Missing the Glory Days


My ministry

For months I have felt that nobody cares about what I have to say… NOBODY! That is a hard cookie to swallow for a preacher! I know our gifts and callings are irrevocable; Romans tells us that. However, I wonder, where did my ministry go? I still hear God, I still feel his Word burning in my heart with messages, bible studies, etc. But for the most part, they end up in this blog who has become my faithful friend.

After so much sin and disappointment in my life I feel that I disqualify myself from ministry. My purpose has been severely affected. I know I will obey God if He calls me to do anything. For now, I have witnessed failures after failures in everything I do, from published books, to the starting of any ministry, local churches and yes, even in ministering to my own family. I am in a very dark place. I am now 52 and not one door has open! The glory and the top of my life as a minister go back to the summer of 2005, 15 years ago!!!! when I was called to pastor a church in Winton North Carolina and, shortly after, the Lord gave me a powerful prison ministry.

It was very common for me to preach 4 times a day. I will start my day with a morning service to the Hispanics in prison (8:00 am), then I will preach, by invitation, in whatever church cared to have me (10:30 am), then I will minister in my own church at 3 PM and lastly, I will finished my Sunday’s going back to minister to the general population at prison at 7 PM. Those were, without a doubt, my glory days. I felt so happy, I had great joy in my heart doing what I felt I was born to do. But, what price did I paid for that dedication? Well, I lost my first wife to cancer only six months after accepting my call to pastor that church in Winton, North Carolina. I kept ministering with the same schedule, but it did not last that long. I quit ministry and embraced a lifestyle of sin.

Through the years, after that, there have been moments when I have felt that I am coming back; but like an old boxer who attempts to come back to boxing, it does not go too far. So, what am I to do? I am here, ready to preach in and out of season. However, I am not forcing any doors or lose sleep over it. I will continue to work and make a living and let God use me there. This blog will continue to tell my story; the good, the bad and the ugly and, if God needs me for anything else, He knows where to find me! For now, on this hot day in Arizona, I look forward to play a round of golf, to walk the golf course at Arizona Traditions, get some exercises and keep lowering my handicap!

Dreamed with Leviticus 5:1


witness

On the dream we were in some kind of camp, retreat or something. I got out of bed and this white American preacher, who seemed to be accompanied by his wife, starts a full-blown Bible Study. We gathered around some round chairs, similar to bar chairs. He immediately and, very enthusiastically, asked for us to open our Bibles in Leviticus 5:1. It was like this man could not wait for me to get out of bed to start ministering. I made the comment to this preacher that I just woke up 3 minutes ago as he seemed to be in a hurry.  In this dream, I am the first to get to Leviticus 5:1; but I had problems reading it; it was fuzzy. The preacher, his wife and the small group composed of my wife, some of my children and my brother Carlos also laughed about the fact that I could not see. I laughed also and said, “I better read this thing with my cell phone so I can see.

As we all laughed the preacher walked us outside. It looked like a camping area or retreat area. The weather was nice, and it was sunny. I was getting ready to read Leviticus 5:1 out of my phone when I woke up. I immediately grabbed my phone with great expectation to read Leviticus 5:1,

“Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt.” (NASB)

So, essentially, if you are an eye witness or you know of a crime, sin, violation of any law, etc. and you decide not to testify of that sin, violation of any law, etc. that you know about, that you know is wrong… then you become guilty of what you are trying to cover up. When we look at the apostles, they were constantly dealing with confronting sin and false doctrines. I am sure they have many people accusing the apostles of judging and thinking they were holier than anybody, but that did not stop them from continuing to address sin, preach the gospel, teach sound doctrine and confront false doctrine. At the end it cost them their lives. There is indeed a price to pay when we speak God’s truth. I wonder what my price would be.

It is so easy to keep our mouth close, to stop preaching and teaching, to turn our heads and go on by our business. However, we as Christians are called to be witnesses. Acts 22:15 tells us, “For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.” (NASB) As witnesses, we have an obligation to testify of what we see according to Leviticus 5:1. When we don’t, we become accomplice.

 

 

 

El Coronavirus y la Iglesia


coronavirus and the church

El Coronavirus a desatado un tsunami de terror y de manipulación política alrededor del mundo entero. Aún en los Estados Unido, en donde existe orgullo y pasión por la libertad, se han reportado historias de gobernadores que han abusado de sus poderes. Estamos viendo una economía paralizada, millones de personas han perdido sus trabajos y, negocios se han visto forzados a cerrar. Hemos visto cómo se promovió y se estableció, exitosamente, el que millones de personas se quedaran en sus hogares y, cuándo podían salir de sus hogares para actividades aprobadas por los gobiernos, fueron forzados a mantener distanciamiento social.

Hoy día vemos como el uso de máscaras se ha hecho mandatorio en algunos trabajos y negocios. El enfoque de este artículo no es político; quiero enfocarme en como estas pólizas han afectado la iglesia, el dilema en el cual nos encontramos y lo que tiene que ser nuestra respuesta bíblica como Cristianos.

Cómo Estas Pólizas han Afectado a la Iglesia

Los servicios de Domingo fueron cancelados alrededor de este país y el mundo. Hoy día, por ejemplo, en el Estado de Arizona, en el cual resido, las Iglesias pueden reunirse, mas solo con un 25% de capacidad. Si en tu edificio tienes capacidad para cien personas, solo puedes hacer un servicio con 25 personas para que de esa forma se pueda mantener el distanciamiento social y que las familias se mantengan seis pies de distancia el uno del otro. Es lógico que, si los pastores quieren ministrarle a toda su congregación a través de sus servicios, estarán obligados a tener más de un servicio los domingos. Entonces las preguntas lógicas son, ¿cómo van a evangelizar?, cómo controlar los invitados para no pasarse de el 25% de capacidad? Con los edificios abiertos más tiempo, ¿cómo serán afectadas sus finanzas? Más gasto de electricidad, agua, más papel sanitario, etc.

El Gran Dilema

Los pastores tienen un gran dilema en sus manos; 1) oh se adaptan ha dichas pólizas continuando sus servicios a través de las redes sociales y utilizar sus edificios a un 25% de capacidad oh, 2) regresan a las formas pasadas con sus edificios utilizados al 100% y se arriesgan a ser arrestados y pasar un tiempo en la cárcel. Quiero sugerir que existe una tercera alternativa.

Nuestra Respuesta Bíblica

¿Cuántas veces hemos dicho que la Iglesia no es un edificio? ¿No somos nosotros la Iglesia? Entonces, ¿qué perdemos si perdemos el edificio? La iglesia es una familia; las familias no se reúnen en edificios, las familias comparten sus vidas, se visitan en sus casas, van a parques juntos, se invitan en sus fiestas, van al cine juntas, disfrutan de las actividades de sus hijos, se ayudan, se hablan y disfrutan de compañerismo juntos. De ves en cuando, cuando tienen algún evento especial y las casas no son lo suficientemente grandes, rentas algún edificio por algunas horas, pero no compran o rentan edificios a largo plazo para reunirse a menos que sean familias millonarias.

Hebreos 10:25 nos dice, “no dejando de congregarnos, como algunos tienen por costumbre, sino exhortándonos; y tanto más, cuanto veis que aquel día se acerca.” (Reina Velera 1960) La iglesia no puede dejar de congregarse; estamos llamados a estar juntos compartiendo el mismo tiempo y espacio.

Para entender lo que es la Iglesia echémosle un vistazo a su Modus Operandi. Hechos 2:42 nos dice, “Y perseveraban en la doctrina de los apóstoles, en la comunión unos con otros, en el partimiento del pan y en las oraciones.” (RVR 1960). La palabra perseverancia significa, “insistir fielmente”. De este verso aprendemos que la iglesia tiene cuatro componentes:

  1. Perseverancia en el estudio de la doctrina de los Apóstoles: Los apóstoles originales no eran hombres perfectos, mas su doctrina es perfecta porque fue inspirada por el Espíritu Santo. La doctrina de los apóstoles también incluye el Viejo Testamento ya que ellos también hacían referencia a las Escrituras de los profetas. De hecho, Efesios 2:19-20 nos dice, “Así que ya no sois extranjeros ni advenedizos, sino conciudadanos de los santos, y miembros de la familia de Dios,20 edificados sobre el fundamento de los apóstoles y profetas, siendo la principal piedra del ángulo Jesucristo mismo,” (RVR1960)
  2. Perseverancia en la comunión los unos con otros: La palabra comunión viene de la palabra griega, koinōnía; que significa “compartir; comunión con participación.”[1] Hermanos, somos una familia; por eso es por lo que estamos llamados a compartir nuestras vidas, no simplemente ser parte de un servicio de Domingo. Estamos llamados a participar, no ha sentarnos a ver el espectáculo del grupo de alabanza y al pastor. Es una participación corporal en donde se enseña, pero también se hacen preguntas y comentarios como en familia.
  3. Perseverancia en el partimiento de pan juntos: Estamos llamados a comer juntos; una ves más, como hacemos en familia.
  4. Perseverancia en el orar juntos: La oración corporal es esencial cuando nos reunimos como iglesia.

Cualquier mensaje que promueva que la iglesia está llamada a adaptarse a lo que estamos viendo hoy día con el Coronavirus es un mensaje completamente antibíblico. La idea de que nosotros sigamos reuniéndonos a través de redes sociales, distanciamiento social, etc. no es de Dios. Pablo nos dice en Primera de Corintios 16:20, “Os saludan todos los hermanos. Saludaos los unos a los otros con ósculo santo.” (RVR 1960)

Creo que hay situaciones en donde tenemos que adaptarnos;  pero nunca al mundo; sino a las formas de Dios. Dicha adaptación es normal ya que nuestras formas y las formas de Dios son diferentes (Isaías 55:8),  mas cualquier adaptación contraria a las Escrituras no es de Dios.

No podemos tener compañerismos y compartir el pan juntos a través de las redes sociales. No es que diga que las redes sociales no sean utilizadas por la Iglesia, pero las mismas son suplementos, nunca una sustitución a lo que Dios nos dice que somos.

Estamos llamados a obedecer a Dios por encima de los hombres. Dios no nos da ningún tipo de excusa Bíblica para cambiar su forma de hacer Iglesia. Mas lo que tenemos que reevaluar es si nuestras formas de hacer Iglesia, antes del Coronavirus, eran de acuerdo con la Biblia o no.

Por ejemplo, en el Nuevo Testamento veo referencia a cantos espirituales (Efesios 5:19) mas no he encontrado ningún verso bíblico que hable de un grupo de alabanza o adoración. De hecho, no encuentro ningún verso bíblico que conecte la Adoración con música. Tampoco encuentro la palabra púlpito en ninguna de las reuniones de los apóstoles.

Por último, no hay ninguna referencia bíblica o histórica que nos diga que la iglesia original de los apóstoles se reunía en edificios. La Iglesia original se reunían en casas; el cristianismo era mucho más personal y mucho más real de lo que es hoy día. Ese fue el sistema exitoso que impactó de la siguiente forma:

Y sobrevino temor a toda persona; y muchas maravillas y señales eran hechas por los apóstoles.

44 Todos los que habían creído estaban juntos, y tenían en común todas las cosas;

45 y vendían sus propiedades y sus bienes, y lo repartían a todos según la necesidad de cada uno.

46 Y perseverando unánimes cada día en el templo, y partiendo el pan en las casas, comían juntos con alegría y sencillez de corazón,

47 alabando a Dios, y teniendo favor con todo el pueblo. Y el Señor añadía cada día a la iglesia los que habían de ser salvos. Hechos 2:43-47 (RVR 1960)

Noten que el verso 46 nos habla de que perseveraban unánimes en el templo cada día. Recordemos que estos apóstoles originales eran todos de descendencia hebrea. El templo era el remanente del famoso templo de Salomón donde aún hoy muchos van a orar. Los cristianos originales iban al templo a orar, mas también a tratar de evangelizar a sus hermanos judíos.

Los cristianos originales también se reunían en las sinagogas. Los fariseos eran parte de una religión reconocida por los Romanos. El cristianismo no era reconocido por los romanos; al contrario, era ilegal el predicar a Jesús en esos días. Es claro el ver por que los cristianos no duraron mucho en reunirse en las sinagogas, por lo que fueron forzados a reunirse en sus casas en medio de una severa persecución. Mas, es bajo esas circunstancias que vemos un Iglesia como nunca antes vista en su historia:

  1. Una Iglesia en donde existía el temor a Dios. (Hechos 2:43)
  2. Una Iglesia con un liderazgo verdaderamente ungido en donde grandes señales y milagros fueron realizados. (Hechos 2:43)
  3. Una Iglesia unidad. (Hechos 2:44)
  4. Una Iglesia en donde se ayudaban los unos a los otros, (Hechos 2:45) hasta el punto de que no había nadie en necesidad. (Hechos 4:34)
  5. Una iglesia que perseveraba junta con mucha alegría y sencillez de corazón. (Hechos 2:46)

La pregunta final es, ¿en dónde está esa Iglesia? Creo que si prestamos atención, el Coronavirus, que el diablo desató para destruirnos, nos acercará aún más a una Iglesia sin mancha y sin arrugas. Mas no insistamos en nuestros sistemas y el legado de Constantino; quien enfatizó en su propia fama, mezclando lo santo con lo profano para complacer a todo el mundo. Miremos a las sendas antiguas, ahí está el camino, ahí está la verdad y ahí está lo que verdaderamente es eficiente.

“Así dijo Jehová: Paraos en los caminos, y mirad, y preguntad por las sendas antiguas, cuál sea el buen camino, y andad por él, y hallaréis descanso para vuestra alma…” Jeremías 6:16 (RVR 1960)

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Fruitless Spiritual Exercises


My ministry

For a long time, I felt that we as Christians are always looking for shortcuts. However, I was wrong about that. See, a shortcut is an easier and faster way to get to the same destination. What we are doing is not a shortcut because the reality is that we are not getting to such destination; the destination is to bear fruit (Matthew 7:16). Titus 2, Ephesians 5 and First Peter 3 are great examples of what bearing fruit looks like.

The Apostle Paul speaks about dying daily (I Corinthians 15:31). John the Baptist speaks about the need for Jesus to increase in him while he most decrease (John 3:30). Our Christian life is all about dying to our ways and surrendering to the ways of God.

On this article I will address two aspects of our Christian life that we are getting wrong; the reading of God’s Word and our idea of worship through music. There is nothing in Scripture that tells us to just read God’s Word and, there nothing, especially in the New Testament, that attaches any musical note or song to worship… Nothing! There is not one example of any Worship Team in the New Testament, not one. Nevertheless, worship teams are at the center of our Sunday services.

When it comes down to God’s Word, we have two specific mandates, 1) to study God’s Word and, 2) to apply it.

Second Timothy 2:15 tells us,

“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (KJV)

The word “study” here is the Greek Word spoudázō; meaning “To be diligent, earnest, or eager.”[1]What we are talking about is to be diligent in rightly dividing the word of truth. This requires more than just reading, this requires time and effort to truly understand what the Scripture is saying. Studying is not enough either, the ultimate goal is application. James 1:23-25 tells us,

But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; 24 for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. 25 But one who looks intently at the perfect law, the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an effectual doer, this man will be blessed in what he does. (NASB)

That same fruitless life applies to Christians that have fallen into this hyper-music view of Christianity. Music in the Christian world is indeed overrated. Folks think that they can listen to Christian music and they are magically in the presence of God based on what they feel. However, a lot of what we call the presence of God, based on Christian music, is based on our musical preference. Those who like southern gospel music or Johnny Cash will probably find Fred Hammond not anointed, but annoying. At the end of the day we are reacting to certain styles and rhythms we like; there is nothing spiritual about it. We can call it worship all we want to, but as I said before, there is not one musical note, not one instrument, not one style of music or anything musical attached to worship, especially in the New testament. In John 4:23-24 Jesus made the following statement to the Samaritan Woman,

But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NASB)

The Greek Word for “Worshipers” is, proskunētḗs meaning… “One who reverences God.”[2] The word “Worship” comes from the Greek word proskunéō; meaning. “To worship, to show respect, to fall or prostrate before. Literally, to kiss toward someone, to throw a kiss in token of respect or reverence.”[3] Where in these definitions do you see any music? Yes, we are called to sign to the Lord, but singing has nothing to do with worship. Singing and playing instruments is not even named as a spiritual gift. Worship is not a song, is a lifestyle.

            So, at the end of the day we must take a closer look at our faith, make an assessment of ourselves and see how we are doing as husbands, wives, friends, in our jobs, communities, etc. Are we bearing fruit? Think about the older women in the church, well respected by the church and community, but has no respect for her husband. Think about the man, a leader in the church, but has no clue on how to love his wife. Think about the, “worship leader” singing all those wonderful songs, oh, he has people in tears with his “anointing”, while embracing a life of fornication. Think about the pastor who has a wife and children; considered a great teacher of God’s Word, but have been sleeping with his secretary. What went wrong here? How can this be? Beloved this is the exaltation of talents over character; no reverence to God. In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus touched on this topic by stating,

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (NIV)

The will of God is holiness; a true relationship with God will have a profound effect in our lives; we should never settle for nothing less. When we have a relationship with God that means that we practice finding ourselves in His presence; that means that we will enjoy the benefits of his presence in our own characters. It is impossible to have a relationship with God and not experience change in our lives. In his presence we find many benefits, here I just want to mention a few.

  1. In God’s presence we find joy. (Psalm16:11)
  2. In God’s presence we find divine rest. (Matthew 11:28-30)
  3. In God’s presence we find Peace. (Colossians 3:15)
  4. In God’s presence our secret sins are revealed. (Psalm 90:8)
  5. In God’s presence we find strength and encouragement. (Isaiah 40:31)
  6. In God’s presence we find a change in the things that delight us. (Psalm 37:4)

Let’s get real, if we find ourselves depressed, stress out, anxious, with no conviction of sin, tired, discouraged and, if our delight is in the things of this world over the things of God, whatever spiritual exercise you are doing is clearly not working. I say to those who keep going to the same dry church, for those who keep reading the same books, looking for devotionals online, listening to gospel music and so on, if you are not changing is because you have not gotten a hold of the real deal… that is, you have not gotten a hold of God.

Study the Scripture, throw out those one-year Bible reading plans. Some folks are so busy reading the Scripture, rushing to read the whole Bible in a year, that they are missing what God is trying to tell them. Slow down… Listen!!!! Turn off the radio so that you can hear the still small voice of God. The great Prophet Elijah learned that as he was facing a deep depression in his life;

Then He said, “Go out, and stand on the mountain before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; 12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice. 13 So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” First King 19:11-13 (NASB)

            Beloved, what are you doing in that dark and dry place? That’s not what God wants for you. Get a hold of God… get a hold of the benefits of his presence and let’s bear fruit for His glory.

 

 

 

 

[1] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[2] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

[3] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

God-Centered or Self-Centered


Unknown

The Tower of Babel was men first organized rebellion against God. Men sinned before, but this was the first-time that men manifested an open rebellion against God. One thing is for us to miss the mark; when we do, is not that we want to miss the mark; is that in our imperfection we are aiming in the right direction, but we just… miss the mark. The other is when we, purposely and intentionally, miss the mark. That is now a rebellion against God; that is now the sin of transgression. You know is wrong, but you do it, not out of your own weakness, but out of your own open disobedience to God. Genesis 11:1-9 tells us

Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar[b] and settled there.

They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”

So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel[c]—because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth. (NIV)

The root of all false religion, secret societies and self-centeredness is found in the Tower of Babel. The central idea of building a name for ourselves is at the heart of our rebellion against God. We no longer live to give glory to God; we live to make a name for ourselves. See, Eve was tricked by the devil and she sinned, but that’s not what she wanted to do. Cain killed his brother out of jealousy because God favored Abel offering over his. However, with the Tower of Babel, men decided to organize himself and willingly rebel against God. They refused to obey and trust God, who told Adam and later Noah, to multiply and filled the earth (Genesis 1:28 / Genesis 9:1).

So how this self-centeredness and refusing to live to give glory to God looks like today? Social media! Folks who walk around taking selfies and making worthless videos about what they do. Everybody is now an expert; everybody is now wise in their own opinion. We want to build a name for ourselves; we are hoping to be the creators of the next viral video.

Folks are walking around distracted, they can’t stay away from their phones, they can’t stay away from social media. The devil have them right where he wants them… focusing on themselves! “According to Nick Zagorski (2017), a writer for Psychiatric News, recent studies have shown that social media use is linked to feelings of social isolation, depression, insecurity, jealousy, and poor self-esteem.” ( https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/causes-of-social-media-addiction-illness ) “One part of being a social media addict is the inability to stop checking social media sites throughout the day. A study on college students showed that 45% admitted to social media use 6-8 hours a day (Wang, Chen, & Liang, 2011). ( https://www.ashford.edu/online-degrees/student-lifestyle/causes-of-social-media-addiction-illness )

Social media is the way folks are building a name for themselves today. This is the new version of the Tower of Babel. In the last days we read of a false prophet who will cause people to worship an image. Revelation 13:15 tells us, “The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed.” (NIV) I believe that image will be found through the internet. The devil cannot be in more than two places at the time, but the image will have the ability to know what we are doing in our secret places. How? I believe that through technology he will be able to know what we are doing. So, this is a time to make a change, to be God-centered and not self-centered; to give glory to God and not focus on making a name for ourselves; to give God the inner most part of us… our spirit and to worship him.