great pain. In my case, I finished the game hurt and I limped and hobbled around the house the rest of the weekend. If you ask me, I rather win and experience some pain and discomfort, than to be a relaxed and comfortable loser.

                We have been called to walk in the Narrow Way (Matthew 7:13-14) that is filled with shadows and dangers (Psalm 23:4). We live in a dark world that only offers persecutions and tribulations for Christians (John 16:33), but we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

                The Christian life is very costly. It was costly to the Father for “He…did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:31). It was also extremely costly to the Son, who gave his life (John 6:51) on the cross for his people.

                Jesus paid it all in order for us to have a wonderful and comfortable life, free of stress, pain, suffering, poverty, sickness or death…in heaven. One day, all of these things will disappear forever as we enter through the gates of glory, but for now we must walk with our Lord, enduring all the trials and tribulations, knowing that heaven is waiting for us.

                There have been many costly or Pyrrhic victories in this world, and not only in sporting events, but in deadly wars. The United States alone, has lost almost three million people in all their wars; the deadliest being the Civil War and World War 2. The Civil War was fought to preserve the Union and it accomplished its goal, but it was very costly: Over a million Americans died fighting against each other.

                If the Union of a country and the peace of the world are important enough to go to war, how much more should we Christians be willing to lay down our lives for the cause of Christ? Nothing is more costly in this world than being a disciple of Christ.

                Esther put her life on the line to save her people (Esther 4:16)

                King David did not offer free or cheap sacrifices (2 Samuel 24:24)

                The apostles left everything behind to follow Jesus (Matthew 19:27)

                You and I have been called to follow Christ, but only after we deny ourselves and take up his cross (Luke 9:23). The Christian calling is very costly because it demands complete obedience and for us to “put to death the deeds of the body” (Romans 8:13). The price is high, but our eternal prize will be glorious.

                Alexander Gonzalez

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The Power of Fear

                        

                Fear is a powerful agent of chaos and destruction. Our world is saturated by fear and many have fallen prisoner in its satanic claws. There are innumerable types of fears or phobias, as the scientists call it. People are afraid of failure; afraid of animals; afraid of terrorists; afraid of the future; afraid of sickness and death; afraid of dentists and in the case of teachers, afraid of students.

                Our schools have become the latest target of attacks. Teachers must not only struggle to teach unruly and rebellious children, but now there is the ever-increasing possibility of gunmen coming into our campuses to create havoc and destroy precious lives.

                I cannot begin to tell you how disgusted and disappointed I am with the whole situation. My main goal now as a teacher is not to instruct my students or teach them manners, but to show them how to create barricades or how to run for their lives in the event of an attack.

                This is no way to live! I refuse to live in fear! 2 Timothy 1:7 informs us that,

                “…God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

                Furthermore, God has commanded us to not be afraid many times in the Bible. Joshua 1:9, for example, reads:

               “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

               Yes, fear is powerful, but our God is All-Powerful. Millions live in fear today because they do not fear (revere, honor, respect, love and obey) the Lord. The converse is also true: If you fear God, then there is nothing to fear---not even death.

              Jesus said,

             “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

            It is time for us to be cautious and prepared, but there is never any acceptable time or season for us to be afraid. When I say “afraid” I am not referring to normal fears that lead us to do that which is right (e.g. rescuing someone that is drowning; grooming ourselves before leaving home so not to scare others; refraining from jumping from tall buildings, etc.). There is another fear; a fear that paralyzes and defeats. This fear is nothing but hopelessness and lack of faith.

           Fear can only be overcome by faith, but not faith in our schools, social institutions or political leaders. Faith in Jesus is the only power that destroys fear and overcomes the world (1 John 5:4, 5).

           There is fear and faith. What choose ye?

           Alexander Gonzalez

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Wasting Time

            My wife and I tutor a few children during the week. It is a rewarding job or ministry most of the time. Sometimes I come home from school so tired that I must fight against falling asleep during the tutoring session.

            My young students are smart and well behaved. They only have one problem: they tend to waste time and sometimes we are not able to finish all the work on time. They get distracted with just about anything that’s around them. I believe that my primary function as their tutor is to keep them on track.

            In this world, most people waste so much time following empty dreams that ends up as a wasted life. Oh, what a waste indeed is to pursue power, fame, riches and pleasures. King Solomon spent most of his time following after these things, only to realize in the end that all was vanity (read Ecclesiastes 2).   

            I must confess that I too have wasted a great amount of my time. The first twenty two years of my life were a total waste. I was “…dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1) and I was a friend of the world and an enemy of God (James 4:4). I began to live, really live, when I repented of my sins and received Christ as my Lord and Savior.

            What about you? Are you a born-again Christian? I hope you are and that you are not wasting the time God has given you. You have a limited amount of time left on this earth. God has saved us and placed us here for one purpose: To glorify Him with everything we do and say.

            I am not judging you in any way. I know how hard it is to submit ourselves completely to the Lord and to walk perfectly on the narrow way. There are many dangers and distractions every step of the way. There are many voices calling our attention, the job, school, family, church, pleasures and sin.

            All of us receive the same amount of hours, minutes and seconds every day. We can use our time wisely or wastefully. I understand that we have responsibilities and needs that demand a portion of our time every day, but we can do everything in the name of Jesus (Colossians 3:17) and for the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

            Ephesians 5:16 exhorts us to always be “redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” How can we redeem our time for the glory of God? The answer is also found in the rest of this chapter. We must walk (or live) in love (v. 1), in light (v. 8), in wisdom (v. 15), filled with the Holy Spirit (v. 18) and with joy and gratitude (vv. 19, 20).

            Alexander Gonzalez

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Lost and Found

                Two days ago, I witnessed (via TV news) one of the most horrific massacres in U.S. history. A young gunman killed seventeen people in a South Florida high school. This is a national tragedy and a painful reminder that we live in a fallen, sinful world.

                My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims. I cannot begin to imagine the anguish and pain they feel over their loss. My heart also goes to my pastor, who recently lost his sister and must preside over her funeral.

                I almost lost two of my sons. The youngest one almost choked to death with a piece of bread (I saved him by a miracle from God) and the oldest one almost died in the war. He fell from his helicopter (he hadn’t fastened his seatbelt) before it went down the mountain killing everyone in his unit.

                How do you deal with a loss? It is one thing to lose a material possession forever, or to lose a loved one in the park (only to find them later); but to lose someone dear to us forever is almost unbearable.

                My father died when I was four, and I still miss him. I have found solace and comfort in my heavenly Father, but my heart aches like an orphan for my absent dad. There is still a hole in my soul and the hope that one day I will see my father again in heaven.

                There is hope for those who follow Christ. Yes, in this world we will have trials (James 1:2-4) and tribulations (John 16:33), but there is nothing that will separate us from God’s love (Romans 8:31-39).

                Loss comes from separation; separation is the handiwork of death; and death grows in the tree of sin. If there was no sin in the world, there would be no more death, separation, loss and pain.

                As long as we remain in this world, we will experience all these things. They are ever-present and inevitable. Temptation and sin are all around us and death stares at us in the face every day. Separation and loss are an ongoing reality and pain (next to God) is our closest companion.

                One day, however, we shall exit this dying planet either through death or the Rapture. On that blessed day, we will be ushered into the kingdom of glory and light. In heaven there will be no more sin, death, pain and separation because we will be forever united to our Lord.

                Is this your hope?

                Alexander Gonzalez

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