Pastor's Meditations

Side Effects

                I laugh aloud (and cry inside) every time I watch one of those medicine commercials on TV. To begin with, everything about the video is fake and unrealistic: Everybody is smiling and everyone is very nice to each other. They are usually walking in the park and enjoying life, thanks to the cure provided by the pill or vaccine.

                Then, the funny (and ridiculous) part begins. As the couple strolls along the park, mountainside or beach shore, they list all the side effects of the “miraculous” medicine. Sometimes this list is so big, that it takes most of video to explain the potential side effects ranging from headaches and diarrhea, to major complications and even death.

                We do not need medicines that can cure one ailment and give us twenty more. We reject medications that instead of aiding our health and well-being are the main cause that our hospitals are filled with sick people today.

                When we look at the cross of Jesus Christ, we can also see many side effects for those who believe in Jesus. He died on the cross for the satisfaction and glory of the Father. The righteous wrath of the Father was poured over the Son, who being perfect and blameless became the perfect and ultimate sacrifice for the sins of his people.

                Most medicines have negative side effects, but the Cross only has good side effects for Christians. Because of the cross of Christ we enjoy the following side effects or benefits:

                Forgiveness of sins

                Eternal life in Christ

                Adoption into the family of God

                Union with Christ forever

                The cross of Christ is the divine “medicine” that fills our souls with love, joy, hope and peace. As Jesus paid the ransom of sin, He is now able to save all those who are given to him by the Father (John 6:37) that come to the cross to seek salvation.

                The cross satisfied the Father and reconciled mankind with God. The unreachable gulf of separation that was there between us and God, was bridged by the perfect sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God, who is the only Way to heaven (John 14:6)

                The apostle Paul tells us in Colossians 1:19-20:

                 “For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all          things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace                              through the blood of His cross.”

                We have peace with God today because of the cross. That is one side effect that we can live with (pun intended), because the death of Jesus brought life, liberty and all the blessings of God’s grace to his children.

                A. G.

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“Honorable Discharge”

                   There are two ways in which soldiers usually leave the Army: Dead or alive. There are also two different ways in which a soldier may be able to retire: They can have either an Honorable or a Dishonorable Discharge.

                Deserters, traitors and rebellious soldiers are usually dishonorably discharged. In addition to this, many of them are sent to prison and they lose most (if not all) of the privileges afforded to veterans for their service.

                On the other hand, a soldier that retires with an honorable discharge enjoys a plethora of benefits and honors. Retired veterans have access to pensions, medical benefits, financial aid for education and preference for many civilian and government jobs.

                Every believer in Christ was once a soldier in the enemy’s army. We were God’s enemies ourselves (Romans 5:10) in our unredeemed state. Moreover, we served in the kingdom of darkness (Colossians 1:13) until we were delivered by God and placed in his kingdom of light (1 Peter 2:9).

                Any soldier with our tainted record of sin and rebellion would be dishonorably discharged and hanged. Additionally, an enemy soldier captured by the opposing army, would be imprisoned and promptly executed.

                This is exactly what we deserved for deserting God’s army (Genesis 3). God created man and placed him (and his wife) in a paradise, but Adam (and all of us in him) chose to follow a dark prince (Ephesians 2:2) instead of worshipping the King of kings (Revelation 17:14).

                We deserved (and still deserve) death and hell, but the grace of God in Christ turned sinners into saints; worms into worshippers; apostates into apostles and deserters into dedicated believers.

                Only God’s unfathomable love can give an honorable discharge in Christ to an enemy soldier. In Colossians 2:14 we read that Christ gave us life and forgave all our sins, “Having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way having nailed it to the cross.”

                In Christ we are honorably discharged. Hell has no claim on us. Satan has no dominion over us. Sin has been defeated and we are forgiven in Christ. Furthermore, we have more benefits, blessings and privileges as Christians than all the veterans put together.

                What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).

                A. G.

               

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Citizen of Heaven

                      The other day I engaged in a very interesting (and controversial) conversation with one of my students. It went something like this:

                Student: “Where are you from, Mr. G.?

                Teacher: “I am American”

                Student: “Ok, but where were you born?”

                Teacher: “I was born in Miami, Florida”

                Student: “Yeah, yeah, but where is your family from? Aren’t you Cuban?”

                Teacher: “Well, let me ask you a question. Are you British, Irish or Scottish?

                Every time I say that I am American, people keep pressing me to know my “real” ethnicity. I don’t remember asking other Americans about their country of origin. You see, in America we are all immigrants and even though I will never be ashamed of having Cuban parents, a Spanish grandfather and a Lebanese grandmother, I am also extremely happy to have been born in this blessed nation.

                The next time someone ask me about my nationality, ethnicity or race, I will respond in a more biblical and relevant manner. You see, since I came to Christ, nothing else matters. I do not care about my nationality, race, language or anything else that many people attach great importance. I will say:

                “I am a citizen of heaven!”

                If you are a Christian like me, you have been born again (John 3:3) and therefore you are a brand new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Furthermore, we do not belong to this world anymore since Jesus called us out from the darkness. We now belong to Jesus and we are a holy nation (1 Peter 2:9-10).

                Jesus once said to his disciples:

                If you were of the worldthe world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the worldtherefore the world hates you.” (John 15:9)

                I am a citizen of heaven. My heart is in heaven; my home is in heaven; my hope is in heaven and my Lord and Savior is in heaven. We are pilgrims in this world and ambassadors of the Lord. Our mission is to proclaim the message of heaven to the citizens of this dying world.

                I am happy to be an American citizen, but I am forever blessed and eternally grateful to be a child of God and a citizen of heaven.

                “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20)

               A. G.

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A Most Joyful Chaos

                It is Sunday afternoon. On such a day we (meaning two of our sons and family) gather to have a meal together. We started with the idea of doing it every Sunday, but… we have decided for the moment to do it two Sundays a month.

                It is such joy to have them seating around the table together and giving God thanks, from the smallest to the oldest as we hold hands and pray. Then after the meal we deal with dirty dishes, messy floors and running and screaming children inside the house. This makes my wife very nervous and stressed out, but deep inside she loves it.

                We play together, have talks, play chess, take little ones to the pool and change many diapers and escort many to the bathroom. It seems chaotic, but when they leave we feel a small sense of emptiness and solitude. How can this be? Just a few hours ago, we were exhausted and longing to be alone once more.

                God did not create us to be alone. He created the family of humans to keep each other company. He blesses marriages with much love for one another and then He blesses them with children. Let us not forget that they are not a nuisance, they are a gift from the Almighty. It is our responsibility as parents and grandparents to show them the path to salvation and back to God.

                This Joyful Chaos or chaotic joy on Sundays is the second best highlight of our week. First, we rejoice with our brothers and sisters at church and then we rejoice with our other family. It is a little crazy and messy, but it brings us much joy and happiness.

                Brothers and sisters don’t give up on your families. Enjoy as much time as you can with them. Play, eat, laugh and cry together, but most of all worship God together. I pray that you take time every day for family devotionals; a time to read God’s Word, sing his praises and pray together.

                These devotional moments will keep your families together at all times. Deuteronomy 6:6-9 gives us the blueprint for effective and successful family devotions.

                “And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

                This is pure joy in the Lord: A family that walks with Christ at all times. Yes, it can seem a little “chaotic” sometimes, especially when you are dealing with small children (or teenagers), but the reward is joy, eternal joy in the Lord.

                 Mayra and A. Gonzalez

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“Inside Out”

                      

                Human beings normally live their lives in an unbiblical manner; even Christians follow this pattern many times. The Bible commands us to love and we hate. The Bible also tells us to die to sin, but we play with it and sometimes we are burn by it.

                Most people live according to their flesh (sinful nature) and are consumed by their lusts and passions. This humanistic and naturalistic orientation is what is known as a sensual life, because it is driven by our senses and emotions.

                An unbeliever follows the dictates of his or her body, which in turn fills their souls with the desire to sin and to seek pleasure at all costs. The spirit of such persons is dead; therefore they can never rise above from the level of the senses and passions...unless they are saved by Jesus.

                Adam and Eve were created sinless (not perfect) but when temptation appeared they forgot to live from the “inside out” and chose instead to follow the desires of the flesh. They chose to live from the “outside in” and soon afterwards, sin was IN, they were OUT and their spirit was dead.

                So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).

                Adam and Eve didn’t listen to God’s warning and the world changed from a saintly paradisiacal Garden into a sinful pile of Garbage by the time of Noah (Genesis 6:5). The Bible admonishes us to stay far away from sin and the world today.

                “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world” (1 John 2:15-16)

                The fleshly and worldly life is not for us Christians. We must live from the inside out. The right and biblical way to live must begin in our spirit, which is in direct communication with the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:16). Our spirit then must control and direct our soul in the ways of God and our sanctified soul must move our bodies to walk in obedience and holiness before the Lord.

                Adam sinned and his spirit died instantly (Genesis 2:17) and his soul began to die and eventually his physical body died as well. In Christ, our spirit was brought back to life, our soul is being sanctified and our body will one day be glorified in heaven.

                This is what I call living “Inside Out” in Christ.

                A. G

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