martes, 31 de mayo de 2016

Just thinking; Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11)

Sometimes I wonder about my reaction if I had lived and witnessed the ministry of Jesus on earth.  To be honest, I do get scared sometimes.  I am not sure I would have reacted positively and accepting.  It is very complex to put aside preconceptions and prejudices to then exercise faith "like a little child" (Mark 10:15).

The Gospel writers tell us about Jesus' "Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem".  The prophecy had said: "I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory... The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house" (Haggai 2:7,9).  There is no secret that the temple that Solomon built was magnificent, and the promise to those weeping at the scene full of rubble after coming back from Babylon was that the future of the temple was brighter that its past.

Two thousand years later it's easy to "get it", though the temple was not as beautiful physically as the one built by Solomon, the fact that Jesus, "the desired of all nations", walked, preached forgave, healed, and triumphantly entered, fulfills the promise of a greater glory.  But, what if I lived then, would I have "gotten it"?

It bothers me, to be honest, because we usually romanticize the past and play a touching song in our memory while imagining those scenes.  But what if I had lived then, in the raw of the moment, would I have "gotten it"?  It makes me think.

miércoles, 27 de abril de 2016

To know our not to know

A few months ago I was watching a Ted talk about the brain.  The presenter showed live on the screen a brain being scanned and how different parts would light up according to the activity that was being performed.  It was amazing to see a brain in action until the presenter said something that struck me and took me out of the presentation and in to my own thoughts.  He said to the person whose brain was being scanned, "you can control your brain."  Maybe for someone who is very knowledgeable on the topic, this is not a big deal, but it was, and is, for me.  Not in a bad sense, but in the awe sense.  What part of us control the brain?  Isn't the brain the center of control of our being?

There must be a scientific explanation that makes sense, but the fact is that obviously there is more then what we, after all the advancements, have come to discover and comprehend.  Another presenter on the same topic acknowledged that there is not yet a sound explanation on how our conscience works within the hardware of our brain.  Yet, we use our brain without even trying to understand how it works.

Obviously, life is full of mysteries that generate the context in which we live in.  One of them is the constant conflict that we face between what we understand is good, and what we understand is bad.  And beyond that, the pressures we need to resist in order to maintain our professional, ethical, moral or spiritual ground.  Regardless of our religious affiliation or philosophy of life, we agree that stealing is bad, and helping is good.  Where this sense of good and bad comes from?  And not only that, but why they seem to be in constant conflict?, both, with in each of us as well as in the constant social tensions that we experience too very often.

Jesus assured us that this tension exist when he said: "the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it" (Matthew 11:12, NLT).  Yes, it is true. the good news of salvation too many times finds itself within the context of conflict.  History has witness even violence and wars, but the conflict has been seen also in legislative contentions, and social unrest.  Why?  Why are we, as society, so prone to conflict?  Why do we historically react negatively to the offer of God?  In deed, it is a mystery.

martes, 5 de abril de 2016

To love

It was until I had children that I fully understood the love, caree and dedication of my parents towards me and my siblings.  Of course, before I had children I new they loved me, though I might had doubt it a couple of times, but there were plenty of evidence that their commitment to us was real and for the ling ride.  I remember in my beginnings as a pastor, before marriage and children, giving counsel on the importance of parental involvement in the education of their children.  The importance of love, communication and discipline.  And even though the concepts I shared were not that far from reality, they all were based on a one-sided perspective, on the receiving and, but not on the giving end.

Being on the receiving end we risk over-nurturing our selfishness.  No wonder the amount of ungrateful children in today's world.  We may confuse love with only receiving.  But when we become parents, and are put in the position to give without being rewarded, is when we remember with a hint of shame the many times we received from our parents without even giving the thought of recognizing their efforts.

We can only fully comprehend God's love when we place our selves on the giving end of it.  Matthew shares the mission of Jesus calling him " Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us,’" "for he will save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21,23).  Isn't it wonderful?  But if we left it like that, it would do very little for our cause.  Though having the way paved to eternal life, through Jesus, we wouldn't have the right attitude to receive it, for selfishness would be our motivation.

The culture of heaven is selflessness.  Of God the Bible says: "For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Would you highlight the word "gave"?, and later on Jesús describes himself like this: "There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends" (John 15:13).

We can't comprehend God's love for us if we haven loved like he does, therefore, we can't appreciate God's sacrifice for us, disabling us to fully surrender to him.

We must assimilate the culture of heaven, a culture of love from the giving end, so we can comprehend God's love towards us and then fully, and willing surrender to his love. That's the reason of Jesus invitation: "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men" (Matthew

miércoles, 23 de marzo de 2016

The ultimate troubleshooter

In the society we live in, we find, or try to find a solution for every problem we have.  If its lack of sleep, there is a pill for it, if boredom, lots of options, if overweight, a delicious diet, if wrinkles, a special lotion, and so on.   But I think you would agree that although we have found solutions for most of or problemas, they are all temporal.  The following night, you will have to take another pill in order to sleep, or watch another movie to treat your boredom, and be aware of what you eat every meal, and us that lotion every day.

In the Bible,God declares himself as the ultimate problem solver, the ultimate troubleshooter.  In Revelations 21:4 we find: "And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away" (NKJV).

It all sound beautiful, but there is more.  It is not enough to have our tears wiped away, or be inmortal, happy and in peace for eternity, though it sounds like a great deal.  It is, maybe, even more important to understand the motives behind God's actions, either to save or to destroy.

In Eden, Satan implanted in humans a doubt, of the fairness of God's government: "God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5).  Yes!  Apparently God was being unfair to Adam and Eve and was denying privilegies that belong to them.  Since then for humans, that doubt has played a big role in human behavior and loyalty.

Since God is love (1 John 4:8), He cannot let people pledge their loyalty to Him under the wrong assumptions.  Revelations 20 describes the process in which, at the end, all creatures will unanimously "confess that Jesus Christ is Lord" (Philippians 2:11).

viernes, 18 de marzo de 2016

Limited by my will

I remember having a discussion in my late teen years about how powerful was God.  Maybe you had the same discussion.  We were wondering of God was so powerful that he could create a rock so big and so heavy that he couldn't lift.  Of course, either way you answer that question you'll admit that God isn't that powerful after all.  As useless as that particular conversation was, years after I admit there is a limit to God's power.

In the book of Revelation, in the message to the church in Laodicea, Jesus assures: "Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends" (Revelations 3:20, NLT).  If you look closely, this text shows two things: 1) God has taken the initiative to invest himself in a unilateral action or series of actions to place himself in a position to get involved in our lives.  2) The limit to his power, his initiative and investment is our "door".  We still have the power to reject God's invitation.  So yes, God's power has a limit, and it is your freedom to choose.

jueves, 17 de marzo de 2016

Not forever

Though it may seem sometimes that the bad in life is forever, from a financial struggle to a breakup, the truth of the matter is that better days are yet to come, right?  Well, at least for the optimistic, you may say.  And I hope I don't sound too naive to you today, but my purpose in this post is to remind you that there is reason for you to believe that even though we may be in situations far from good, we are still in the position to hope for e better future.

We need to be aware of the reality of this world that we live in.  Bad things can and happen to good people, and good things apear to happen to bad people.  Yes this world is unfair.  Even the children if Israel complained about it saying: "What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands or by trying to show the LORD of Heaven’s Armies that we are sorry for our sins?  From now on we will call the arrogant blessed. For those who do evil get rich, and those who dare God to punish them suffer no harm" (Malachi 3:14-15, NLT).  Yes, from an angle, this is the reality of the world we live in, and may be, in recent days, weeks or even months, this has been your reality.  So how do we make sense of the importance of being faithful to God if there is no guarantee of us avoiding bad in our lives?

Again, the reality of this world is attached to the reality of sin, and yes, it is un unfair world.  Until we are part of the new heavens and the new earth (Revelations 21:1), we will be exposed to this reality.  But "No trial has overtaken you that is not faced by others. And God is faithful: He will not let you be tried beyond what you are able to bear, but with the trial will also provide a way out so that you may be able to endure it" (1 Corinthians 10:13).  This is for this world.  We are capable of enduring whatever we may be facing today, and still let hope illuminate our lives. Of the list faithful servants of God, the bible says: "All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth" (Hebrews 11:13).

Beyond the previous statements, we are called to aim for a higher goal.  In the message to the church of Smyrna, God says: "Don’t be afraid of what you are about to suffer. The devil will throw some of you into prison to test you. You will suffer for ten days. But if you remain faithful even when facing death, I will give you the crown of life...  Whoever is victorious will not be harmed by the second death." (Revelations 2:10-11).  Yes, it is a life in a sinless world that we aim for.  To the complains of the Children of Israel, God asure them that soon it will come the day in which "you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not" (Malachi 3:18).

miércoles, 16 de marzo de 2016

Only one thing - Revelations 2:1-7

"As dead flies give perfume a bad smell, so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor" (Ecclesiastes 10:1, NIV).  Regardless of the many good thing that we may be performing, one little thing can make the difference against us.  It seems unfair, but it's real.  Let me give you a closer example.  You may be an excellent driver, obeying each and every traffic law.  You do it not because you are afraid of a ticket, but because you value order and your safety.  But, regardless of your impeccable past, one day you may be distracted, like looking for a piece of gum, and unaware of the stop sign, keep on driving.  A traffic ticket would be a small consequence considering the risk of an accident and even loosing your life of someone else's.  But it was only one mistake!  You may say, but in real life, and as unfair as it may seem, one mistake can undo many good past decisions and actions.

In Revelations, God also mentions the church in Ephesus having only one bad characteristic.  They have many good things going on, and they are all recognized and praised: "your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil" (Revelations 2:2, NKJV) , among other things.  "Nevertheless I have this against you" (v4).  Yes, only one thing!  Why do we need to concentrate on one thing that needs to be fixed when we have so many good things going on?

Remember the story of the young rich ruler?: "You still lack one thing" (Luke 18:22), and was that one thing that kept him from following Jesus.

The one thing that is putting the well-being of the church in Ephesus at risk is that they have lost their "first love" (Revelations 2:4).  Though it can be interpreted in many ways, it is obvious that the good things going on in their lives and church do not com from the same source as before.  The first love could be understood as the interest in someone or something in which your whole being is genuinely and honestly involved.  But the motives, obviously, can change, and that, it seems, is the problem here.

Apparently it is not enough to do good, but also why we do good.  Had these people lost their identity?  Apparently so, because the counsel is: "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works" (v5).  The solution God gives is to remember who we are, to retake our identity.  Then, we can do good with the right intentions.