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Here are two articles written by Emily Guevara ( Twitter: @TMTEmily)  on our background and on  Grace Español .   Tyler Morning Telegraph...

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Markers of My Life Journey in Christ

In the Bible, we find people setting markers in places where they lived or experienced God (Abraham, Jacob, Isaac). They were set as visible memorial of what God had done. We do this as well. Our markers are places we lived or traveled. It also includes pictures and other memorabilia.

Today I had an appointment in Santa Ana, California. I had time, so I decided to drive by the houses I lived as I was growing up as a teenager. My mom and three of my sisters, one of them who is with the Lord, came to the US in 1981. We spent half a year living in Orange, a year in Los Angeles and then moved to Santa Ana. In 1983 we lived on Minnie Street. It was a two bedroom home. I remember sleeping in the living room next to my mom and youngest sister. This home had a basement, a small one which I was fascinated though it didn't have a purpose. From this house I walked to Middle school and remember the path I took. It was at least 3-4 miles and I hardly missed school. It was in this house where I first met Jimmy who picked me up for church and mentored me. He is pastor of Grace Community Church in Santa Fe New Mexico. It was here where after becoming a believer and started to miss a couple of church meetings, that the senior pastor visited our home. I don't recall what he said, but I know he encouraged me to not forsake the assembling. This returned me to the course and kept me faithful to the Lord.

The first home we lived in OC on Minnie Street

The second house is where I lived the longest. I lived here until I married at the age of 20 (almost 21). This house had two bedrooms as well. I slept in one of the rooms with two of my sisters. I still walked to school from here and it was even farther from the previous house. It is on this house on Flora street that I met everyday with my best friend from church and prayed in the early dawn. I met with others as well. It is in this house, the garage in the back, where I spent many hours studying the Word of God and my learning foundation was set. It was here where I prepared my sermons, studies and poured my soul to the Lord in prayer. Then there was the trailer that a friend helped me restore that became my room. The bed was so small that I barely fit as my feet and head hit the walls. It had a small couch and table. Here, I discipled a young man from our church. It was in this trailer where I prayed fervently for the woman who became my wife. This home was my headquarter in my spiritual beginning and my growth in Christ. I am thankful for my family, my mom, my four sisters and my nephew who lived in this home. They played a role in my life as a young man following Christ. God has been good and these two structures serve as spiritual markers of my journey of faith.

The house on Flora Street in Santa Ana

 

Monday, February 17, 2014

Run The Race With Endurance

I run. I run mostly to maintain a healthy living but also for other reasons. You can read about it here. On Saturday I did a trail half marathon. I have done a six mile trail run before but never one this long. After running four marathons before, I knew this one today would be difficult even if it was just half a marathon (13 miles). Let me share a bit about it. The first two miles where all uphill. The sun was shining and the wide road uphill just kept getting longer. I tried running but I soon gave up and decided to walk. Even walking was difficult. I thought about giving up thinking that I probably couldn't finish. Psychologically and physically, I was defeated but I persevered. The next few miles where through a narrow, cool path. I enjoyed this! I was praising God for this and felt confident. But then more hills came. They were narrow and very rocky. Again, I walked and hoped to make it till the end. I prayed to God to give me strength. This pattern continued as I was climbing up. I kept thinking how much longer I had to go. At times I complained about the planners of the event: "Why choose such a difficult course?," "Why didn't they have refreshments every mile like "real" marathons?"


People came along my path and we exchanged salutations and either I moved on or they did. With some, we had short conversations that focused on how difficult was the path. When I made it half way, two others joined me as we took water from plastic jugs that were left for us. We were relieved to have made it that far.


I finished the race (almost last but I did)

The next few miles were still difficult but I kept going. I walked one step at a time focusing on only what was before me trying not too look any farther. When I looked up and saw the trail going up I got discouraged. The two other runners and myself kept a close pace with each other. Finally, when I made it to mile 10 or so, there was a man waiting for us with water and snacks. He encouraged us to eat something and told us the the next 2.5 miles where all downhill. This gave us motivation to keep going. It was mostly downhill but not so easy. There was a time I thought I was close to the end and sped up but when I saw more trails uphill, I slowed down and started walking. I complained about this not been the end. Finally, I approached the end, I couldn't be happier to look ahead and see my family waiting for me. What a relieve to make it to the end.


As I was running and walking, I thought about our spiritual journey. Running is a perfect analogy for our spiritual journey (I also thought how appropriate it was for John Bunyan to use the journey of a Christian as a long journey through many hills). In the Bible, the Christian journey is compared to running in a stadium being watched by many other runners (witnesses) who have successfully completed the run:
"Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us" - Hebrews 12:1 (HCSB)


As Christians we are called to run the race of faith with endurance. Those words were brought to mind as I ran. The Christian race is challenging. The road ahead is not always easy. It is steep and at times we can barely move ahead. We get tired and discouraged. There are set backs. There are complaints to God (e.g. "Why couldn't you plan an easier path for me?")

As I was running a song by the late Rick Mullins reminded me of this:


And on this road to righteousness
Sometimes the climb can be so steep
I may falter in my steps
But never beyond Your reach
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
Oh God, You are my God
And I will ever praise You
I will seek You in the morning
And I will learn to walk in Your ways
And step by step You'll lead me
And I will follow You all of my days


The Christian race has many other challenges. There are difficulties, trials, suffering (steep hills and narrow roads), and at time it is very lonely. All of this affect us. At times you feel like giving up (read about my experience here). People come along our lives, some encourage us, some discourage us, some do neither. Yet, no one can run our race. It is our race. Ultimately, we have to finish it by ourselves.


How do we deal with all the challenges and finish it well? We need endurance. We just have to keep persevering, moving forward in spite of the challenges. It is one key element but not the only one.

We also need to rely on God's grace. God grace is sufficient when our weaknesses over whelm us. Grace is given to us in our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9). Another song (Grace by Which I Stand) that I listened by one of my all-time favorite Christian "singers" Keith Green says:


But nothing lasts, except the grace of God
By which I stand, in Jesus
I'm sure that my whole life would waste away, except for grace
By which I'm saved


In Hebrews 12:2 it says, "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God." (ESV)


It is in Jesus that we have to set our eyes, our expectations and our hope as we run our race: "For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." - Hebrews 12:3 (ESV)

He is with us each step of the way (see Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). He will encourage us (John 14:16), intercede for us (1 John 2:1), hold us (John 10:28), keep us from falling (Jude 1:24) and give us the strength to finish the race with endurance. He is cheering for us along with many other witnesses.


Our goal as we approach our end should be as the Apostle Paul said,

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing." - 2 Timothy 4:7-8 (ESV)


The reward for us it's not a medal, nor a sense of accomplishment, nor anything else. It is an incorruptible crown (1 Corinthians 9:25), the crown of righteousness, the crown of life (Revelation 2:10) given by the Lord, and an inheritance in his kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). Imagine that! He gave all for us, and yet he will reward us when we end our race. He will give us our share in his kingdom. This should be enough to keep us running the race with endurance. Can you imagine who will see as we approach the finish line?


Let's run the race with endurance!

 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Four Ways to Love Using Four Greek Words


The word "love" in English has a wide range of meanings, from romantic to trivial meanings (e.g. "I love my car"). Context has to be used to determine the meaning of it, and at times it is confusing. In Spanish the word "amar" and "querer" are used to express the meaning of love. But once again it is limited by the context in which it is used.

Greek, the language of the New Testament, has at least four words to describe love in different settings (only philia and agape is used in the New Testament). Much has been written about it. C.S. Lewis wrote a whole book on it titled "The Four Loves."

Here are the four words and their use:

1. Storge - Family Love (Natural Affection)

It the most basic form of love given to us by God. He is the creator of the family and as such, has given us the privilege of loving our family.

2 Timothy 3:1-4 speaks how in the last days there will be lack of love in the family:

"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good" (KJV)

The word used for "without natural affection" is "astorgos," (a=not, storgos= natural affection) which can mean "hard hearted toward kindred." According to Scripture, in these last days, self-love and pleasure will reign supreme. It is not hard to see that nowadays. Family love is becoming extinct.

One of the ways family love is expressed is by honoring our parents. In Exodus 20:12 it is the first commandment given by God that relates to others beside Himself. To honor parents is to show love. How sad it is to see parents dishonored in so many ways. More and more we see parents also losing their God-given rights even by our own government.

Family love is also expressed in the Church of God. Galatians 6:10 speaks of this type of love:

"Therefore, as we have opportunity, we must work for the good of all, especially for those who belong to the household of faith." (HCSB)

There are many people who have no other family but the Church. The Church should be a place for all of us to express family love. It is sad when we don't offer this to everyone that comes in through our doors. I love Hispanic culture in the way they show love to those who come to church for the first time. They mob new people and embrace them right away. That is family love!

2. Fileo - Friendship Love (Companion Love)

This type of love is expressed among friends of both genders. It is not a sexual love. In 1 Samuel 18:1 we have two men, David and Jonathan whose friendship is an example for all of us. Contrary to some who see this as an example of homosexual love, this was love between two close friends of the same sex. It is interesting to note that in our American culture, closeness between two men, especially one that shows affection is seen as suspicious. The same is also the case with friendship between a man and a woman. It is often assumed to be of sexual nature. Whole books have been written on wether a man and a woman can be friends.

Phileo can be expressed to both sexes. Yet, it is expressed in purity. We treat other as our own brothers and sisters. This also again is expressed in the Church. Romans 12:10 says, "Show family affection to one another with brotherly love." It is interesting because in this verse, "philostorge" (made up of philos and storge) is used for "family affection" and "philadelphia" (from philia) for "brotherly love." Both types of love should be part of how we express love one to another in the Church of Christ.

Phileo can also be used for our love for God. Our love for God should be above all others (see Matthew 10:37)

3. Eros - Romantic Love

Eros is romantic love. This is the word where we get "erotic." This type of love is expressed sexually between husband and wife. Our culture nowadays sees nothing wrong in expressing this love between two indviduals without being married. This is not so for us followers of Christ. 1 Corinthians 7:8-9 is clear that this type of love is only expressed in marriage.

Romantic or sexual love is God's creation. He designed it. A whole book of the Bible is written about romantic or sexual love. The book is called Song of Songs.

The Bible is clear about staying sexually pure before marriage:

"For this is God’s will : that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God. This means one must not transgress against and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger of all these offenses, as we also previously told and warned you. For God has not called us to impurity but to sanctification. Therefore, the person who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who also gives you His Holy Spirit." - 1 Thessalonians 4:3-9 (HCSB)

God has called to live a holy life, a life separated from sin and given to Him. We live according to God's purity standards and not according to the culture. Why? Because our lives, which includes our bodies belong to God. They have been set apart to serve Him and if he has called us to marry, then we are to express our eros to our mate. This is how God designed it.


4. Agape - God's Love

The most common word for love in the New Testament is this one. It is used to describe God's love for us:

"But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" - Romans 5:8 (HCSB). 

It is a love that comes from God because God is love (1 John 4:8). This love is characterized by sacrifice and giving (not just feelings or emotions).

This is also how Christ expresses his love for us:

"For Christ’s love compels us, since we have reached this conclusion:If One died for all, then all died. And He died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves, but for the One who died for them and was raised." 

          - 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (HCSB)

As Christians, agape has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We are capable of loving like God because we have received His love from the Spirit of God. Agape should characterize us as believers in Christ. It should dominate our lives. With this love we love God but we can also love our family, our friends, our neighbors, our enemies, our church and our spouse. With this love, "storge," and "phileo" are possible and "eros" can be controlled until it can be expressed sexually in marriage.





Thursday, February 13, 2014

Who Has ALL Power in Heaven and Earth


Many times we read certain passages in the Bible over and over that we don't really think about them too much. But the Holy Spirit does his work in us and often points to us what we need to be reminded or what we need to do. This is the case with me this week. I was finishing up the book of Matthew and came to the end where Jesus says to his disciples: “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth...." Matthew 28:16


As I read it, the Holy Spirit reminded to me of this fact. The resurrected Christ has all power in heaven. Well, this I knew. He is there and I am here. But that's not the case. As Jesus was ascending to heaven he said ALL power had been given to Him (by the Father) in heaven and earth. Yes, Jesus has ALL power here on earth. It would appear that this is not the case. We, Christians, know that Jesus is coming back to reign and we often forget that he already has ALL power or authority here on earth. There is nothing that Jesus can't do now. He is not limited in power nor is he limited by time and space. He has all power on earth. As I continued reading, the words "I am with you always," rang in my head. Jesus left earth, but he didn't leave us orphans (exactly what he told his disciples in John 14:17, 18, 25-26). He sent the Holy Spirit to be in us and with us. Thus, the Holy Spirit who is one with God the Father and God the Son is with us.



The context of this passage is making disciples, followers of Jesus. Let me share some brief thoughts on this and then come back to my focus. This command was given to the Lord's disciples but it applies to us as well. We, who are disciples, are also called to make disciples of all nations. We have nothing to fear nor be intimidated because we have been delegated this authority by Jesus. To make disciples is to share the Gospel of Christ with those who don't know him, and once they come to faith in him, teach them what the Lord has taught us. They in turn continue to do the same with others. Making disciples of disciples is not what Jesus said, which is what many times we think it means.

The passage also has an application outside of discipleship. Jesus has all power in heaven and earth. He has power over everything, which also means every circumstance in our lives. We can rest assured that he has all power over us as well. He is in control. This doesn't mean he will grant everything we ask but he promises to be with us every single moment of our lives until the end of the age. That is reassuring and comforting.



That's exactly what the Holy Spirit reminded me.



Here is a quote from Jamieson, Fausset and Brown on this passage: "All power in heaven"-- the whole power of Heaven's love and wisdom and strength, "and all power in earth"-- power over all persons, all passions, all principles, all movements-- to bend them to this one high object, the evangelization of the world:All this "is given unto Me." as the risen Lord of all, to be by Me placed at your command-- "Go ye therefore."



"Now as you go, make disciples. You have my power and my presence."