Pastor's Meditations

Coming Home

                                                          

            I like to travel all over the world. I have traveled to a few different countries in the last ten years, most of them on missionary trips. Sometimes I wish I was a millionaire so I would be able to travel even more.

            Among my favorite destinations to visit are Israel, Hawaii, Alaska (only in the summer), Australia, the Canary Islands and almost every nation located along the Mediterranean Sea. There are many beautiful places on this Earth that are worthy of a visit.

            Being a millionaire would allow me to travel to some of those exotic locations, but I would rather be a famous (or at least well-known) evangelist to take the Gospel all over the world.

            One can dream, right?

            Right now, I find myself on a plane, traveling once again. This time, though, I am coming home. I have spent two weeks helping my son in Omaha, but now is time to return to my own house.

            Thinking about this latest trip reminds me that I am not home yet. No, I am not referring to the fact that the plane hasn’t yet landed in sunny Florida, but that I have not arrived in heaven, my real home.

            I enjoyed my time in Omaha with my family, but it was also filled with work, pain and discomfort. The same happens to all Christians on this Earth. We might have a few days of joy here and there in this planet, but there is also pain, sadness, stress and even death.

            I can’t wait for the plane to land in Orlando, Florida. The cold days in Nebraska will soon be only but a memory. I can’t wait for the day when I reach my heavenly home. This world is too cold, dark and filled with sin and death. This world is not my home.

            Hebrews 11:13-16 summarizes my feelings so much better:

             “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.  And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Emphasis mine)

            Lord Jesus, please come and take me home with you. This is the best place for me (Philippians 1:23). This is my real country (Philippians 3:20). This is where I want to be for all eternity.

            Alexander Gonzalez

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Follow the prayers

                          

            Praying is absolutely necessary for a Christian---I would say it is vital and indispensable. Some have compared prayer to breathing and I would agree. A person cannot survive more than a few minutes without breathing and a believer can’t prosper in his walk with the Lord without prayer.

            What is the best part of praying?

            A more spiritual Christian than me would say it is praying itself. There is nothing better than spending time alone with our God, praising Him, interceding for others and pouring out our hearts in his presence. This is what prayer is all about.

            Others, a little bit less spiritual than me perhaps, would argue that the best part of praying is receiving the answers we have prayed for. There is great joy when we hear testimonies of healings, miracles, providential interventions by God and many other blessings as a result of our prayers.

            For me, the best part of praying is being part of the answer to my own prayers. It is good to pray and spend time alone with God; no doubt about that. I confess that my prayer life is not always what it should be, and that I want to learn to pray better and longer; but I do pray and I rejoice when I spend time with my Lord and when He answers me.

            I rejoice even more when He uses me as part of the answer to the prayers. It is good, for example to pray for my sons, but it is better to pray for them with my lips and to help them with my own hands. I have prayed that God will help them spiritually and I talk to them about Christ; I have prayed that God prospers their financial situation and we have also been used by God to give them a hand when they need it; I have prayed for God to help them in many other situations and we have been blessed to take part in some of them.

            For whom or what do you pray for? If you pray for the salvation of others, you might need to be like Isaiah who answered his own prayer. He said: “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). Perhaps you can’t be a missionary, but you can pray for them and send money to them and write letters (or emails, texts, etc.) to them, and tell those around you about Jesus.

            Be the answers to your own prayers whenever possible. This is what it means to be a follower of Christ. Become also a follower of your prayers, or be like James says, “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves(James 1:22).

            Alexander Gonzalez

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Secret Santa; Secret Sin (Part 2)

                  

            In my last entry I started talking about the gift exchange known as “secret Santa” and I was planning to correlate it to our secret sins, but I was quickly sidetracked on a Santa rant. I do not hate the original Nicholas (if he was a real man), but I totally despise the idea of a magical and powerful being named Santa Claus.

            While the practice of “secret Santa” might be harmless up to a point, the presence of secret sins in our lives poses a real danger. Every human being on this earth has at least one sin that is kept hidden from the rest of the world.

            There are sins in our lives that are public or semi-public. Everyone knows that we are not perfect and therefore we might have no problem confessing that sometimes we fall prey to anger, depression, doubts, fears, a little gossip and the occasional “white” lie.

            Oh, but there are dark and perverse sins that we would never confess to anyone. These are the sins that we keep under lock and key. You know what I’m talking about. You have at least one (if not more) of those “pet” sins.  If others could see those secret sins, they would be horrified, appalled and disgusted.

            These are the sins that bring us comfort (for a short time) and shame (for a long time). These are the deep seated hatred; the enslaving lust; the thirst for the forbidden; the perverse thoughts and the fleshly passions.

            One of the reasons that we can be sure that the Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible and eternal Word, is that it publishes and condemns every sin. Most biographies exalt their subjects, but the Bible proclaims the sins of the kings, prophets, apostles and every believer.

            I don’t know what your secret sin is and I don’t want to find out. I pray that God helps you overcome it and I hope that you will pray that others (myself included) will have victory over their sins.

            In Christ, we have been forgiven of every sin (Colossians 1:14). Therefore, we are free to serve God, not to sin. In fact, we don’t have the need or the inclination to sin, as we have a new nature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

            It is a fact: You and I have secret sins, but there is a twofold solution to this problem. The Bible declares that:

            “He who covers his sins will not prosper, But whoever confesses and forsakes them will have mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).

            Confess and forsake. If confessing our secret sin is difficult, forsaking it might be almost impossible for us, but nothing is impossible for God (Luke 1:37). Lord, help us to confess and forsake sin and to serve you with a pure heart.

            Alexander Gonzalez

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Footprints in the snow

            Almost everyone has seen, heard or read the famous anonymous poem entitled “Footprints in the Sand” in which a man always sees two sets of footprints in the sand as he walks with the Lord, except when he is going through hard times. On those dark times, he only sees the footprints of the Savior that carries him.

            Lately, I have been following the footprints of my oldest son Daniel, as we walk, not on the sands of Florida, but in the snow covered streets of Omaha, Nebraska. My latest “adventure” with my sons has taken me now to this place, which is usually very nice, except in the middle of a frigid, snowy, frozen, cold and stormy winter season.

            The next time I hear the song “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas” I will break that radio! Whoever wrote that famous melody wasn’t freezing like I have been in this past week. Every time I walk in the snow, I get frostbite on my feet and I look like a bona fide terrorist or bank robber, because I have to cover my face just to open the door.

            One of the ways in which I have tried to minimize the damage, is to literally walk on the footprints left by my son. As he walks before me, he displaces most of the snow and I am able to walk more comfortably and safely.

            This reminds me of a few Bible verses.

            1 Peter 2:21 declares:  For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

            As we follow Christ in this world, we will encounter persecutions and endure trials far worse than my snowy adventures. Following His footprints assures us of two things: First, that He is with us every day and in every situation (Matthew 28:20); and secondly, that our burdens and sufferings will be lighter (Matthew 11:20).

           The best way to avoid many pitfalls in this life is to follow Jesus. We must place our feet directly on top of his “footprints” or teachings to walk on the solid ground of the Gospel. In addition to this, we must follow Paul’s advice about wearing the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-20) including: “….having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace…”

           To walk in the snow, you need a pair of good waterproof boots (which my benevolent son quickly provided) and to follow Jesus we need to wear the gospel shoes and to walk in His steps every day.

            Alexander Gonzalez

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Secret Santa; Secret Sin (Part 1)

            The “spirit” of Christmas (whatever that is) is beginning to float around our school campus. This spirit loves candies, decorations, food and Santa---oh, how much it loves Santa Claus!

            One of the myriad of activities related to the season is the gift exchange known as “Secret Santa.” Every participant picks up a different name and gives a present to that person anonymously.

            On the surface, this activity seems harmless, fun and good (you are giving gifts to others). Personally, I have nothing against gift giving, even in Nativity (Christmas) time; just as long as we remember that it is not our birthday that it is being celebrated.

            I do have a personal grudge against Santa, however. First of all, he is not real, and celebrating anything associated with Santa (a name that means “holy” or “saint”) is a lie and an insult to Christ.

            This brings me to my second charge against Mr. Claus. He has usurped the place of honor that belongs only to the Child that was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1).

            How would you feel if, in the middle of your own birthday celebration someone else took your place of honor? What would your reaction be if he or she would blow the candles of your cake? Would you be happy if that imposter received all your gifts?

            Isn’t this what happens every season? Is all about a cute deer named Rudolph; or an “adorable” Snowman; or even a funny group of Elves; and of course, Santa---the biggest attraction of all!

            Children (and many adults) line up to seat with Santa at his throne in most malls across America and many other parts of the world. Once they reach his chair, they start praying, I mean, asking him for all sorts of toys and gifts.

            Isn’t this blasphemy?

            I don’t know who the original Claus or Nicholas was. Some say that he was a real good man and a benefactor of poor children in 3rd century Turkey. Others depict him as a legend.

           This world tends to make idols of almost everything. Good men become “saints” and good women (like Mary) become virgins. Santa falls loosely into that category, because he is a secular saint that is honored by unbelievers and many believers alike.

           Let the world celebrate Santa. I will celebrate, honor, worship and obey the Lord Jesus, who came to this world, not to bring us toys, but the best gift of all: Eternal life for those that believe in Him (John 6:47). Every real gift and all blessings come from the Father (James 1:17), not from the so-called “father Christmas” (Santa).    

           Alexander Gonzalez

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