The tight fist

If you have been grasping onto something, try to let it go, so your empty hands will be ready to receive a new gift.” – Juan Nakamori

Do you ever wonder what living a life like money is like?!? I’m not talking about having a significant amount of wealth or about having a great big bank account either that affords you to do whatever you want. Instead, what I’m saying is that life is like money because, barring destroying it, money always has the value designated when created; so no matter how crumpled, how old, torn or even if it is stained with coffee, dirt or ink – money still has value. Likewise, your life, like money, still has great value no matter how many times you have been downtrodden, or how often you think you’ve failed in your attempts to excel at a certain sport, particular business and/or any personal relationships.

Ultimately, the bright spot here is that your value is not determined by other people’s opinions. It does not come from what you own or what you do; for your value was set by your Creator… So remember when you feel worthless, He has big plans for you. After all, it was also He who gave up His life to redeem both you and me – so that makes us priceless!

“For I know the plans I have for you – declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” – Jeremiah 29:11

“Today upon a bus, I saw a lovely maid with golden hair; I envied her

as she seemed so gay -and oh, I wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle,
She had one foot and wore a crutch, but as she passed, a smile.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine; I have two feet – the world is mine.

And when I stopped to buy some sweets, the lad who served me had such charm;
He seemed to radiate good cheer, his manner was so kind and warm.
I said, ‘It’s nice to deal with you, Such courtesy I seldom find.’
He turned and said, ‘Oh, thank you, sir!’ and I saw that he was blind.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine; I have two eyes – the world is mine.

Then, when walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue.
He stood and watched the others play; It seemed he knew not what to do,
I stopped a moment, then I said: ‘Why don’t you join the others, dear?’
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew; He could not hear.
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine; I have two ears – the world is mine.

With feet to take me where I’d go, with eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I should know: I’m blessed indeed, The world is mine;
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine!”

– By Red Foley

Just something to think about…

Hope you’ll enjoy a GREAT weekend!

José Ponton, Jr.
From Sunny Florida

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid …, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you!” – Deuteronomy 31:6

The tight fist2019-07-14T17:48:32-04:00

True Independence

“The United States was born in revolution and nurtured by struggle. Throughout our history, the American people have befriended and supported all those who seek independence and a better way of life.” – Robert Kennedy

 

On a holiday when this country celebrates its independence, I’m not riding on the current trendy bandwagon of American self-loathing, for I love the USA and dig my personal and religious freedom. Without free speech I’d be locked up somewhere…but not here – thank goodness!  So why the long face on so many Americans about red-white-and-blue, take-a-day-off and fire-up-the-grill day?
Is it because we get sad when we consider the evolution ‘Freedom’ has undertaken just in our lifetime – from “allowed to act responsibly” to “if it feels good do it” to “absolutely anything goes and don’t even try to suggest otherwise, or we might just take away your freedom?”
Is it because “Independence Day” is a disconnect for us from things we know to be true? For independence has seldom served us well where family or friends or work colleagues or the church or the Lord are concerned.  So, left without the trite and tried-but-true 4th of July metaphors for today’s message, I settled on the short, bittersweet and eternal lessons like these for inspiration;

  • Neither politics nor religion nor any mixing of the two will save us at the end.
  • Two things are really required for true freedom – repentance for our wrongs and the granting of forgiveness to those that wrong us.
  • It’s never wrong or out-of-style to be thankful…to daily express gratitude.
  • You can pledge your allegiance to the flag every day and admit your own and your country’s independence; yet know that “when you bow down before the Lord and admit your dependence on him, he will lift you up and give you honor” – James 4:10

…just something to think about!

“…freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals and those who died in their defense.” – Barack Obama

Hope you’ll enjoy a GREAT holiday weekend!
José Ponton, Jr.
From Sunny Florida
True Independence2019-07-03T16:41:14-04:00

A time…

“…a time to be silent and a time to speak” – Ecclesiastes 3:7

Silent Movies. The symphony. A child during the dinner prayer. Sitting in a crowded theater. At church during the sermon. In class when the professor is lecturing. In a conversation when you are the listener.

All these scenarios are times to be silent.

Silence is more than just an absence of noise.  Silence is a doorway beyond all that is demanded of you and happening all around you.  To be silent is to realize more of the unnoticed in life; like he robin bird stepping softly across the grass, as if walking on air, or the leaf brushing lightly against the rain gutter.

God whispers quietly when we are silent enough to hear Him. The Holy Spirit is a gentleman…speaking ever so delicately and yet with great purpose.  Are you sometimes silent enough to hear?

Indeed, silence has a balance; for then there is also a time to speak.  As a parent when your daughter is about to cut herself with a sharp knife, you must speak immediately, with authority in your voice!  When your friend is wrongly accused, it is a time to speak in their defense. When your son is honored for scoring the winning touchdown for his team, your words of pride ring loud and clear.

When you realize how much Jesus gave for you, His very life, you speak words of surrender. You humbly speak words of gratitude. You speak words of joy and praise to all who can hear!

“In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we’re pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our Maker’s praise without anxiety.” – Aiden Wilson Tozer

Just something to think about…Have a GREAT weekend!

José Ponton, Jr.   

From Sunny Florida

A time…2019-07-03T16:41:41-04:00

Growing with a Purpose

We learn from scriptures that Christ, as a child, grew and developed just as we do.  Because he grew and developed as we have, we have a savior that can sympathize with us in our weaknesses (Hebrews 4:15).   Jesus developed that inspires our own development.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.  Luke 2:52

Here we see Jesus setting the perfect model of development: wisdom (cognitive), stature (physical), favor with God (spiritual) and man (social).  These areas make up the development of the complete person – and Jesus, living the perfect life, set the model of perfection of whole-person development.

The fact that Jesus developed in perfection is interesting and inspiring.  Often times we focus on “the fact” of the matter and miss the “why’.  Why was he so driven to develop cognitively, physically, spiritually and socially?  To be smarter than anyone else?  Look better than anyone else?  Be more successful than anyone else?

We certainly know how he was able to develop – he relied upon His connection with the father for the strength to will and to act (John 5:19).  But why?  What motivated him to have the connection with the Father to grow and develop?

The answer is just a few verses previous.  While observing the annual Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph accidentally left Jesus!  When they returned, they certainly witnessed an awe-inspiring scene:

Luke 2:46 Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions.

Mary and Joseph explained to Jesus that him staying behind in Jerusalem alone caused them to worry and fret.  After a lite scolding, Jesus responded.  In this response, we find the reason behind his pursuit of perfect development in the Father.

Luke 2:49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me?  Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”  

Why did Jesus pursue perfect development in the Father?  Purpose!  He knew the cross called to Him.  He tapped into the perfect power of the Father so that his mind and body would be ready to carry out his purpose.  He knew that he was about his Father’s business.

I am reminded of a story of three bricklayers.  Each was asked what they were doing.  The first man replied, “I’m laying bricks.”  The second man replied, “I’m building a wall.”  The third man replied, “I’m making a place of worship for the Lord.”  The first man had a job.  The second man had a career.  The third man had a purpose.

Whether you are going to work or school, leading a team or contributing to a team.  Ask yourself:  what is my purpose?  This truth we learn from the perfect development of our Savior:  it is important to develop in God’s strength – it is equally important to know why.  When times get tough.  When things don’t go as planned.  When work gets hard and school becomes overwhelming – take a step back, look your challenges in the eye and say “I must be about my Father’s business.”  Move forward, confidently in Christ.

Growing with a Purpose2018-08-06T15:25:56-04:00

Free Indeed

“How can you say that we shall be set free?” the Jews asked with a combination of disgust and bewilderment.  “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone!” When Jesus told them that they would be set free by the truth, the Jews clearly took offense.  However, their disapproving statement clearly contradicted their history with a total disregard of their Egyptian, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian and Syrian overlords – including their Roman overlords of the time.  They had a false sense of freedom in both past and present.

We are lucky to live in a free nation.  We can choose what we want to do for a living.  We can have opinions. You can make all the memes you want about the President where people in other countries could face charges of treason.  In every sense of the word, we are free.

We are free to make our own choices, but the funny thing is, we can be imprisoned by those very choices.   Jesus explains in John 8: 34 34 “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin.”  

We are all free to make any choice we could ever want to make, but even with that freedom, all too often we revert to the same habits and turn to the same vices.   I like the way Casting Crowns puts it in their song “All You’ve Ever Wanted” – “I’m living free inside a prison cell.” We are free to make our own choices, but sinful nature makes us slaves to those very choices.  So ironic to be enslaved by the very thing that makes us free.

But Jesus gives us hope!  We do not have to be a slave to our impulses.  35 “Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Free indeed!  I want to be free!  I want my next sunrise to be a new day, not just a deja vu of past mistakes.  That is the very promise Jesus makes to us. To experience true freedom, we must become slaves to God.  Turning ourselves and our choices over to God and experiencing his life-changing power will free us from the chains of self.  1 Peter 2:16 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.

As we celebrate our freedom as a nation on July 4th next week, let us ponder how we can draw near to Christ so that we can abandon the appearance of freedom and be free indeed!

 

Free Indeed2018-06-25T13:44:24-04:00

Broken Things

It’s an age-old story.  You get into an argument with your mate.  You yell at your kids. You get angry at someone in traffic, and while you are on your way to church, you think, “What’s the point?  How can I come before God like this? How can I serve Him like this?

If you have ever felt like that, you are not alone.  Isaiah felt the same way when he had a vision of the Lord, Almighty.  …I saw the Lord, high and exalted, seated on a throne; and the train of his robe filled the temple.  Isaiah 6:1.

How did Isaiah respond to this vision?  “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.”  

Isaiah felt the weight of his brokenness pressing down on him.  When the angel purified his lips by touching the coal to his lips, he learned that being in God’s presence should not make you aware of your mistakes, it should make you aware of His grace.  

Then, in the midst of Isaiah’s brokenness, God said in the vision, “…Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then Isaiah responded, “Here am I; send me.”  Isaiah 6:8

We do not come before God to show off our “Christianness” to God or each other.  We do come before God to experience his grace. And once we experience it – share it.  

 

I like the song from Matthew West called “Broken Things.”  The chorus reads

Now I’m just a beggar in the presence of a King

I wish I could bring You so much more

But if it’s true You use broken things

Then here I am Lord, I am all Yours

God wants to use us – all of us – all of our talents and our junk.  Because the funny thing about your brokenness is that God can use you to reach others that can relate to what you have gone through.  As the saying goes, “One Man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Well, God can make treasure out of anything once he adds His love to it.  He can turn your failures into platforms of grace and mercy to reach others. Despite all the junk, come before God, experience his grace, and when he asks who will go and share, reply “Here am I, Lord.  Send me.”

Broken Things2018-06-27T15:57:08-04:00

I Have Given You an Example…

“Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:28

Jesus is the Master.  He is King of kings and Lord of lords.  He is the Name above all names and deserving of all praise.  He is the Word made flesh, the Alpha and Omega. He is the I AM.  Although deserving the place of a King, he took the role of the servant.  

Jesus came to serve and to minister, to sacrifice himself for the sins of all people, but most of all, to set an example.   “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.” John 13:15.  

Next week, we will celebrate the Lord’s Supper and Ordinance of Humility, commonly known as foot washing.  The Lord’s Supper, with the emblems of Jesus’ body (bread) and his blood (wine), reminds us of how Jesus loves us.  However, the Ordinance of Humility is a reminder of how we should love each other.

What would happen in the church if Christ’s attitude reflected in Matthew 20:28 swept through the Adventist Church?  What if everyone said, “I did not come to church to be served, but to serve.” Often times when we go to church with the goal of “getting”, we can walk away feeling empty.  When we go to church with the goal of “giving”, the Spirit has a way of filling us with joy.

It all starts humbly, down on our knees.  This week, spend time in prayer and ask the Lord how you can be of service for his Kingdom.  Ask for the strength to say “I did not come to be served, but to serve.”

I Have Given You an Example…2018-06-25T14:09:00-04:00

What is Love Really?

Romans 5:8 God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Bible verses such as the one above remind us that God loves us.  But in order to fully comprehend what this verse means, we have to understand what love is.  With so many different concepts of love, the verse above could take on so many meanings.

There are many concepts of love.  People will often say, “I love my children” and then also say “I love pizza.”  There is the Disney princess concept of love that accompanies a feeling of abandon and ecstasy.   There is the love that pop-culture songs sing portray. With all of these concepts of love, it is difficult to truly comprehend the love that Romans 5:8 is talking about.  

As long as you associate the concept of “love” with a feeling, Bible verses about love will often fall flat.  M Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, offers a definition that describes love in it’s truest form.  He says that true love can only be expressed in the absence of the feeling of love.  

Remember when you first met your spouse?  Remember that uncontrollable urge to be with them?  It was fun, but it wasn’t love. That was a hormone – a compulsion.  Often times, when that feeling fades over time, people think that have “fallen out of love.”  But that could not be any farther from the truth. Once that compulsion feeling fades, that is when the work of real loving begins.  You see, when your hormones and enzymes are no longer compelling you toward your loved one, you are simply left with the choice to love.  

Real love makes you deny self and make yourself vulnerable.  Real love sets you up to experience pain. Real love dispels fear and draws us out of the safety of our self-centeredness into other-centeredness.

It wasn’t a hormone or an enzyme that allowed Jesus to go through with the cross.  It wasn’t a Disney princess version of love. It wasn’t a feeling. It was a choice.  Now, with that version of love, re-read Romans 5:8. Has it taken on a new meaning?

If you wonder why you don’t feel butterflies in your stomach when you are around your spouse or when you worship God, don’t interpret that to mean that you have “fallen out of love.”  That is when the work of true love will finally begin.

What choices can you make this week to show your loved ones and God that you love them?  

What is Love Really?2018-06-27T15:47:21-04:00

What’s Left After Right?

Have you ever wanted to be right?  Maybe in an endless Facebook thread, or perhaps an argument with a loved one.  After you won the argument, how did you feel? In John chapter 8, we see the beautiful story of where Christ was lured into an argument.  But his response is surprising.

2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. John 8:2-6

The Pharisees wanted to lure Jesus into a debate of facts.  Jesus could have used the opportunity to display his knowledge, he could have impressed everyone with his mastery of the law, he could have made the priority to be right.  But he didn’t take the bait. His main focus in this encounter is how can they see love. How can this woman see love and forgiveness? And because he focused on love, he saved her life and gave her a chance to start over.

The question must be asked, what would have been left if Jesus had used that time to prove himself right?  Well…not much. Probably just a carpenter, a dead woman, and some angry Jews.

In our own relationships with people, we must ask the question “What’s left after right?”  Certainly, there are situations where you want someone to be right. Your doctor and your accountant come to mind.  But think about the last argument you had with a friend, a spouse or a loved one. After the “right” was proven and they were proven wrong, what was left?  Was there some grand, life-changing awakening? Perhaps. But usually, when you engage in an argument for the mere sake of being right, there usually isn’t much left but hurt and regret.  Love must be the priority in all of our interactions. Without love, people really don’t want to hear what you have to say anyway.

The next time you sense that a situation with another person is escalating, take a moment in prayer and ask God to give you the discernment to answer the question “What’s left after right?”  You may just find that, in fact, “Love never fails.” (1 Corinthians 13:8)

What’s Left After Right?2018-06-25T14:00:31-04:00