Pastor's Meditations

“Valuable Criminals”

                                                             

                The movie “Catch Me If You Can” tells the story of Frank Abagnale, one of the most notorious criminals and “con men” in the United States. He was able to successfully pose as a Pan Am pilot; as a doctor in the state of Georgia and as a prosecutor for the state of Louisiana, and most of this before his 19th birthday. His primary crime, however, was committing check fraud and he became so good at it, that the FBI eventually used him to catch other check forgers.

                He became a very valuable criminal.

                The FBI, CIA and most government agencies turn to arrested criminals to help them catch the “bigger fish” and destroy their criminal organizations. Police departments avail themselves of “CIs” (Confidential Informants) in order to obtain information about criminal activities that they wouldn’t be able to gather otherwise.

                The church of our Lord Jesus Christ is made up of valuable criminals. Our conversion to Christianity has transformed us from useless sinners into useful saints. Before coming to Christ for forgiveness and salvation, we were spiritually dead, deaf and blind. We were lost and wicked; we were God’s enemies and evil criminals on our way to hell.

                And then a miracle of miracles happened. The Creator of the universe and Lord of all became a man like us and died on a cross to save a fallen, evil and depraved race. We… “despised and rejected” Christ… “And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.” (Isaiah 53:3)

                But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Roman 5:8).

                That is the miracle of the love of God! The fact that He even loved us in the first place is already a great miracle, but divine love is more than beautiful and comforting words: The love of God acted on our behalf as Jesus died on the cross to pay for our sins. The love of God is generous and giving

                “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

                God has given us new life in Christ so that we can live it for Him.

                “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

                 A.  G.

 

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“Serious Fun”

                As a teacher, I tend to be creative and I lean in the direction of having fun in the classroom. I have had to attend day-long conferences in the past that bored me to death and at those times, I remembered that my students have to endure that…every day!

                Is every day fun and games in my classroom? By no means! There is teaching and academic activities in my room each day---including on the fun days! I have learned to segment my lessons into five or six different sections in order to capture the fleeting attention span of my students.

                I have also learned that fun must be “serious” and by that I mean that even review games and fun activities must be geared towards learning. Serious fun is that which is done under control. We can learn a lot in a controlled environment. We can learn a lot from amusement parks, because their great organization and control makes it possible for everyone to have fun, serious fun.

                And what about having serious fun in church? I believe that the church must be among the most fun places in the world, but before you misunderstand my message, allow me to explain what I mean by this. To have serious fun in our churches we don’t need to resort to games, activities and other gimmicks so popular among mega-churches. A fun church doesn’t need to have a professional band, a Starbucks and a comedian in the pulpit. Furthermore, a fun church is not that in which people are screaming and running in the aisles.

                1 Corinthians 14:40 says: Let all things be done decently and in order.”

                Many churches apply this verse in an extreme and unbiblical manner. Their worship services are so “orderly” that there is no room for joy or for any expression of our faith. If you ever visit one of those congregations, do not attempt to raise your hands during worship and do not dare shout “Amen!”

                What are the “all things” that we must do in decency and order? This, my brothers and sisters is what I call having Serious Fun. These things include reading the Bible (fun), worshipping God through praise songs (fun), fellowshipping with other brothers and sisters (fun), praying to the God of the universe (fun), giving our offerings (it should be fun) and listening to the faithful and vibrant preaching of God’s Word (fun, fun, fun).

            All Christians should enjoy church services and anticipate every meeting. For a believer there is nothing more fun than to be in God’s presence to worship and honor Him. Nothing compares to the joy (another word for fun) that we experience in our Father’s house. Let us have some serious fun; the fun prescribed in Psalm 100:

            “Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness;
            Come before His presence with singing…Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
            And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.”

            A.  G.

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“End Change”

                I believe that all my grandchildren are beautiful and smart. As far as their behavior is concerned, I will withhold any comment at this time. One grandson in particular, is extremely bright, although at times he seems to be (or act) a little bit absent minded.

                He is good at building (and destroying) things; he is also a great reader and even better story writer. The other day he wrote a complete fictional story. It was a funny tale, with many descriptive details and a few illustrations. The end of the story, however, was abrupt and not on the same level as the rest of the narrative. After reading it one more time, he decided to change the end.

                What about your story? Before I was saved by the Lord Jesus Christ, the story of my life didn’t have a happy ending. I was miserable most of the time and the very few “happy” moments didn’t last very long.

                One day, in the back of a bus, I began to reflect about my past, present and future. My past was a blur; colored for the most part, with the pain of being a half-orphan. The loss of my father at an early age traumatized me for a long time.

                The present was not much better. I was an American citizen being raised in a communist country, but even there, I dared to dream about my future life. I saw myself going to college, getting married having children, getting old and…total darkness!

                I didn’t like the end of my story as I imagined it, but unlike my grandson, I was unable to do anything about it. I was an atheist (or an unbeliever) and I was hopeless.

                And then, Jesus came to my life. He forgave all my sins and brought hope and light to my darkness. Jesus changed the end of my story. Now, I am a child of God. Now, I have a glorious hope in Christ. There is a Light at the end of the tunnel and there is eternal life at the “end” of my earthly life. You can even say that now my story has no end, for I will live forever with Christ.

                What about you reader? Has Jesus changed the end of your story?

                And at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life… Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:1-3)

                 A. G.

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“Horrible Days”

                One of the most famous children books of all times is entitled: “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” This book recounts the story of a “bad” day in the life of a young boy named Alexander.

                This boy was very pessimistic, because he woke up feeling that his day would be horrible no matter what. This was indeed the case, as he devoted himself to complain about everything, including his breakfast, his brand new shoes, his hot bath and his pajamas. I wonder if children in poor countries would ever complain about these things!

                Well, my name is also Alexander and I am having a challenging day. The sun is shining and the birds are singing, but I am coughing and sneezing. The house is a total mess; there is debris and tools everywhere and to make matters worse, the water pump just broke.

                There are days like these when nothing seems to go our way. I call them “Job Days” because they are filled with work and turmoil, but also because they remind me of Job, the patriarch, who suffered one loss after another all on the same day.

                None of us can compare to Job’s calamities, but when we go through a “horrible” day, we feel as if we are surrounded by more lions than Daniel and by more waves than Peter. The fiery furnace, where the three young Jews were thrown, is like a single match compared to the magnitude of our fiery trials.

                I am not minimizing our pain. We too experience horrible days and suffer loss. There are days that seem to test us beyond what we can endure. We have been “at the end of our ropes” many times, and at times we can’t even find the rope.

                It is at those times when we cry out to Jesus. He saved Peter from the waves, Daniel from the lions, Moses from Pharaoh and his people from a multitude of enemies. He has also saved you and me not only from hell, but from many horrible, hellish days.

                The fact that you are reading this today indicates that our Lord has been merciful and gracious to you. Yes, you have endured quite a few trials, but you are still here; you are still standing by the grace of God and one day you will stand in the presence of God in glory forever.

                In the meantime, here is a good verse for horrible days

                No temptation (test) has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond what you are able, but with the temptation (test) will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 Emphasis mine)

                 A. G.

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  Clean Hands

                The signs are everywhere: You can see them in restaurants, in doctor’s offices and in most places with public bathrooms.

                “Employees must wash their hands before returning to work”

                I have come to appreciate the message in those signs. I always find a measure of comfort when I imagine that my server (and cook) in the restaurant have taken the time to wash and scrub their hands before they handle my food.

                Having clean hands is very important in most professions, especially in healthcare and in the food industry. On the other hand, I wouldn’t take my car to a mechanic with immaculate and pristine hands.

                Christians must always have clean hands. I am not referring primarily to the vital need for daily personal hygiene; although I believe that the followers of Christ must be the cleanest people in the planet.

              Having clean hands means that we are living a holy life. Clean hands symbolize a good reputation, a good testimony and a person that is engage in good works.

              Clean hands also represent a Christian that has placed all his burdens in Jesus (Matthew 11 28) and draws closer to his God (James 4:8). The Bible declares that clean hands are absolutely necessary for true worship.

               “Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who may stand in His holy place?
                He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
                Nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive blessing from the Lord, And righteousness                                          from the God of his salvation.”
(Psalm 24: 3-4)

                Clean hands, therefore, are holy hands. A believer that has clean hands is one that has a pure heart, a renewed mind and a transformed life by the power of Jesus.

                Lord, please help us to have clean hands so we can raise them up to you in praise and prayer!

                “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath                                      and doubting;” (I Timothy 2:8).

                Are your hands clean? 

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