Pastor's Meditations

“The Bench Warmer”

            I love sports. I like to play sports and I enjoy watching some sporting events. There are some “sports” however, that make no sense, like Curling and Cricket.

            Another thing that does not make any sense to me is for teams to pay millions of dollars to athletes that never get a chance to play. Some of these “benchwarmers” spend their entire careers either sitting on a bench or playing a few minutes during “garbage time” when the game is already decided.

            Our churches sometimes resemble sport teams. There are a just a few “starters” doing most of the work. The rest of the “players” remain inactive in the church pews, while others even fail to report and stay at home.

            A benchwarmer is someone that never plays or in the case of our churches, never serves the Lord. I know that all of us cannot be pastors, worship leaders, deacons or teachers. I am also aware that there is a time to sit and listen, as Mary did (Luke 10:38-42).

            A benchwarmer is a perennial church goer that believes that church attendance is enough. They may be faithful coming to church every Sunday, but they will rarely, if ever, get involved in any ministry or function of the church.

            Benchwarmers are guilty of laziness and spiritual apathy. All of these brothers and sisters are gifted and talented, but they are afraid, selfish or simply uncaring.

            On the other hand, I wonder if many of the benchwarmers in our congregations are so because of the selfishness of those that are more active in the ministry. It is not uncommon to see a few in the church “controlling” all the ministries, functions and activities. These brethren prefer to get burned out, rather than to share “their” ministries with others.

            The Lord selected twelve apostles, not just one (Matthew 10:1). He also endowed the churches with gifted believers, capable of serving in the ministry and caring for each other. All believers are gifted and all Christians are ministers, not just a few chosen ones (1 Corinthians 12:1-11).

            If you are a benchwarmer, get up and serve! If you are an active servant, look for benchwarmers that will help you to continue and expand the ministry.

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Bad Expressions

               Last week, I spoke about the proliferation of bad songs in our churches. Finding good Christian songs to sing in our worship services is becoming as difficult as finding a good movie to watch in the theaters.

                Today, I want to call your attention to some of the bad expressions that I hear frequently everywhere and around many churches.

                “Good luck” Luck does not exist and it is an insult to God’s providence in our lives.

                 “And my God shall supply all your need…by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19)

                 “Cross my fingers” “Knock on wood” Is this Christian faith or pagan superstition?

                 “But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD” (Psalm 31:14)

                 “Oh my G…” We should not use this phrase or any other that blasphemes God

                 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (Exodus 20:7)

                 “We are all God’s children” We are all created by God, but not everyone is His child.

                 “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:11)

                 “Let go and let God” (give God control) We must submit to the God that is always in control

                 “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7)

                “I need to forgive myself” You can accept God’s forgiveness and forgive (not absolve) others

                “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7)

                “I want to give to the less fortunate” Fortunate is the same as lucky. This expression also

                comes dangerously close to pride and boasting.

                “My religion is Baptist…Pentecostal…Presbyterian, etc.” Religion is for Cain, Pharisees, etc.

                “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:21)

                “God helps those who help themselves” I would say that God helps those that cannot do it.

                “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)

                “When God closes a door, He opens a window No, the door is closed. He may open other doors.                

                “He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7)

                We need to learn to express ourselves biblically. Our words and phrases must be a reflection of our new nature in Christ. Let us beware of pagan, secular and ungodly expressions; let us glorify our lord with everything we say.

                A. G.

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“I.D. Theft”

              Identity theft is a big problem in the United States. In 2017 alone, there were almost 17 million cases of identity fraud resulting in over 16 billion dollars in losses. To say that it has become a worldwide epidemic is to put it mildly.

              I have been a victim of identity theft or fraud on at least two occasions. First, someone bought items at Lowe’s worth several thousands of dollars using my credit card. This was bad enough, but worst still was when a criminal stole my identity, which prevented me from working as a prison chaplain for several months until it was resolved.

              Our identity is our most precious earthly possession. No amount of money or riches can equal the worth of our souls. If our identity is stolen, we will suffer great economic loss, but when sin becomes our identity and lifestyle, we ourselves are lost.

              Christ came into this world to save our souls (Luke 19:9, 10). Now we are no longer associated with the devil, ruled by death or identified as sinners. We have a brand new identity in Christ.

              “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).

              Jesus “invaded” this world (which was His in the first place) when he was born in Bethlehem. He also invaded our hearts when we received Him as our Lord and Savior. He lives in our hearts and rules our life through the Holy Spirit and his Word.

              This is not enough for Jesus or for us. He wants to live through us in the same way as John the Baptist once said…

               “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

               The goal is for us to disappear so Jesus can shine through us. He wants to replace our identity with his own identity, so that we can say with Paul,

               “ I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

               A. G.

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Bad Songs

               I want to take a few minutes of your time and talk about music. There is so much bad music out there that is scary. No, I’m not referring to the awful secular music, with its pervasive and perverted language and message. Rap music is horrible and so is Rock, Country, Salsa, Reggae and almost every other musical genre in the world.

              There are a growing number of bad Christian songs. In a sense, many Christian bands resemble the secular bands so much, that you can hardly tell the difference anymore. Many of their songs can be called “You” songs, because the name of Jesus or God is never mentioned in them. Most of those songs can be played in the mainstream (secular) radio and they will never offend anybody, because they can easily pass as love songs.

               Even many of the so-called worship songs of today are partially or completely incorrect in their theology. Let me give a few examples:

               Inside Out --“My heart and my soul, I give you control” We give control to God? Really?

               Reckless Love -- “Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God” Is God reckless?

               Your Presence“Holy Spirit you are welcomed here, come flood this place…” He is here already

               Come, now it’s the time to worship“Come just as you are to worship” “every knee will bow, but still the greatest treasure remains for those who choose you now” We need to repent before we worship and there is no “treasure for unbelievers”

               What a beautiful Name“You didn't want heaven without us” This is plain heresy

               In the Secret“I want to touch you; I want to see your face…” Who does he want to touch?

               Our worship songs must be songs that worship Christ our Lord openly and biblically. We don’t need to water down our message in order to reach the unbelievers for Christ. The “Jesus” of these and many other songs (if He is even mentioned at all), is not our Lord and Savior but only a generic Christ that saves no one, offends no one and rules no one.

               We must worship our Lord in the following ways:

              “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24)

              “Give unto the LORD, O you mighty ones, Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.” (Psalm 29:1, 2)

              “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth” (Revelation 14:7)

               Our worship songs then must be spiritual (according to the Holy Spirit) and biblical (according to the truth of the Bible). Worship songs and hymns must glorify the Lord openly and unashamedly and yes, they should be songs full of gladness, joy and thanksgiving (Read Psalm 100), as we proclaim the greatness of our God and celebrate the new life we have in Him.

                A. G.

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“The Substitute”

              In 1996, the movie “The Substitute” came out in the theaters. A retired mercenary goes undercover as a substitute teacher at Miami High School in order to dismantle a criminal organization using high school students.

              Being a substitute teacher is one of the toughest and most undesirable jobs around. If students have a hard time respecting their regular teachers, they have no problem at all ignoring, disobeying and defying the “subs.” In fact, when regular teachers are absent, the students jump for joy knowing that they will basically have a free period.

              A substitute preacher fares a little bit better when he fills the pulpit in a church, but he will never be respected like a “regular” preacher or pastor. His role is to fill the vacancy while the church searches for a “worthy” candidate.

              There is nothing wrong or inherently inferior with working as a substitute in any profession. Subs give freedom to teachers and schools, and churches are benefited by “fill-in” preachers. In baseball, relievers are like substitute pitchers that bring relief to a tired or embattled starter.

              There is one person that identifies completely with substitutes. I’m referring to our Lord Jesus Christ. He cares for subs, not only because He is a loving God but also because He was a Substitute Himself.

              The concept of substitution began really early in the Bible. An animal died to provide covering for Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21). Another clear example is found in Genesis 22:13, when God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac (a type of Christ). When he was about to plunge the knife into his son’s heart, they heard a voice from heaven and saw,

              “…there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son.” (Emphasis mine)  

              Jesus is the Substitute of repentant and believing sinners. He died on the cross that was meant for us. He suffered the full extent of his Father’s wrath (being sinless and perfect) to satisfy the Father and to secure our eternal salvation.

               Do you still think that substitutes are worthless?

              A. G.

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