No excuse, no retreat, no surrender

This hero will certainly battle on. He will not retire or call it quits. He has dedicated himself to the cause and regardless of the pain, discomfort or challenges he is determined to give his all. I am speaking of my eighty year old paraplegic father, the Rev. Dr. Cecilio Melendez. He is a model for all to see, an object lesson for none to forget. We live our lives with a higher calling to serve God. With each individual there is of course a variety that is expressed as God uses us all in a unique way. Whether he formed us to sing, preach, teach, play an instrument, be hands of comfort or help, pray, build or fix, and others, we have a very personal mission, a commitment between God and us. My father was formed for many reasons, but one of great importance was to preach.

It was in the fishing town of Fajardo, Puerto Rico, in a small Spanish Pentecostal church he was asked to preach to the children of his church. What was remarkable is that he was seven years old. He remembers that he preached on Matthew 24, the topic was “Signs of the End of the Age”. He never looked back. He found the courage to do what few would. He would pull up a crate on the street corner and start preaching. This started at the age of twelve. Around the same time came the many invitations from traveling evangelists for the young man to accompany them and preach before large crowds of hundreds. Before he was a teenager his ministry was in full swing.

By the time my father was twenty years old he was a fully ordained minister. All was brilliant in the life of this young man; now married and the father of a beautiful little girl, my older sister Lisa. Then he was diagnosed with cancer. Treatments began earnestly in order to save this young life. The Doctors never gave my father much of a chance. They thought he would perhaps live a couple of years. But my father a man of great faith, put his life in God’s hands and fifty eight years later he still standing. However this is not the whole story.

The effects of radiation therapy would not become evident for many years later. In his late fifties he would begin to lose the use of his hands. One complication would lead to another. To summarize, both of my father’s arms and hands are paralyzed, he has lost complete vision in his left eye, sees with great difficulty in his right eye, occasionally loses his sight completely, loses his balance, may also at times feel faint, is on a strict diet, suffers from different aches and pains, has paralysis of the right vocal cord, and gets up every morning thankful that God has given him another day, when he was supposed to have been dead over fifty years ago. Doctors have chastised him for preaching and counseling, ordering him to rest his vocal cords, which is exactly what he did for almost a year. It was yet another source of pain and frustration for a man that has been preaching since he was seven. For him preaching was as natural as walking and breathing.

Every last minister and preacher in the church had taken several turns throughout the year and then the merry go round stopped. The Pastor was going to preach. Everyone waited in anticipation. Many I am sure were just waiting for him to retire. Others had been praying for healing. Neither would occur. The brave old man with little vision would locate an old outline from his memory of thousands and the sermon began. More than an hour later, he concluded after having inspired, motivated, excited and spiritually lifting the entire congregation. The time had just flown by. The church had witnessed a man wholly and completed dedicated to God. It did not matter, what physical ailments he would have to overcome, nor would it matter the weariness he had been suffering. Not even the warnings of doctors would stop him. He knew he had to preach. It was probably the best sermon I had heard in over a year. Later in private I would ask my father “Are you going to preach next Sunday?” His response was perfect, “Of course this has to continue!” No excuse, no retreat, no surrender for this hero. He will battle with his sickness and continue with this mission, until God says “no more”.

God is not looking for excuses. He did not accept any from Moses (Exodus 3:11, Exodus 4:1, 10), Gideon (Judges 6:15) or Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:6). He does not want us to come with excuses either. He is looking for men and women who are willing to sacrifice and overcome obstacles to complete with the mission God has placed in each of their hands. It will not be easy, nothing worthwhile is. But I know as I watched My father preach, I learned that to be responsible to your calling will most likely include great sacrifices and great battles, but “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37)

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A Purpose for the New Year

KJV Bible

KJV Bible (Photo credit: knowhimonline)

If these are the last days what should we expect?  Faith to decline. False teaching to increase, men to become “lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God”, (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

Paul also explained that in the last days instead of seeking the truth and God, people would seek confirmation for whatever they wanted to believe, and practice. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:1-4)

These are not pretty pictures, men and women living their lives purely seeking to pleasure themselves without considering the world around them and most importantly those less fortunate than themselves. To make matters worse instead of seeking the truth they only look to confirm their selfish beliefs and justify their actions. Has this already occurred? Are we living in the last days?

We are the ambassadors of Christ. Jesus gave us the great commission to go into the entire world to teach everything he commanded and to make disciples. (Matthew 28:19-20) Sometimes we cowardly remain silent while we hear the world justify outrageous actions, abortion, pornography, violence, just to name a few.  We also stand by while many, including Christians, become more materialistic and hedonistic.

It may not be popular but our focus in these trying times must be preaching the gospel that changes lives, a gospel that teaches us to love God above all things (Mark 12:28-30), to obey the commandments (John 14:15), to love one another, regardless of our differences (Matthew 5:43-48), to love our neighbors as we love ourselves (Mark 12:30-31), to do unto others as we would have them do to us (Matthew 7:12), that directs those that have to help those that do not have (Mark 10:21, Acts 4:32-35) that emphasizes sacrifice, giving and kindness over pleasure, taking and callousness.(Matthew 25:35-40)

The living and preaching of this gospel should be the purpose of our new year. It begins at home and then extends to the rest of the world.  Let us begin today!

More from bibleaid

1-What is a Christian? article/devotional

2.-Verses on love (A  list of verses)

3-Commandments of love article/devotional

4-More bibleaid New Year’s articles and resources (link to a collection)

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No more excuses!

But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh….(Exodus 3:11)

Moses was having a pleasant time. He was relaxing while tending to his sheep in the quiet stillness of the night. However, for no apparent reason, a bush went up in flames, and didn’t burn up. Then the voice of God was heard. Moses was terrified and hid his face. Then it got worst.

God proceeded to give Moses directions to speak to the mightiest man on the planet. He had to tell the ruthless pharaoh of Egypt to let the enslaved Israelites go.

Moses came up with one excuse after another. First He said “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt? (Exodus 3:11) In other words I am not important enough to speak to pharaoh. Then Moses said, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” (Exodus 3:13) The implication was that he didn’t know what to tell the people who were supposed to follow him, the Israelites. God told Moses what to say, but Moses was not done giving excuses he said “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The Lord has not appeared to you.”(Exodus 4:1). God performed several miracles before Moses to show him what he would do as proof. But Moses was still not satisfied and said “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Exodus 4:10)

Four excuses, Moses truly had self esteem issues. He was certain that he lacked the qualifications. He must have been thinking “Just let me take care of my sheep, that’s all I am good for.” But he was wrong.

Many of us have had these moments, when we doubted our abilities or capacity. Perhaps we thought “Lord I know you don’t make mistakes, but there must be someone better for this task, responsibility, or position.” But we are wrong also. If God calls us to do something or hold a position he will equip us. He will educate us and prepare us. If He wants us that means we are the best person for the job. It could be a talent or an expertise we have or perhaps a quality in our character that God sees. God can see the gifts he has placed in us, while we sometimes only see our failures and weaknesses.

With Moses the excuses finally stopped and he did go to pharaoh. Ten plagues later, and a disastrous defeat for pharaoh’s army and the Israelites were free. The whole time all Moses held in his hands was a staff, but the power of God was behind him every step of the way.

If we say yes to God’s calling in our lives His power will be behind us every step of the way, the enemy will be defeated and what awaits us will surely be the promise land.

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A small garbage bag and its reward

He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Luke 10:2

There it was, a small garbage bag left inside the entrance of the church. Everyone entered and stepped right over it. Some noticed it and looked at it, as if it was some strange object never seen before. While others carefully walked over it, afraid that it might go off like a mine. But no one bothered to pick it up. It obviously had the “cudies”. What escaped everyone’s knowledge, except for the person who so carefully placed it, was that below the bag was a single dollar, the reward for whoever would dare pick up the bag and perhaps, if so inclined, throw it away. However this would take a special individual. Someone moved by an extreme sense of responsibility for the house of God, enough to overcome the “cudies” and the stigma of having picked up garbage.

Meanwhile one gentleman stood by, a witness to the whole event. It was he who had placed the garbage bag and its reward. He was the wise experienced pastor, the Rev. Dr. Cecilio Melendez of the international Christian church “The Savior” Incorporated.

Everyone entered the church and took their places. Some prayed, while others read their bibles. Some spoke softly to each other and some quietly waited for the service to start. To the pastor’s disappointment the bag and its reward was still there for the taking. Then the pastor was pleasantly surprised. One young man, Andy, who had passed over the bag like everyone else decided to return to the entrance. He turned to the pastor and said “what is this doing here?” It seems the thought of this bag had been playing in his mind until he had built up enough courage to take action. The pastor smiled but offered no direction. The young man said to himself, but out loud, “well I am going to throw it away.” He lifted the bag, and there it was. “Pastor there is a dollar here, what should I do?” The pastor replied “You picked up the garbage. You earned it. Keep it.” Now, twenty years later, Andy is an official of the church, a member of the board of directors, a Sunday school teacher, director of the men’s ministry, musician and the co-director of the choir. Oh, and he still cleans up whenever it’s necessary.

A sense of responsibility is what is needed. To take action and not wait for it to somehow get done; even if it is something we might consider small. Andy earned much more than a dollar. He showed himself to be a man of both responsibility and action. We would live in a much better world if everyone took such an attitude and simply did their part. There is much work; scripture calls us to tend to the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, and the naked. (Matthew 25:31-46) Scripture calls us to preach the good news and let the world know that there is a Savior. (Mark 16:15, 16) Work we do not lack, but the laborers are still few. If each of us can count on ourselves to complete even the small tasks, then together the greater good would be fulfilled.

We were not meant to be alone

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” John 17:22

Sometimes we might feel alone or apart from everything else. However that is not where God wants us. We are an important part of something much greater.

If we are redeemed souls, set apart by the blood of Christ, then we are members of a body of Christians that crosses the globe and history all at once. We become part of a greater mission.  Jesus declared that mission in His final statement “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” (Mark 16:15)  We fulfill this mission both individually, with all the actions we take in our private lives, speaking to others, praying, giving good testimony, and we fulfill this mission as the body of Christ, the church.

By being a part of a church we help to fulfill the great commission.  Paul explains it best in Ephesians 4.16 “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”  We are each a part of the body doing the work we have been called to do.  When we do it in perfect unity great things happen. Christ prayed for that unity as one of his last acts of his earthly ministry.  In this prayer he says “ I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—  I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17: 22, 23)

Paul also explains that we have received gifts. (Ephesians 4:7)  Jesus also alludes to this in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30).  Therefore each of us has been given certain abilities that need to be exercised within the church, for the good of God’s great commission, to preach the gospel, be a light in the darkness, and to be an expression of Christ love to a suffering humanity.

We were never meant to be solitary creatures.  Together we become essential to the mission of Christ on earth, to save a world dying in sin, sickness, poverty and violence.

To go to church or not?

Blessed are those who dwell in your house; they are ever praising you. Psalm 84:4

It was Wednesday evening, and after a long day of work I was tired. However, it was time to head over to rehearsal. Why was I going? Was it to please the chorus director, my sister? Was it so that I could be heard? Did the chorus need me? The answer to the last three questions were no, no, and no. Why was I going?

I was going to worship God! I fought with myself. “Sammy you can worship God at home. You don’t have to go to church.” There was just one problem with that argument. If I stood home I wasn’t going to worship God.

The distractions that we are bombarded with when we are home are tremendous. We have all sorts of entertainment, chores and of course the demands of other people. Perhaps our favorite distraction is the bed or sofa. Some place to just lay back and rest, a power nap that last 2 hours. But didn’t we say we would worship God.

In Hebrews 10:25, we are encouraged to go to church where the brethren can motivate each other. Psalm 84:4 mentions that those who dwell in God’s house are blessed because they are forever praising God. David counted it a blessing to be in God’s house forever (Psalm 23:6). It is in church where we can most freely worship God and put aside everything else this world has.

The next time we find ourselves in a battle with ourselves, as to whether we should go to church or not, we’ll just grab our car keys and head straight out the door. We won’t look back and we won’t stop until we have safely arrived at the temple, where we will praise our God and thank Him for the refuge that is our church.

First they criticize, then they crucify

But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” Luke 11:15

This is dedicated to all the doers, past, present and future, the greatest one being Jesus Christ.

Who was likely the most criticized man on the planet? I can’t be sure. But Jesus sure got a lot of Criticism. It was His critics that wanted Him crucified. They said he was sinner because he healed people on the Sabbath. They said He was a blasphemer because he forgave people of their sins. Whenever he would cast out demons they said He did it with the help of the chief demon. They were even critical of his companions, the publicans; these were the hated tax collectors. Ah, nothing has changed. Sinners were always seeking Jesus out. They were in need. They accused Him of starting a rebellion, but His kingdom was not of this world. They finally decided they had enough and they demanded He be crucified.

If they criticized Jesus who did an immeasurable amount of Good in His short ministry, then what will they do with us? We cannot be surprised when we are criticized for anything good we do. Any attempts to help others or make lives better will be met with criticism. Such as “We were too late,” or “We rushed it”. Perhaps they’ll say “That was too long” or “that was too short” or “those words were too eloquent, no one understood” or “Those words were too simple, what do you think of us.” No way to please everybody. The sure fire way to not receive criticism is not to do anything. Well that may not be true. Then we’ll be accused of being Lazy.

We just need to go out and do what we have to do for the Lord. If some people don’t like what you did, no problem, tell them “Please show me how to do it better”. Most likely they won’t. Because their role in life is not to do something, just to criticize others who do something. More importantly remember we do not perform for the critics. We do it for God and the kingdom of Heaven.