Pastor's Meditations

       “Open Flowers”

                                                      

                We are entering another bitter cold winter season. I will probably never get fully accustomed to North Florida weather. You see, I was born in sunny South Florida and was raised in sunnier Cuba. In other words, I am a tropical man.

                You, my beloved reader, probably love and rejoice in the winter “wonderland” as they call it. You enjoy the snow and the whole Nativity season. I also love the season---minus the cold. I rather celebrate the birth of Christ on a sandy beach (instead of the snow) and under palm trees (instead of around a pagan tree filled with lights).

                I can hardly wait for the spring to arrive. The mild weather and the flowers signal the death of winter and the birth (or rebirth) of new life that arrive with spring.

                One of the main things I notice during the spring is the beautiful flowers of the field. In particular, I observe how most of the flowers bloom or open their petals every morning as the sun comes up. At night, most flowers close up until the next morning.

                I am not a scientist; therefore I cannot explain this floral pattern. I don’t know how or why most flowers open and close their petals with this regularity. However, I believe that there are a few lessons that we can learn from diurnal flowers.

                Christians are children of the light and children of the day (1 Thessalonians 5:5). Like newborn flowers, we are diurnal (belonging to the day) creatures and we rejoice in all the days that our Lord have made (Psalm 118:24).

                The diurnal flowers need the sun to live and grow. The process known as photosynthesis uses the sunlight to produce plant food. Christians need the sun as well, like all other creatures, but we absolutely depend upon the Son for our spiritual life as we grow in the light of Christ. He is our Savior and Sustainer (Colossians 1:15-17).

                As the flowers close at night, we must too learn to close all the doors that deal with evil and darkness. James commands us to resist the devil (James 4:7) and Paul says that there is always an open door of escape for those who flee from darkness and temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).

                One last thing before I go: There is another kind of flowers. I am referring to nocturnal flowers that “sleep” during the day and open up in the darkness. We were like those flowers before Christ came and plucked us out from the kingdom of darkness and planted us in his eternal kingdom of life and light (Colossians 1:13).

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“Let the Light In” (Break In part 2)

                In our last entry (“Break In”) we addressed the recent burglary perpetrated in our church building. Someone came in and stole a few electronic devices and broke a window. What I forgot to mention was that this criminal also removed the air conditioner unit from the pastor’s office window.

                That was actually the first thing I noticed when I arrived at church the next Sunday morning. The office was actually a little bit warmer and much brighter than ever before. By removing the AC unit, the thieves have actually removed that which was blocking the sunlight.

                As I reflect on this incident, I realize that our lives are like my office window sometimes. We are the children of light, but our hearts and minds are cluttered with the things and cares of this world. This is how I feel every day at the end of the school day. My mind is filled with many divergent thoughts and my heart is far away from my Lord.

                We must learn to submit to the pruning of the Lord. He will remove the “dead branches” of doubts, guilt, anxiety, sin and unfaithfulness. This process is painful, but oh, so necessary. The pruning or cleansing is done by the Word of God (John 15:1-3).

                As those branches are removed, the light of the Son of God can reach our minds and hearts, and it will shine through us. Jesus said:

                 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.(Matthew 5:14-16)

 

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              Right Connections

                                    

                Technology can be a great tool…if you know how to use it correctly. I know that I am not the only one that has been frustrated by modern technology. Gone are the days of home phones and even “regular” cell phones. Now we must deal with “smart” phones, smart watches, smart TVs and with tablets, IPods, I Pads, Fit bit, Drones, GPS and many more.

                One day soon, every device and gadget will be wireless and cordless, but for now there are still devices that still need to be connected with different wires to the electricity outlets and to other devices. There are many different kinds of cords, wires and cables. Now we have RGB, VGA, DVI, PS2, Ethernet, USB and HDMI cables and it is very important to know which cable goes where, if you want to watch a simple program on a modern TV.

                A few days ago I was very frustrated by my less-than-smart television set. I simply couldn’t get it to work. The video didn’t work; the audio didn’t work; nothing was working---except for the devil putting a dent on my armor. After many grunts, “prayers” and maybe a tear or two, my son came to my rescue and fixed the problem in a matter of seconds. The problem: The cables were not properly connected.

                Having the right connection in technology is just as vital as having the right connections in life. A person that is “connected” with the proper people will advance faster and farther, than those who have no connections.

                If this is true in the secular world, it is just as true in the Christian life, but not in the way you think. The ways of God are higher (Isaiah 55:9) than ours and when we are connected to Him we will grow and have success, regardless if we are well connected or not in secular or Christian circles.

            Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.(John 15:4, 5)

                John tells us that Jesus is the Vine and we are the branches, or to put it in modern technological jargon: Jesus is the Source of power and we are the devices and gadgets He uses disperse his message to the world. If we are properly connected to Him, our message will be clear and powerful. If we are connected to Him, we shall bear much fruit and the whole world will know that we have been with Jesus (Acts 4:13).

                A. G.

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Break In

                Some time ago, our church building was burglarized. The break in happened at night. The thief broke a window and stole some electronic items.

                It is so sad that this happened to a small rural church like ours, in the middle of nowhere. There is no respect for private property or for God, even in a southern and “God fearing” community such as ours anymore.

                I don’t know the exact figures, but millions of crimes are committed each year including break-ins, robberies and burglaries. If you visit big cities like Miami, you will see iron bars on doors and windows everywhere. You will also see guard dogs and alarms protecting most properties and don’t forget the security guards.

                The human heart is just like those houses. Our hearts have been burglarized and broken too many times. To avoid this onslaught, we protect our hearts with the iron bars of anger, apathy, sarcasm or solitude.

                Jesus sees our hearts and he sees all the hurt and disappointments that live there. He also sees all the futile defense mechanisms that we use to protect it. Jesus sees all of that and everything else, including our lusts, passions, inclinations and deviations.

                Jesus sees everything that is in our hearts, because He lives there. Jesus cares about our hearts and he has compassion for our sufferings. He wants to heal our broken hearts, but the only way He will do this is by breaking the power that sin and the flesh have over us.

                He needs to break us before he can remake us.

               Jeremiah 18:4 tells us what Jeremiah, the prophet saw when he went to the potter’s house:

              “And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.”

            Spurgeon said: “God breaks those He wants to make great.” He did that with Jacob before he became Israel. He broke Saul in order to make the apostle Paul and he broke Peter and transformed him from a Christ-denying disciple into a bold preacher of righteousness in the name of the Lord.

                We need for Christ to break in into our hearts and for Him to break and destroy all the pride, lusts, rebellion and sinfulness that still remain there. Let us submit to his pruning work (John 15:4) as He removes all the useless “branches” from our heart and remakes us according to:

                “…the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13)

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“Cross Control”

                I love old cars that are still in good condition. The chassis and exterior of the older automobiles are stronger than the fiberglass or aluminum exterior of most modern vehicles. The older engines are simpler, stronger and in many cases longer-lasting than their modern counterparts.

                The cars, trucks and vans of today are not made to last. After a few years with the same vehicle, you must be willing to trade it in for a new one, or pay thousands in repairs every year if you expect to keep your used car.

                There are, however, a few modern technological advancements that make the modern automobiles better in some aspects. I am referring to Automatic Braking, Rearview Camera, GPS, LoJack, OnStar and Cruise Control. Of all these, the Cruise Control is my favorite, because it allows the driver to rest their legs, especially in a long trip.

                Cruise Control has also become the favorite of many followers of Christ today. They supposedly have received Christ as their Lord and Savior, but soon after that, they connect to the “Christian Cruise Control Network” and intend to coast and cruise, instead of walking and running with Christ in service and obedience.

                Christ did not die on the cross for us to live an easy and trouble-free live. We have not been called to a Cruise Control kind of life, but we must all submit under the control of the cross. Cross Control is what we need. The Bible tells us:

                “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)

                We must be obedient followers of Christ. Jesus gave us the example as,

               “He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

               If you want to go on a cruise from time to time, go ahead; just make sure to stay away from all its temptations. On the other hand, submit yourself under the Cross Control and forsake the unbiblical and dangerous idea of living your Christian life in cruise control mode. Get up from the pew and serve your Lord in the church building and in any other place you may be in at the moment.

               We can find salvation at the cross. We can find rest at the cross. We can find peace, joy, love and power at the cross of Christ. The cross has become our banner and all those that are under its control will be truly blessed in this life and in the next. Paul understood the power of the cross and rejoiced in it, as he exclaimed:

              “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14).

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