Pastor's Meditations

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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“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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   “Pest Control”

                The summertime is here and with it will come an invasion of all sort of insects or “pests” as we commonly call them. I believe that all the pest control companies will receive an increase in clients and pesticide sales will go through the roof.

                There is another pest, or pestilence terrorizing our country and the world now. This pestilence is called the Covid19 or Coronavirus. This virus is truly a pest and it is expanding and killing thousands every day around the world.

                What can we do to stop this pestilence or plague?

                I am sure that it will stop one day, but I also believe that only God is able to stop it. As I referred in a previous blog and video, there are blessings from God even amid this pandemic. Fear can be overcome by Faith; the prospect of Death can lead us to Dedicate ourselves to God and even Anxiety can be defeated as we Arrange our priorities according to God’s Word.

                I call this blog or video “Pest Control” because I believe that even though we cannot end this virus or even control it on our own, God has given us precious promises in the Bible and today we turn to 2 Corinthians 7:13-14.

                13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 

                 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”

              The first thing we notice is that bad things will happen. God says: “when” famine, droughts and pestilence (viruses) happen to us we need to do four things for Him to do some “pest control”

Humility---We must humble ourselves and recognize that we are incapable to control most things. Let us be humble and not imitate the proud people on TV.

Prayer---We need to pray for our families, brothers and sisters, coworkers and for every person affected by this pandemic.

Seeking God---This is more than prayer. This is worship and total submission to our God

Repentance---This is what “turn from…wicked ways” mean. Turn from sin/turn to God

            The promise is clear and sure. He will hear; He will forgive and He will heal our land. God will do Pest Control as we humbly pray and seek Him while we forsake sin and pride. Heal our nation and the world today, Lord.

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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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“The Strongest Man”

                This is a true story.

                Many years ago, when I was a young man I went with a friend of mine to a party. There were many of us in that place. I remember that there was music and dancing and a few pretty girls (I’ll get in trouble for this one). I also remember that there was a foul-mouth bully.

                The party was lively and happy, but when this drunken troublemaker appeared on the scene everything changed. He started harassing girls and intimidating all the guys. Everyone was afraid of this strong and belligerent individual.

                Well, almost everyone. Out of nowhere a new man came to the party. He was taller, stronger and very courageous. He took one good look at the bully, headed in his direction and after a few choice words, the “dangerous” man fled the scene and the party was even better than before.

                Satan was this bully. He terrorized our lives for many years (Isaiah 14:16-17). We were his prisoners until Jesus came to set us free (Psalm 146:7; Isaiah 61:1). Our life before Christ was a “party” without music; a banquet without food and an existence without real life.

                Jesus came and He changed everything. He conquered death; He defeated the kingdom of darkness and He destroyed the power of sin and the dominion of Satan. This victory is illustrated in the following biblical passage:

“...So He called them to Himself and said to them in parables: “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself,  that house cannot stand.  And if Satan has risen up against himself, and is divided, he cannot stand, but has an end.  No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. And then he will plunder his house.(Mark 3:23-27)

              Satan is the strong man, but Jesus is the STRONGEST Man. He plundered the house of the enemy and has given us freedom, forgiveness and a future filled with love, joy, hope and life. Rejoice in the victory of our Eternal King and if you are ever afraid of the “strong man,” remember to call the Stronger, Perfect and Glorious Son of Man and He will come to your rescue and keep you safe.

               And life will be a glorious party once again.

               A. G.

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