Pastor's Meditations

Inclusion

                I work in a public school. It can be a challenge sometimes, but when we work unto the Lord (Ephesians 6:7), our jobs can be rewarding as they turn into ministry opportunities.

                In our school there are many clubs, sports and other extracurricular activities. There are also many academic branches (Math, English, Science, Spanish, etc.) and some specialized programs such as ELL, Migrant and ESE.

                ESE (Exceptional Student Education) is a large department in our campus, which deals with hundreds of students. Some ESE teachers visit the classrooms to support the students, while others remain in the same classroom all day. This latter one is known as “Inclusion.”

                As I reflect on this, I am reminded that I belong to the heavenly “Inclusion” program of salvation. For some unknown reason, God decided to include me in the ranks of those redeemed by his blood.

                This is nothing but pure, unmerited and undeserved grace. I was an evil sinner; an atheist that despised Christ and the church and yet, He chose to save me and include me in His eternal family.

                The Bible says that we are,

                “…accepted in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

                When a person believes in Christ, he or she “receives” Him (John 1:12) as Lord and Savior. We have no other choice or option, because Jesus is the only way to heaven (John 14:6).

                Jesus, on the other hand, has the ability to choose and accept those whom He wants to save. He doesn’t need to receive anything; he doesn’t need to save anyone, in fact He doesn’t need anything or anyone.

                And yet, He chose me “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4) to be his son. This is the best inclusion ever! The Creator of the universe included me in His family; I am the child of the King of kings!

                My aim then should be to include God in my life and (as some say) “give Him the control” of my heart. As nice and sweet as that sounds, it is simply unbiblical. We can’t give God any control, (He is already in total control). We however can and must submit to Him in humble obedience.

                And as far as including God in our lives, the answer once again is to surrender and submit to his will. The more we immerse ourselves in Christ, the more we will be “included” in his plans; and the more that we die to sin and the flesh, the more that the life of Christ will be manifested in and through us.

               A. G.

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The “Dancing” Devil

                My father watched the epic movie “Dances with Wolves” a few days ago. As the title indicates the man in the film, “dances” and plays around with a wolf around the campfire.

                I don’t know how wise it is to dance with wolves, or any other ferocious beast for that matter. I try to stay away from dancing, from wild animals and from dancing with animals.

                The worst “dance” of all is the proverbial “Dancing with the devil.” This phrase has more than one meaning. It means to do something wrong or dangerous, or both. It also means to compromise your ethics and morals in exchange for some perceived benefit or pleasure. Worst of all, this phrase describes those who have abandoned God to follow the devil and his ways.

                What about if we, the believers in Christ, would turn the tables on our adversary? What would happen if we decided to stop dancing with the devil and made him “dance” (runaway) instead?

                The only way to accomplish this is by the power of God working in and through our lives. We cannot defeat the forces of evil on our own, but we can resist and overcome in the name and power of Jesus.

                The Bible says:

                “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

                “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

                Submit to God today and follow Jesus and He will force the devil to dance away from you in terror. Christians already have a dancing PARTNER and his name is Jesus Christ.

                When you are tempted to join the temptation dance say no, and run to Jesus. Do not be swayed by the pretty music and do not take its gloved hand. The music of temptation is played by a band of demons and behind the gloves there are the deadly claws of the devil.

                He who listens to God’s Word will not listen to the music (voice) of temptation

                He who always walks with God, will never dance with the devil

                He who dresses in purity and power, will not be ashamed by sin or the devil

                 “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10, 11)

                A. G.

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“Put the Paddle Down”

                Ping Pong is a very interesting and exciting game. To play this game you need a table, a net, lots of ping pong balls and paddles. The object of this game is simple: to win points by making your opponents miss the incoming ball, or for them to hit it out of bounds (beyond the table).

                As a sport or recreational activity, Ping Pong is great, but it is a very poor and detrimental tool for marriage conflict resolution.

                Many years ago, my wife and I played verbal “Ping Pong.” If she would criticize me for anything, I would pick up my “paddle” and return the criticism “ball” back to her. This was only the beginning of our Ping Pong arguing game. The criticisms and attacks would grow stronger and louder, followed by silence, resentment and isolation.

                It was not until we put our paddles down that effective and loving communication began to take place. It was a hard process, but it was worth all the effort, the tears and the pain because at the end we found out that we were now able to talk heart to heart.

                The first ever Ping Pong “players” were Adam and Eve. When they were confronted by God, they blamed each other and even blamed God (Genesis 3:11-13). Since that day, countless couples have played the blame (Ping Pong) game; a game in which there are no winners or champions, only losers.

                A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.  The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness” (Proverbs 15:1-2).

                Oh, how many divorces could be avoided if we would just learn to speak “softly” to each other! It is better to lose an argument, than to destroy the relationship. Marriages and all other relationships grow in a nurturing and loving environment.

                The reason why many marriages end up in divorce is because they have played a game with no referee. Marriage is not the union of two, but the union of three: Jesus, you and your spouse. If Jesus is the Mediator of your marriage, you can be sure of success. The closer that you and your spouse walk with Jesus, the closer you will be with one another.

                Please put the paddle down! Stop winning arguments and start winning at the game of real love and commitment. Pattern your marriage and all other relationships on the blueprint of 1 Corinthians 13. Speak the truth to each other, but do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).

                Paul admonished us to “…avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife” (2 timothy 2:23). There is a blessing for those that abandon the paddle: “It is honorable for a man to stop striving…any fool can start a quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3).

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                 Recruiting

                             

                Lately, I have been reading about the recruiting frenzy in the United States, especially in regards to College Football. Last Wednesday was “National Signing Day” and thousands of High School student athletes from all over the country signed their Letter of Intent to enroll and play in their chosen university.

                This day marked the culmination of a year-long process of recruitment. Coaches and other staff members call, text and email the athletes on an ongoing basis. Many of them go so far as to travel to their schools and homes in hopes of “reeling in” the prized prospect.

                Recruiting goes on all the time…and not only in sports. The Armed Services is always looking for new recruits and so does the FBI, the CIA and most other government agencies. The private sector also engages in this process, as well as most religious organizations and cults.

                The so called Jehovah’s Witnesses are very effective in recruiting and adding new converts to their false church. They, along with the Mormons, are frequently engaged in visiting homes and other places with the purpose of proselytizing others.

                And what can we say about the church of Christ? Are we actively calling unbelievers to come to Christ for salvation, or are we just recruiting believers from other congregations to join our fellowship? This unbiblical recruiting of members of other churches goes against everything the apostle Paul stood for. He respected the ministries of other preachers.

                “…so that we may preach the gospel in lands beyond you, without boasting of work already done in another's area of influence.” (2 Corinthians 10:16)

                God is sovereign, and He moves his people according to his will. It is one thing for the Lord to move us to another congregation to use us for his glory and quite another for pastors and church members to “recruit” brothers and sisters away from their home church.

                We have been called to be “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19), that is, to evangelize unbelievers and bring them to Christ. Pastors and church leaders have likewise been instructed to “feed the sheep” (John 21:17), not to steal sheep from other churches.

                I wonder how many churches still require reference letters from other churches. It is more difficult to go from one job to another, than to hop from church to church. New jobs demand a Resume, an application, references, interviews and even drug tests.

                Many Christians leave their congregations with impunity, knowing that a host of desperate churches will admit them, no questions asked. It is time for us Christians to honor Christ and respect his church. It is time to bring unbelievers to the church and to keep believers in their church.

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“The Best Mirror in the World”

                The Evil Queen in Disney’s “Snow White” said one of most memorable lines in movie history:

                “Magic mirror, on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” (Not “Mirror, mirror…” by the way). The said mirror would always proclaim the queen as the fairest, until Snow White appeared on the scene and became the most beautiful girl in the land.

                Mirrors have become a necessary commodity in our homes, cars, public bathrooms, fitting rooms and in many other places. We need mirrors to groom ourselves correctly and to see if our attire fits (and matches) properly.

                Mirrors are also used as decorative pieces and are strategically placed in stores and offices to “enlarge” the room. Finally, “magicians” and illusionists use mirrors as part of their acts, to make us believe that they are actually performing magic tricks.

                There is one MIRROR that is infinitely superior to all other mirrors. I am referring to the mirror of the Law of God. This mirror lets us see beyond our physical reflection. As we look intently into this divine glass, we can clearly detect ALL of our defects, stains and sin.

                The Law of God is the mirror that leads anyone who truly looks into it, to desperation and sorrow over their sin.

                “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law.” (Romans 7:7)

                The Law shows us our sinful condition and furthermore it cannot save us

                “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:20)

                So, what is the Law good for? The Word of God is the double edge sword (Hebrews 4:12) that first wounds the sinner with the “edge” of the Law and then heals him with the “edge” of Grace. The Law is not only a true mirror that reflects our wickedness, but it is also a light that points to the Savior:

                “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (Galatians 3:24)

                 What shall we do with this heavenly mirror after we come to Christ for salvation? Search for Christ every day in his Word and do what He commands.

                “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:21-24)

                 A. G.

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