Pastor's Meditations

“What Really Matters”

                Recently, we have witnessed an eruption of protests and riots all over the U S and the world in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer. This murder was an atrocious and cowardly act and it must be condemned by everyone.

                Life is a precious gift from our Creator and it must be treasured. No one has the right to murder another human being, regardless of their race, age or any other status. Murder is not what happens when you are faithfully serving your country as a soldier or when you are acting in self-defense. It is the taking of another person’s life in a premeditated and malicious manner.

                I agree that every life matters (except maybe for mosquitoes and rats). The life of every person on this planet matters---even the lives of those who are opposed to my viewpoints and beliefs. I am against all forms of evil discrimination and racism and I also believe that to believe otherwise is an affront to God, in whose image all members of mankind have been created.

                Let me put it more clearly: I believe that life is sacred because it proceeds from a holy God and therefore must be respected, preserved and protected. I will take it even further by saying that people of all races matter; people of all cultures matter; people of all nations matter; people of all political ideologies (yes, even communists) matter and people of all faiths matter.

                Now, before you accuse me of being ecumenical or politically correct allow me to explain. I don’t have to agree with (or even like) everyone in order to believe that their lives matter. I despise the tenets of Communism, Socialism, Islam, Buddhism, homosexuality, liberal politics, anarchy, racism, the prosperity “gospel” and many other evil and wicked beliefs and unbiblical institutions.

                I hate sin, but I don’t have to hate the sinner. The Bible commands us to:

                “…love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 19:19)

                The Bible even admonishes us to love those who hate us.

                “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-48)

                When we love God and our neighbor we are fulfilling the Law (Galatians 5:14). When we love God we can love our neighbor, regardless of their race or any other thing that separates us from each other. When we love God, we will value life, every life---even the life of the unborn.

                This is what really matters: The love of God in our hearts which overflows in love for others. This is not puppy love or platonic love; this is real love. This is the kind of love that led the Father to send his only begotten Son to die on the cross to save our lives (John 3:16). This is the life that matters above all ---A life that has been redeemed and filled with eternal life, boundless love and imperishable hope.

                A. G.

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License to Suffer

                                                          

                James Bond is the fictitious agent 007 of the British Secret Service. This super agent is entrusted with the most dangerous and seemingly impossible missions. In order to achieve success, James has at his disposal a myriad of fancy cars, weapons and gadgets and he also has a license to kill.

                A license to kill allows government agents to use lethal force in the delivery of their objectives. A license to kill must be used with extreme care and only in extreme cases, where life is threatened by the actions of the criminal. It should never be abused by anyone.

                Christians also have a license to kill. We have been entrusted with the mission to eliminate sin and the flesh. As “agents” and soldiers of the Lord we have a clear command from Christ to kill or as the apostle Paul says to:

                put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

                Sin is our mortal enemy and it must be destroyed at all costs. If we kill sin we will live, if we don’t, it will destroy us. Sin always leads to death (Romans 6:23; James 1:15). Therefore it is imperative for us to kill sin in order to live for Christ.

               “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Romans 8:13)

               As Christians we also have many other licenses: The license to worship God; the license to serve Jesus Christ; the license to proclaim the Gospel; the license to pray and study God’s Word and the license to suffer for Christ.

               A license to suffer?

              Suffering is not the most popular license or calling for Christians, but it is an integral part of our lives. We have been called to follow Jesus in his steps of suffering (1 Peter 2:21) and to walk through a narrow gate and a difficult way (Matthew 7:13-14). In addition to this, the Bible compares our suffering with the blessing of believing in Christ:

              “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29)

              If you don’t want to suffer for Christ, do not attempt to serve, obey or follow Him. On the other hand, if you are a faithful believer, expect all kinds of sufferings, trials and tests. These sufferings will be used by the Lord to transform us according to the image of Jesus Christ and to purify us as gold is refined by the fire.

              A. G.

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“Behind the Mask”

                We are living in strange days indeed! Everywhere I go now, I can see almost everyone wearing masks or some type of face covering. In some places, you must wear a mask or you will not be able to enter their premises at all. In addition to this, other citizens have taken the unpaid job of “Coronavirus Vigilantes” to watch out for those who violate the CDC and government guidelines.

                This is so surreal and in a way it reminds me of one of those futuristic movies where cities are deserted and the government exercises total control over the surviving population in the name of “safety” and protection. It also reminds me of the terrible years I lived in Cuba, under a totalitarian and communist dictatorship.

                Wearing masks have always been a part of the attire of surgeons, construction workers, nail technicians and a few others. Masks are also the go-to outfit for criminals. Who can forget the masked bandits of the Wild West and the bank robbers of today?

                Wearing a mask has always been a problem for me. I cannot breathe well with a mask on and in addition to that, the mask fibers make me sneeze and fog up my glasses. Wearing a mask in public during this pandemic, however, has given me a certain degree of anonymity in public places. I can now understand the allure that Masked Parties (also called Balls) holds over some people.

                People have been wearing behavior “masks” for thousands of years. We wear masks to conceal our anger, anxiety, disgust, embarrassment, frustration, sadness and many other similar emotions, behaviors and attitudes. We rarely bare our souls in front of others.

                Christians also engage in this masking game. We go to church wearing our “Sunday best” and with a big (sometimes fake) smile plastered on our faces. No one needs to know our pain, failures or defeats. We must, as someone has said in the past, “fake it until we make it.”

                This is not how Christians should live. We must get rid of all masks and start living a radical and sincere brand of Christianity. We must be genuine and transparent in our relationship with Christ and with our brothers and sisters.

                “Sincerity” in the original Latin, means that which is pure, clean and unadulterated. Our love for each other must be sincere; our words should be truthful and sincere and our actions must also be sincere. Remember the words of the apostles in this regard:

                “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22)

                “…that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10)

                I don’t know if you like to wear physical masks or not, but I pray that you and I will remove all the masks that keep us apart and that we will come together as one in Christ.

                A. G

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Who’s Next?

 

                In the recent months our school has seen the disappearance of some of our teachers. It seems as if each month we lose one of our instructors. The administration, as well as other teachers, parents and students are dumbstruck by this turn of events.

                These teachers have not been fired, transferred or kidnapped. They are not with us anymore due to sickness or retirement. They have simply passed away one after the other. Some were elderly and a bit sick, but others, including my friend Jeff, died all of a sudden.

                I can imagine some in our teaching community scratching their heads and wondering if they will be next. A cloud of sadness and anxiety has engulfed our school and perhaps all of us are thinking about the finiteness of our earthly lives.

                More recently we have seen the global devastation of the Coronavirus. More than 6 million people have been infected and over one hundred thousand have died in the United States alone. Every day brings a new wave of deaths, although the “curve” is actually dipping down in most countries.

                This pandemic has transformed our world, perhaps for a long time to come. Many have actually died, while others are prisoners of fear and anxiety. Even most of our churches have fallen prey of this terror as they are still closed for (the Lord’s) business.

                These are the cold hard facts:

                All of us will die one day (except for those who take part in the Rapture)

                Any of us can die at any moment

                We cannot prevent our own death

                “Living” in fear and anxiety is worse than dying in Christ

                Who is the next person that will pass away in our congregation? Only God knows. There are two ways in which we can live: In Fear…or as the Bible says,

                “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)

                And what if you or I are next? Will that really be so bad? What if we adopt a different viewpoint instead? What if we would decide to follow Paul’s example and proclaim that:

                For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gainBut if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” (Philippians 1:21-23)

                I do not wish for anyone to die. I hope and pray that all of us can be Raptured away by Christ and go “from life to life,” but even death cannot separate us from God and his love (Romans 8:35-39).

               A.G.

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Social Distancing

                This is the first blog I have written in two months or so. I have distanced myself from writing simply because there was no need for me to write blogs, but now that we are back together at church I must write again.

                Speaking of distance, one of the most common used phrases in this Coronavirus era is “Social Distancing.” All the world governments have implemented quarantines, lock downs, mask wearing and a strict social distancing protocol wherever you go.

                Now we must stand at least six feet apart from each other in markets, stores and any other place that might still be open. Most businesses have even erected (plastic) walls to keep the customers at bay (what would Trump say about that?) and even placed all sorts of markings on the floor to let us know where it is safe to stand.

                I would say that here in America we have been practicing “social distancing” for quite a while. The advent of the Internet, social media and smart devices have made it possible for the people to stay “connected” without even having to speak to each other face to face. It is not surprising anymore to see entire families spend hours “together” while every member of the family is either watching TV, playing video games, texting or checking their social media.

                Even many churches practice this social distancing approach in their services, so I guess that these new government guidelines won’t affect them that much. Fellowship is a thing of the past. Now you can go to church, watch the cool band and the cooler preacher on a big screen and go home without having to talk or connect with anyone. If you happen to bring your kids, you just sign them up on the computer screen and get your number to collect them later.

                I know who needs to practice social distance: The government. Separation of church and state simply means that our government cannot dictate our faith. The Constitution of the United States grants every citizen (including Christians) many rights, including the 1 Amendment which says:

                Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the                    free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press, or the right of the                              people peaceably to assemble and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

                Our government has always been very tolerant of Christianity and we have enjoyed many freedoms and benefits in this great (and free) country of ours. Lately, however, the government has not kept its distance from us and has forbidden the peaceful assembling of Christians to worship our Lord in many of our church buildings.

                I have obeyed the Social Distancing rules so far, but it is now time for our government to practice those rules as well and not interfere with our worship services under the pretense of “keeping us safe” from a virus. We will worship our God and HE will keep us safe. We will keep praying like Daniel and preaching the Gospel like Peter and getting closer to our God and our brothers and sisters!

                A. G.

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