When giving is not easy

When giving is not easy

The great prophet Elijah, under God’s direction had pronounced a drought on the nation of Israel as punishment for Idolatry. All the land had been afflicted. People everywhere were running out of food and starving, such was the case with the widow of Zarephath.

This widow was down to almost nothing, when God tells Elijah “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” (1kings 17:9) To Elijah’s credit he did not question God. Who would have ever thought a widow with next to nothing could provide a place of refuge.

When Elijah got there he asked the widow for food. She described the little she had. Once again Elijah is not disturbed. He instructed her to feed him first and then her child and herself. The nerve of this man to come into town as a stranger to take the little bit she had left. But Elijah understood God’s plan. This widow was about to find out that not only is there a God, but that He can take the little we have and turn it into a great blessing for ourselves and all those around us.

Shockingly she did not give the strange man a “piece of her mind” or in other words “tell him off”. No, remarkably she submitted. She would take the little bit of flour and oil and make bread for Elijah and miraculously there was still more left to make. The next day the same thing would occur. Everyday there was always more flour and oil to make bread. As long as she fed the man of God, she had flour and oil for her family. The widow practiced great faith, in obediently giving the little she had and God rewarded her faith.

It is not easy to give when we have little. But there are many ways of helping those in need. There are also multiple ways of helping to progress the work of God. When we sacrifice what we can in faith, God is faithful in return. I would never promise great wealth. However I know that God is able and willing to care for our needs when we learn to trust in Him. Jesus said “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:31-33) Paul also said “whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Corinthians 9:7)

 

 

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Hannah calls upon God

Hannah was a tortured woman, who was ridiculed by her husband’s other wife. She suffered one of the great disgraces of her time, she was barren. Her rival, Peninnah, had many sons and daughters and often took the opportunity to ridicule her. Why do some feel the need to elevate themselves by putting down others? Hannah had no other recourse but to end her days in tears and would even go without eating. The bible makes it clear that she suffered this abuse for years. (1 Samuel 1:1-7) There are times when we too suffer under hardships for years. We may even begin to doubt God.

Since the bible doesn’t say, it is possible that Hannah had previously not presented this most horrific problem to our Lord. How sad when we believers do not trust in God to care for our needs. Finally after years Hannah is seen praying to God in supplication. She is heartbroken and can’t take it anymore. (1 Samuel 1:10) This is the moment when we are all forced to turn to God. God never fails. He hears her prayers and many months later she gives birth to one of Israel’s greatest men, Samuel. Hannah was faithful to God and dedicated Samuel to His service. (1 Samuel 1:27-28) He became the High Priest, a judge, a prophet, and anointer of kings; the only man recorded to hold all four positions. Not a single criticism would be written of this great man.

Suffering for years under hardships is unfortunately part of the human experience but it is awesome to know that God is faithful, and if we call upon Him he will answer. Hannah, in addition may have failed to come to God quickly with her plea. We must not wait to call upon God. The reasons for this failure may be multiple. Sometime we may believe that we are not important to God or perhaps it is our pride that causes us to carry our burden alone. But God is faithful and is overjoyed to see his people turn to Him in faith. Do not wait to present your condition to the Lord; believe in Him who can do all things.

 

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Stubborn Unbelief

Moses stood before the mighty Pharaoh and asked rather politely to let his people go. Pharaoh was not interested in losing his wealth of slaves, forcing Moses to perform the first of many miracles. He had his brother Aaron cast his rod on the ground and it turned into a serpent. Pharaoh must have thought it a simple trick and did not believe. (Exodus 7:1-8)

Moses then met pharaoh by the Nile where with Aaron’s rod he turned the Nile into blood. That was a major trick and must have been devastating for the Egyptian economy and the health of their people. However Pharaoh still would not believe. (Exodus 7:14-24)

Many plagues later Pharaoh still would not change his mind. Then came the most devastating lost of all for Egypt, the slaying of the first born. Finally Pharaoh would let them go. But he rescinded only temporarily, still not accepting or understanding the power of God. He would send his army against the defenseless Israelites most likely expecting an easy victory. Was he surprised when he witnessed what had never been seen before? God had made a path through the sea. There were the lowly Israelites, former slaves, passing through the midst of the sea on dry land and on either side of them a high wall of water. Surely now pharaoh would believe that these people were God’s people and that perhaps he should just let them go. Perhaps he would wake up to the reality that slavery was just wrong or that people do not have the right to make subjects of other people just because they have a stronger army.

Pharaoh did not have any of these great revelations. Instead he was consistent in his unbelief. He ordered his army to pursue the Israelites through this path created by God. Then he would witness the collapse of water on his army. They were destroyed. (Exodus 14) Pharaoh could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he would have believed from the very beginning. However the price of unbelief can be even higher.

The price of unbelief can be as high as all eternity. John 3:18 says “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Christ is still trying to reach the most stubborn hearts, so do not be dismayed. Our responsibility is simply to “Go into the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15)

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The name of Jesus

“Well it seems like a great idea. So many seem to be using the name of Christ to get what they want. There must be some kind of power in that name, whoever he was.” This must have been the thoughts of the seven sons of a Jewish high priest named Sceva. (Acts 19:15-16) Interesting how some who do not even know Christ, think “why not use His name”.

There is no doubt there is power in the name of Christ. Christ instructed us to use his name. “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” (John 14:13) He said it again in John 15:16 “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” But in both occasions Jesus was speaking to believers, His followers.

Jesus knew that His followers believed in Him and had some faith. On one occasion two blind men came to Jesus wanting to be healed and what did Jesus ask? He asked “Do you believe…?” When they answered in the affirmative, Jesus healed them. (Matthew 9:27-31) There is also the wonderful case of the woman who had a blood sickness and had seen many doctors without any success. She believed that if she could just touch Jesus’ garment she could be healed. In her weakened state, fighting through a crowd she did exactly that and was healed instantly. Jesus demanded that the woman come forth. She was terrified. Let’s consider why she would be terrified? She knew this Jesus was no ordinary man and feared the power of God, further proof of her faith. Jesus would say of her “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” (Mark 5:34)

Faith in God is an important ingredient when expecting a miracle. There are other ingredients no doubt. Another ingredient is, knowing that God has to be willing. Now the Sons of Sceva had erred greatly in not considering at least these two ingredients. They did not have true faith in Christ. They had faith in the name of a person they did not know. They thought the name of Jesus was some kind of mystic power they could use for whatever they wanted and to benefit themselves. They were not believers in Jesus Christ, as lord and messiah.

The result was not pretty. The evil spirit after being told to leave in the name of Christ Said “Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?” then the demon possessed man attacked the sons of Sceva, tearing their clothes off and wounding them. (Acts 19:15-16)

Until this day there are many who would like to benefit from Christ without ever having truly known Him. For them Christianity is a business or a way of manipulating the masses, politicians who never attend church except when election time is near and then say all the right words. Throughout history men have used Jesus to get what they want, manipulate the masses, get away with horrific actions and seize power. However far from being believers, they are actually enemies of the cross. Until this day their horrific actions make it difficult for many to put their trust in Christ. I am sure they will have their reward in the next life.

As believers God has blessed us with a powerful weapon, the name of Christ. However, we cannot simply say in the name of Christ and it will be done. Jesus must be our Lord and we must understand that the power comes from God and He must be willing. We do not proudly demand what we do not understand, we humbly ask in awe of what we know to be real.

 

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The Messiah has come!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

In the eternal past He saw our suffering. He saw our pain. He saw the helplessness of our existence and knew then that He would have to come. All along he watched as humanity grew further away from God. The devil and his lies replaced the truth and man would find false gods made of stone and wood. Barbaric practices, human sacrifice, torture and enslavement, became common. Then the moment came.

The spirit descended upon Mary and she did conceive. A baby boy like no other in history; for this one descended from the heavens. This child was God himself made flesh for all humanity to see. The shepherds came and worshiped. The wise man traveled from far and brought gifts, while a wretched king hunted for Him.

God’s greatest gift had come and now for those who believe there is no more darkness. Helplessness is replaced with peace and worry with Joy.

He grew among them, but they did not recognize Him. Some thought Him common, the son of a carpenter. While others with anger, said “they saw the devil in Him”. Many more pursued Him for a miracle. Many shouted, “Son of David heal me!” Some, perhaps a few, dared to wonder. “Who is this man, who talks to the wind and it obeys. Who is this man who awakens the dead? Legions of demons tremble before Him. Could He be the Messiah? “

They took him away in secret, in the darkness, without cause. He was innocent. They thought it was their plan; it had been His from the very beginning. He freely gave his life. He shed his blood, drop by drop it fell to the ground, as they whipped him and beat him. They nailed him up high for all to witness and thought him defeated.

Then came Sunday morning, the most glorious morning ever seen. The stone rolled away and out came the “bright morning star” (Revelation 22:16). Death was vanquished and no longer our master. He overcame and the victory is ours. We will live with Him forevermore.

Receive Him as Lord and be saved. He returns and His own anxiously wait. The Messiah will come with crown and sword. He will rule and His kingdom will never end!

Consider these Verses on O.T. Prophecies-of-Jesus

A life worth living

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

My father, Cecilio was diagnosed with cancer of the glands at the age of 22. The doctors after much treatment sent him home with little hope of surviving. However, my father was a man of great faith. He prayed and placed his life in God’s hands. This week we celebrated his 80th birthday. It was an awesome victory. I especially am grateful since I was born after he was afflicted with this disease.

My father’s life has always been one of great dedication and purpose, a life worth living and a life to be proud of. He was born out of wedlock and into poverty. At the tender age of 7 he was sent to work at his uncle’s store, the largest store in Fajardo, Puerto Rico. This young boy was rescuing his family who had fallen into financial ruin due to his stepfather’s sickness. It was there that he first learned administration and professionalism. He would take those lessons with him wherever he would go. By the time he was 12 his uncle would trust him to be in charge whenever he couldn’t be there. At 15 his family was doing better and his father, living in N.Y., was asking for his son.

Cecilio arrived in N.Y. not knowing English and without a H.S. diploma. He worked all kinds of jobs, learned English and went back to school. A lover of education my father would continue his studies until he obtained a Doctorate in Divinity.

My dad worked as a registered nurse and later as a hospital administrator. However that was only part of his life. He was ordained as a minister at the age of 23. He had started preaching when he was 12 and would often preach before large crowds. The Reverend Doctor Cecilio Melendez, founded a church in Puerto Rico, was president of a council of churches in NY and has been Pastor of our church for almost 40 years.

My father has lived everyday for the glory of God. He knew early on that every day is a gift. He has strived to do all he can with every opportunity. Serving God, by serving his fellow man has been the focal point of his life. Whether as pastor or nurse, my dad has served with patience, dedication and love. He has been a light in the darkness and a fortress in troubled times.

While we celebrate his life it is important to consider our own. Every day is a gift from God. We must cherish them. We should strive to demonstrate the love of Christ through our words and actions every day. Ultimately we must please Him who so graciously bestowed this incredible gift of life upon us. Let us make it one worth living!

Wow, Jesus is powerful!

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Imagine a horde of demons 3000 to 6000 large. It would look like something out of the Lord of the rings movie. Ugly and ferocious any normal man would flee. We would definitely believe them difficult to defeat even with a force equal in size. How do you kill a demon any way? Well Jesus came face to face with such a horde of Demons. They had possessed two men.

They were so extremely violent that no one could go anywhere near them. These demons upon seeing Jesus immediately began to speak. They were fearful and asked Jesus not to torment them. This wasn’t one demon. It was a multitude of demons, powerless against Jesus. Jesus ordered them into a herd of swine, what a pitiful fate for these demons. However they had no choice but to listen. (Matthew 8:28-34)

Demons were not the only ones who submitted to the power of Jesus. The disciples were once on a boat and Jesus feeling a bit tired decided to take a little nap. Then a terrible storm ensued and the disciples became frantic. They quickly sought out Jesus. Jesus calmly got up and told the wind to stop. The change did not come gradually. Immediately everything was calm. Nature itself had to obey the voice of the master. (Matthew 8:23-27)

Now comes the best part. A close friend of Jesus, Lazarus, had died. He hadn’t just died. He had been dead for four days. Therefore, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that Lazarus was completely dead. Matter of fact he was laying in his tomb. Not a problem for Jesus. He simply said “Lazarus come forth” and death itself had to submit to Jesus. Lazarus surely got up. (John 11:38-44)

Now there are a lot of problems we are dealing with in our lives, perhaps some of them seem greater than a life threatening horrific storm, a legion of demons or death, but I am sure Jesus is able to rescue us. However remember what Jesus told his disciples “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26) We should ask of Jesus, but we must ask with faith, for he is certainly able!