Pastor's Meditations

Happy Anniversary

                “Are you still married…to the same guy?”

                “I don’t know how you put up with him (her)”

                “Wow, you deserve a medal!”

                These and other similar “Congratulations” are the common response my wife and I get whenever we tell people how long we’ve been married. I don’t know if their well wishes are motivated by envy or anger, but the fact is that we rarely hear genuine congratulations---even from Christians!

                Yes, I know that my dear wife has endured my brand of “love” for many years and to tell you the truth, she deserves not a medal, but the biggest crown in the world! I just wish that one year we would hear real congratulations and not jokes or competitions.

                I don’t know how long you have been married, but I would like to offer you my most sincere congratulations on your achievement. I would also like to encourage you to stay married, because long marriages are a powerful testimony to this unfaithful world.

                In our case, all the credit, honor and glory belongs to Jesus. I am sorry if at any time my heart has swelled with a little pride over the long tenure of our marriage. I am glad that I have been married all these years and it’s all because of the Lord.

                I still love my wife (and I know she loves me too), but my weak and feeble love is not the reason of our marriages’ longevity. Jesus has kept us together all these years; in the highs and in the lows and in spite of my many shortcomings.

                I suggest that from now on we must celebrate marriages, because it is a dying breed.

               “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral.” (Hebrews 13:4) 

                Divorce is rampant in the world and many don’t even get married anymore---they just move in together. Our marriages can be a powerful testimony in the name of Jesus, because is a visual representation of the union between Christ and the church.

                “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her(Ephesians 5:25).

                I thank God for my marriage and for all the marriages in the world, especially those among Christians. I pray that God will put a stop to the divorce plague and that He will keep us together until the day He calls us home.

                "Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’  and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)

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Proyectos (projects)

                Well, the school year is over (as I mentioned in the previous blog) and yes, I am looking forward to my retirement (long term goal), but I’m also enjoying the prospect of a long, well earned vacation in the summer months.

                If all this were true, I would be extremely happy right now…and relaxed. It turns out that the word “vacation” has been replaced by another word this summer: “Proyectos.” I have a long list of projects waiting to be completed. I have work to do for the church, for the School District and there is a “Honey, Do” list at home that is only for the brave at heart.

                I’m not complaining (well, maybe just a little bit); it is good to remain somewhat busy during our vacations and even during retirement. Work gives us purpose, direction and a sense of accomplishment that laziness and idleness will never give to us.

                Think about what would happen to us if God would go on vacation even for a day. I know that there are times when it seems that God has left us, but do not confuse his “silence” with separation. Jesus has promised that He will always be with us (Matthew 28:20).

                God’s presence in our lives is active, invasive and continuous. He is no mere observer or even a consultant, whom we employ from time to time. He is our eternal God, Lord and Master and He is the Owner of our lives.

                God always has a project going on; in fact, the Bible depicts Him and his Son as continuously working in our lives. It was Jesus who said in John 5:17.

                “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

                You have probably heard the following (and truthful) expressions:

                “God is still working on me”

                “God is not finished with me yet”

                We are an unfinished project, but don’t worry because God has promised to complete it (Philippians 1:6). God is always working in us, for us and through us. In Philippians 2:13 we are told the secret of an obedient and happy life:

                 “…for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”

                  God works in us so we can work for Him. In Ephesians 2:10 we learn that our salvation (God’s greatest project) is not only the direct result of God’s work in our hearts, but this work that began in heaven and was accomplished at the cross, will now continue through us.

                 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

                 You and I are God’s project and He will finish what He started. One day, we will stand in his presence in heaven and we shall be “glorious…holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27). I don’t know if I will be able to complete all my projects, but God will.

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Happy Family

                The church, as described in the Bible is one and yet many things at the same time. There is only one true universal church, but there are many local churches, which are the localized expression of church. There is only one church, but it is described in many different ways. In this short blog, I will attempt to compile all the names and characteristics of the church.

The church is a spiritual Building you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. (1 peter 2:5)

The church is a Bride  “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

The church is a Body  “…so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.” (Romans 12:5)

The church is a FamilyFor this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:14, 15)

The church is a Flock And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.(John 10:16)

The church is a Tree I am the vine, you are the branches.” (John 15:5; see also Psalm 1:3 and Romans 11:13-23)

The Church is a Heavenly Race “…But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” (1 Peter 2:9)

                There are many more metaphors that describe the church, but the aforementioned paint a complete picture. The church is not a corporation or an organization (although we need both). The church is a living, growing and diverse organism and is not confined to a building, for it is the people of God that make up the church.

                The church is centered on Christ and without Jesus, there is no church. He is the Head of the body, the Shepherd of the flock, the Husband of the bride, the Cornerstone of the temple, the Root and Trunk of the tree and the Father of the whole family.

                To be part of the church, therefore, you must be so connected to the Lord that you have to be IN Christ. Attending church services, praying and reading the Bible may earn you a membership in some local congregations, but only those who believe, follow, obey and love Christ are part of his eternal church.

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Is God done with us?

                The school year is over. I am done with teaching…at least for the next two months. I am looking forward to the day of my retirement, when I will be finally and completely done with teaching. On that day, I will smash all the alarm clocks around the house, but I will be so old that I will probably be up at 5:00 in the morning anyways.

                Retirement could be a wonderful thing, especially if you are still healthy and have some money saved up. A retired Christian can be used of God in many ways, but the problem is that our churches are filled with many retirees of every age, gender and nationality. They have retired from serving God.

                What a contrast with Caleb, who at 85 years of age continued to fight and to conquer in the name of the Lord (Joshua 14:6-12). Christians can retire from their jobs or ministries, but we must never retire from being followers and servants of God.

                But, what happens to those like me, that have served the Lord for many years (and still desire to serve Him), but now for whatever reason all ministry doors seem to be closed?

                Is God done with us?

                The Bible does talk about the possibility of being disqualified as a minister (1 Corinthians 9:27), but what will disqualify a servant of God?

                Is it immorality? God gave David a second chance (2 Samuel 12:13)

                Is it betrayal? God gave Peter a second chance (John 21)

                Is it worldliness? God gave Samson a second chance (Judges 16)

                Is it fear and cowardice? God gave John Mark a second chance (2 Timothy 4:11)

                Personally, I am guilty of all the above charges and more. I have failed my Lord Jesus many times and I haven’t been faithful or obedient. Nevertheless, I love the Lord and still desire to serve Him. I know I don’t deserve to be in the ministry; I don’t even deserve to be a Christian.

                I echo the words of the Prodigal Son:  

                “I will arise and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you, and I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired servants.” (Luke 15:18, 19).

                 Is God done with me?

                Philippians 1:6 is one of my favorite Bible verses, because it gives me hope when I entertain the idea that God has left me behind and that He will never use me again.

                “…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

                 I am holding onto this hope and to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

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      You have the right to…speak

                  Every time a person gets arrested and taken into custody, he or she will hear the following words in one version or another:

                “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney…”

                This is known as the “Miranda Rights” that was established in Arizona in 1966. Ernesto Miranda was imprisoned for a crime that he didn’t commit and was forced to confess. Since that time, the Miranda Rights have become standard police procedure in the United States.

                The United States of America is a wonderful place to live. Everyone has rights under the law, including alleged criminals, terrorists, foreigners and the LGBT community to name a few. The Christian believers, however, are losing more and more rights every day.

                It is ok to be gay in this “tolerant” and politically correct society of ours, but if we speak the name of Jesus in any context other than the church, we will be branded as “right wing fanatics” and will be accused of forcing others to follow our “religion” or faith.

                The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution still grants freedom of speech and religion to all, but the Christian faith has been under attack for a long time. The Muslim can practice their faith freely in America (and detonate a few bombs here and there), but Christians cannot pray in our schools, in our sports competitions and we are not allowed to mention Jesus or preach the Word of God in many places.

                God does not have Miranda rights for his children. We are instructed, encouraged and commanded to proclaim the Gospel to all the world. Silence is golden in a movie theater and wise for people that get arrested, but it is never good for a Christian to be silent, except when we are listening from God.

                The early church was threatened with imprisonment and even death, if they would mention the name of Jesus, but Peter and John replied:

                “Whether is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen or heard” (Acts 4:19-20).

                  It is good to wait silently on the Lord and to remain silent when others attack us personally, but we must never stop talking about our Lord. The apostle Paul felt compelled to preach and even exclaimed:

                  “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)

                   I know that there are times when we don’t want to preach or speak about Jesus because we are discouraged. This happened to the great prophets Jonah (Jonah 1:3), Elijah (1 Kings 19) and Jeremiah, who said that there was a “burning fire” inside of him, compelling to preach (Jeremiah 20:9).

                   May God light some of that holy fire in our hearts, so we can speak about Him again!

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