Pastor's Meditations

Ready for the Storms

                 As I write these lines a powerful hurricane is approaching the state of Florida. Irma has already devastated many Caribbean islands and now turns its attention to the southeast parts of the United States. This powerful storm can destroy many homes and kill some people and at this moment is heading in our direction.

                What do you do when the storms of life come your way?

                I have been watching the alarming news and we have been preparing the best way we can. We have water, food, gas, a portable stove and we have put all the plants and tools in a safe place and cleaned the gutters. These are things we can somehow control, but we cannot control the weather or the path of the hurricane. There are other preparations that will have to wait for another storm, like buying a good generator or getting hurricane proof shutters for my windows.

                In a sense, we are never fully prepared for physical or spiritual storms. We can read and study the Bible every day; we can pray night and day and we can spend time with our Father in exquisite worship, as we sing his praises or meditate on his goodness.  All these spiritual exercises are indeed great and vital and make us strong, in order to endure most trials and resist most temptations successfully, but when the storms do come we tend to forget all that and sometimes we fail.

                The Bible says that we  "are complete in Him" (Colossians 2:10), that is, in Christ. Our justification in Christ is complete and we have all the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). Moreover, the Trinity abides in us (John 14:16, 23) and we have his eternal, inerrant, infallible and inspired Word to guide us with the truth in this uncertain world.

                And yet, we sometimes fail. If my preparations are not enough for Hurricane Irma, then it's my fault. I should have listened to my wife months (or was it years?) ago, when she asked me to buy a generator. I should have more water, more food, more shutters and especially more money, because we don't know how long this storm (or its ramifications) will last.

                The storms of life are harder and most of them appear without warning, but we have everything we need in Christ to endure and overcome. I am not saying or even implying that we will never get hurt by these storms, but they will not defeat us as long as we walk in obedience to Christ. Paul said it best:

                 "We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;                                                                                                                   persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed" (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9)

                   Alexander Gonzalez

                

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The Truth Kills

               The story of Florence Foster Jenkins is amusing and tragic. She was a wealthy New York socialite, who "performed" in many private concerts for her friends and celebrities. This tone-deaf "singer" was never told the truth about her awful voice and she kept on singing from 1920s to the 1940s. In 1944 she decided to perform in a public concert at Carnegie Hall.

               Florence was deluded into thinking that she was indeed one of the greatest American sopranos. That night, in New York, proved to be fatal for Florence as she was exposed to the truth for the first time in her life. The public audience in that concert was brutal to Florence and all the newspaper music critics were even more vicious as they ruthlessly censured her performance.

               Florence died a few days later.

               Honesty is a wonderful trait to have and display, but only if it's properly accompanied by love. In fact, the Bible exhort us to always be: "...speaking the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15). Love that is not informed and directed by the truth is only hypocrisy. Perhaps you know people like that. They always speak "flowers" to you, but throw daggers at you behind your back.

               On the other hand, speaking the truth without love is cruelty of the highest degree. Just because something is true about someone, does not give us the right to say it, especially if we have not been asked to do so! This is not honesty, but brutality. This kind of misguided "honesty" has been responsible for the deaths of many marriages and relationships.

               Yes the truth spoken without love can kill.  We must be careful how we speak to each other because ill placed words (even if they are true) do hurt; sometimes more so than sticks and stones. We have probably forgotten many accidents and fights from our past, but some injuring words linger to this day.

               The Word of God is true and it is,

                "...living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a                                discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of                           Him to whom we must give account." (Hebrews 4:12, 13)

              This Word of Truth is an instrument of salvation, consolation and hope for the believers, but the other "edge" of this sword brings condemnation and death to unbelievers. This is what happened to Pharaoh and to many others who hardened their hearts when they heard the truth.

               The Word of God condemns sinners and it also kills sin. Paul says in Colossians 3:16:

                "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly"  This is the only way to die to sin in and to live for Christ. 

                 Alexander Gonzalez

 

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No Substitute

           There are people in our schools that are extremely important. As a teacher, I value the contributions of substitute teachers, for without them many academic instittutions would be forced to close its doors. It is comforting to know that when I have to miss school for any reason, a substitute will take my place. Nowadays, substitutes are just a click away on my computer. Finding a good substitute is another story.

           This world is also filled with substitutes. There is a bunny in the spring, a turkey in the fall and red clad fat man in the winter. They, along with many others are very poor (and evil) substitutes of our Lord Jesus Christ. Since the creation of the world, mankind has looked for many substitutes to worship them instead of the blessed Creator. We have worshipped all the hosts of heaven and the beasts of the field. Even Israel, the redeemed people of God, worshiped a golden calf or bull, instead of praising their Deliverer.

           Christianity is no exception to the rule. The church of Jesus Christ started well and it expanded to all the known world, but soon heresies, idols and false teachers infiltrated our ranks. The Roman Catholic church is a clear example of this perversion. Their local "churches" look like old pagan temples filled with idols (they call them saints and virgins), candles, incense and chants. The worst and most blatant substitution of all is the Pope. He is the bishop of Rome, the Pontifex Maximus and the vicar of Christ on earth. This last title (vicar) means that he is Christ's substitute in this world. 

           There is no substitute for Christ! No one can take his place; not the pope, not church leaders, not famous preachers or Christian singers. There is only one Jesus, the only begotten Son of God and God in the flesh. He will never share his divine glory with anyone. Teachers and pastors need substitutes from time to time, but Jesus is irreplaceable, indivisible, and indispensable.

            The most beautiful part of all this is that Jesus is our eternal Substitute. He died on the cross in our place and He intercedes on our behalf every day before the Father. Furthermore His substitutionary work reaches every part of our lives, in fact, our lives are not our own for He bought us with His blood (1 Corinthians 6:20) and has substituted His life for ours (Galatians 2:20).

 Alexander Gonzalez

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Get Up Again and Fight

             Today is the world championship fight between Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGregor.  Millions will be watching the fight and millions of dollars are being wagered (wasted) in Las Vegas.

            Who is going to win? Everyone asks.

            My answer:  Who cares? Champions come and go and all of them will soon be forgotten. Nobody remembers the champions from yesteryears. Their fame and their money are gone and they are now too old to fight.

            Are Christians ever too old to keep fighting? I have felt like that lately. I have been knockdown several times in the past few weeks and sometimes I don’t have the strength or the will to get up again.

            When boxers get knockdown, they have people in their corner telling them to get up again. It is good for a boxer to know that he is not alone in the ring. It is good to have people around you to clean your cuts, to give you water, to dry your sweat and to motivate you to stay in the fight until you win.

            We are also in a fight. Every day we must fight,

           “…not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age,                                                                      against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:14)

            Our enemy is numerous and strong. We must,

             “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

           We will be attacked almost every day one way or the other. We may suffer persecution or endure temptation or even be knockdown by personal attacks. There is very little we can do about that. We have little or no control over our circumstances or the people that surround us and sometimes we can barely control ourselves.

           Nevertheless, there are voices calling for us in our “corner.” I can hear the Holy Spirit convicting me of my sin and sinful reactions; I can remember the Word of God reassuring me about the future; I can listen to Jesus telling me to get up and follow him and I can feel the love of the Father all around.

            I need to stop writing now because I need to get up again…and fight

           Alexander Gonzalez

            

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The Valley Song

My soul is cast down / I am a prisoner of fear

I don't want to drown / Lord, are you even here?

 

I cry out your name / Amid my great distress

I long for your embrace / For I am alone and depressed

 

Who can save me from this situation? / Who can change my life and set me free?

I call unto you, Lord of my salvation / Please answer and deliver me

 

I cannot carry this burden alone / I don't even want to take another step

Bring to my heart a brand new song / And bury all my failures and regrets

 

I want to follow you and never stop / To be a light that shines in the dark

I don't want to quit or ever give up / But sometimes the pain is too much

 

I will sing your praises again / I will worship you in this valley of death

I will lift and exalt your Holy Name / I will love you until my last breath

 

I don't see the end of this tunnel 

I don't know when this storm will subside / All I know is that you are by my side

That your purpose is faithful and true

All I know is that I need you, Jesus

And that is why I crying to you.

 

Alexander Gonzalez

 

 

 

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