A New Take

As we leave Christmas behind and look forward to a New Year, I have been intrigued and challenged by reading, listening to and studying an Old Testament prophecy of the coming of Christ found in Isaiah 9:6:

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

A practical flow of the passage has opened up to me, a way of looking at it I can’t remember seeing before, a new take on a familiar passage.  My emphases will be on the latter part of the verse and the four names given to this Child that was to be born (His humanity) and this Son who was to be given (His deity).  Let me explain.

Jesus is the Wonderful Counselor.  He, full of wonder and ready to impart it to us, provides guidance, direction and wisdom to live out His way of life.  We, in turn, have access to the power to make that happen in our lives, Him being the mighty God that He is.  This same Jesus is the One that will make sure that His plan is carried out forever and ever…since He is Everlasting.  And, as a crowning achievement of it all being done by Him and for Him, the Prince awards each one of His willing subjects peace.

There are many ways to see the awesome truths of this verse.  There is so much there, solid doctrine to stand on.  But I’d like you to get a hold of this simple truth.  Jesus is wonderfully guiding and directing us, gives us the power to follow His way forever and rewards us with His peace.  Simple, poignant, life changing.

There’s no one like HIm.  Read about His guidance, power, eternity and peace in the pages of the Bible.  If He is who He says He is and He can do what He says He can do, nothing else matters more.  May He be our focus in 2022…and always.

Have a Blessed New Year!!!

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Please, Make Room…

Some people missed out on the greatest event in human history – the birth of the God child, the second person of the Trinity. The people in the overcrowded streets of Bethlehem, busy and hurried, had no room. The hotel owner had no room…and Jesus was left to be born in a feeding trough for animals.

A little later on – King Herod had no room…even with the testimony of the wise men and some of his own people. The soldiers that carried out the killing of all Jewish children under 2 years old had no room…I wonder if any of them questioned their order.

Even later in His life – His fellow nationals had no room for Him…they wanted a military savior, He wanted to save their souls. The religious people did not have room for Him…while He went around healing and teaching about God’s grace and mercy.

At the end of His earthly life – The government leaders had no room for Him…politics took over and true justice went out the window. The people at large had no room for Him…so they screamed “Crucify Him!”.

How about today? Do people have room for Him?  Does government?  Do religious people?  Our country?
Do I have room for Him…Jesus?  Do you?  He is the Savior of the world…Emmanuel, God with us.

Please, make room for Him!
(Let me know if I can help in that decision in any way!)

Have a wonderfully blessed Christmas, holidays and New Year!!!

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Be Still

There’s activity all around us, and also ongoing inside many of us, all the time. Quiet and solitude are rare commodities. But God lets us know, time and time again, that we need to settle our minds and hearts and allow stillness to reign over our lives…mainly so we can let Him work, speak, do His thing for us and with us, know Him better. This verse reminded me of that today. I hope it reminds you too…let us be still.

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What The World Needs Now Is Love

Back in 1965, the song “What The World Needs Now Is Love” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David won Jackie DeShannon a Grammy. The chorus of that award winning hit says:

What the world needs now is love, sweet love
It’s the only thing that there’s too little of
What the world needs now is love, sweet love
No not for some, but for everyone.

Unfortunately, the love talked about was exemplified by the misuse of real love in society. The word love itself had lost its meaning. Was it just a statement against war (the actual subtext of the lyrics) or a call to get along no matter what? Did it talk about the love for my spouse or the love for my dog? Did it mean uninhibited sex or a true and legal commitment to one person? Was it acted out in a drug induced free for all or in self discipline and control? We were unsure then and continue to be today.

The Bible says that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). It uses love as one of its definitions of who God is. So, to understand true love, we must understand its very meaning is wrapped up in the person of God.

To understand the scope and breadth of love, we can primarily talk about four of its facets as described by four Greek words: philia speaks of friendship love; storge speaks of familial love; eros talks about erotic or romantic love; agape talks about selfless, sacrificial and perfect love. C. S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, deals with these in depth. But, suffice it to say for now, that the last one I mentioned, agape, is the one that describes God and His love for us…and it is also His challenge for us to live up to.

An expert in Jewish law asked Jesus once how he could inherit eternal life. Jesus sent him back to the Scriptures and the man said they stated to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself. This type of love is one that is totally committed, all in, sacrificial and all about the recipient of that love. Our Lord’s response – “You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:25-28). He then went on to describe a “neighbor” as one who is not like us, even an enemy, who does not deserve our love, compassion and care but gets them anyway. Being in a similar situation in the gospel of Matthew, Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was. His response was akin to the one above, but he added: “On these two hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (see Matthew 22:34-40) Everything God has said through His Word depend on these two commandments.

So, the greatest thing we could ever do, the number one characteristic of those that have eternal life is a life of love. Loving God with everything we are and have, obeying Jesus’ commands (John 14:15) and following Him wholeheartedly. Then, in the same token, loving others like He loves them, selflessly and sacrificially. This type of love does not major on the minors and sets aside our differences for the greater good. You and I loving God and loving others like He asked us to…that is the love that the world needs now.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all!!!

If you have questions or comments, include them below or connect with me via email or phone…I would “love” to talk further!!!

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Let There Be Light

Light was one of the very first concepts talked about by God in His Word. Here’s what it says in Genesis 1:1-4:

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.”

Light was introduced in creation and darkness dissipated. The same principle continues to this day. And, not surprisingly, the same prevailed in that historical moment when God’s Son was welcomed to Earth. The angels proclaimed His birth in the midst of the shining light of God’s glory. Later on, the wise men came from the East following a star that shone the way, guiding them to the coming King they were to meet and worship. And John lets us know that “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4)

During Jesus’ stay amongst us, in one of the great “I Am” statements, he said about Himself – “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12). But, concerning this very light, He let us know – “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:19-21).

The light of Jesus was introduced during a dark time. The political, social and religious climates of that day were oppressive, uncertain and confusing. We still live in a dark world today. Jesus is the Light of the world and has come to bring freedom, assurance and clarity into our lives. But He has warned us that some people might not gravitate towards the light because they live in and enjoy the darkness. Their dark deeds are keeping them away from the light they need. So, what is needed?

First, we need to shed the darkness. The Bible prompts us to put aside all that weighs us down, to not lean on our own understanding, to recognize sin for what is is, to flee from it. Second, our decision should be to come to the light. You see, this light it’s a Person, not a religion, or a set of rules. The plea of “Come to me” found in Matthew 11:28 is for you and for me, Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me” is for each one of us. The invite has been sent, the response is up to us. Will you come?

Third, live in the light. Tired and disappointed by the dark life that has no lasting value or joy, those of us who have come to the light are encouraged to remain in the light. We are also called “the light of the world” by Jesus in Matthew 5:14. As the moon has no light of its own, but only reflects the light of the sun to shine in the night sky, so are we to reflect the Light of the world during the dark night hours, shining amidst the shadows.

The call to “abide” in John 15, the life of obedience to His commands He expected in John 14, the “daily bread” we trust Him for as He taught us to pray in Matthew 6, the committed and sacrificial life of the first disciples in the book of Acts and so much more beckons us to live in the light. If you have shed the darkness and come to the light, please continue to live in that light.

So many of the principles in Scripture are seen clearly from cover to cover. Light is no exception. The book of Genesis saw light appear to dissipate darkness. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that the coming of Christ was announced in illumination and that we are to be the light of the world, followed by the example of the first believers. the Bible’s final book, Revelation, shows us one more shiny glimpse. In our eternal home, we find the inspired description by the apostle John, as he declares – “And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.” (Revelation 21:23). Forever and ever, all of us that have a relationship with God through His Son Jesus will be immersed and bathed in the light of His glory, with no need for any other luminosity. No more darkness, no more sin, no more sickness, no more death. Looking forward to it!

But while I’m here, this little light of mine…I’m gonna let it shine!!!

My mom Anisia went to be with her Lord last Friday, December 18th. She is now basking in His glorious light forever.

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Pandemic Peace

“Pandemic” is Merrian-Webster’s Word of the Year for 2020. For those of us who are living through it, no surprise there! Even more interesting, though, is that the Oxford Dictionary did not assign this title to a single word. They stated on their website that, as their research started to look for a word, “it quickly became apparent that 2020 is not a year that could neatly be accommodated in one single ‘word of the year'”. Our present conundrum even has our language experts struggling!

During a pandemic, or at any time, where does our help come from?

To aggravate matters, the present health crisis has been accompanied by social unrest, political turmoil and the usual stressors of our fast paced lives. This has left behind a slew of struggling individuals faced with loss of health, dwindling finances, lost hope and craving normalcy…individuals desiring peace in the midst of a perfect storm.

During a pandemic, or at any time, where does our help come from? The Psalmist asked that general question in Psalm 121:1, as he looked out unto the hills. His answer was quick and definitive – “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” (v2) The response was right in front of him – the Maker of the hills can help. The solution to our search for peace is the same as his response to the need for help – the Lord.

Seven hundred years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah declared: “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.” The Baby whose birth we will celebrate this month was prophesied and designated to be several things, including the Prince of Peace. He would bring peace to earth, even as the angels had told the shepherds when they announced his birth in Luke 2:14. The enmity between God and us was single handily taken care of by His Son, whose life, death and resurrection brought about this much needed reconciliation.

The lack of peace we might see in us, around us and in this world has an answer – the Lord. When I trust Him with my life and my thoughts are fixed on Him instead of the circumstances, He promises perfect and complete peace (Isaiah 26:3). He also challenges me to, so far as it depends on me, to live peaceably with all (Romans 12:18) and to strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). When our vertical relationship is healed (peace with God), then inner peace is experienced and the horizontal relationships have the potential of being repaired (peace of God). The Lord gives to each one of His sons and daughters the responsibility to share that experiential peace with others, to be the “peacemakers” that Jesus talked about in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:9), helping fellow humans find peace with God and the peace of God.

The empirical truth is this – God gives His peace to those who seek Him. The 21 Christians beheaded by ISIS in 2015 on a Libyan beach had it. The Amish community who forgave their children’s killer in 2006 had it. Rachel Scott, one of the victims at the 1999 school tragedy in Columbine, had it. And we, in the midst of a worldwide pandemic, can also have it. The Lord makes it available to all.

Recognizing our personal need and sinfulness, realizing that Jesus paid for it all by His sacrifice on the cross and receiving His forgiveness and grace in believing faith…that is the path for eternal peace. The spiritual disciplines of prayer and Bible reading, studying, meditating on and obeying God’s Word, together with having fellow believers that we can live our daily life with can all make practical earthly addendums to that heavenly peace. An eternal peace that I can also enjoy day by day…even in 2020!

If you’d like to know more about the peace talked about above, please use the comment section or email me directly at abeltran@chaplain.org.

Posted in Current events, Pandemic, Peace

Precinct Prayer

I’m glad to have voted early. I did so last week at one of the early voting sites in my county, with no lines and no waiting. As of today, 10/29/20, there have been over 78 million votes cast already, either by mail or in person…but most votes will happen on Election Day, in person and in designated precincts.

A few weeks ago I challenged you to “40 Days to Pray…and Vote”, asking you to set aside a daily time of prayer until the upcoming elections. After hundreds of views and many favorable comments, it continues to be read and talked about. Well, here is my latest challenge – “Precinct Prayer”.

All registered voters have a precinct and a designated place where our voting would or will happen. Would you commit to go to that specific place, anytime before 7 am on November 3rd, and pray? There are several government offices, amendments and other important items on the ballot. It is crucial for heaven to hear our earthly cry. Would you join me?

It will be as easy as you stopping in front of the precinct voting place on your way home today and praying. Or during your neighborhood walk, run or bike ride. In my case, I’d like to pray on that day. Since I start work early on Tuesdays, it means I will be the one stopped on the side of the road, on the corner of Taft St. and 92 Ave, at 4:30 am. Whatever works for you! If you are unable to show up in person, would you designate a time of prayer for your specific voting place before or on next Tuesday?

This is not a time for signs, slogans, arguing our political points or putting others down for their decisions . It is a time to pray! So, as you take on my challenge, let’s just talk to our Father on behalf of our country.

Earlier today I commented with an employee I serve about the power of prayer and how we underestimate it. We do! Would you join me in letting God know that we will not do so in this instance? Let me know if we stand together in this effort!

Pass the word along to your family and friends. Please share this with others in your social media circles. With your help, “Precinct Prayer”, together with all prayers, will be the most powerful force present on Election Day.

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40 Days to Pray…then Vote

We are 40 days away from the 2020 election, which is happening on November 3rd. Some have said that this is the most important election of our lifetime and, even though the next election always seems to be “the most important”, I tend to agree.

The number 40 is Biblically significant. It denotes a time of trial and hardship. Specifically, the 40 day period seems to come up often. The Flood lasted 40 days, as it brought judgement to an unrepentant and sinful world. This is also the amount of days endured by Jesus, Moses, Elijah and Ezekiel as they fought through difficult and trying times. And so on…

We need to vote during elections. If you are a citizen, you should be registered to vote (if not, just do it!) and you should vote. A few days before November 3rd, Lord willing, you will see me at an early voting site near my home, casting a ballot. We live in a country that allows you the power of the vote. Use it!

But, as I told a group of employees at a company I serve as chaplain, “We can vote…but the most powerful thing we could do during elections is pray.” And I believe that with all my heart. Go vote after you’ve gone to God, vote while you’re seeking His guidance and, after the elections, continue praying for the political leaders Americans have voted into office.

Here is my challenge to you – during the next 40 days, set aside some time each day to pray for the upcoming elections. Some will pray a few seconds, some can do a few minutes, some might even do a few hours. Short or long, take time to pray.

The Bible is wrought with examples of God moving in the midst of praying people. Throughout history, we have seen the power of the Almighty at work, when people pray. And we have an opportunity to add to that list! Let us together, in unity, cry out to our God for His will to be done, on earth as it is in heaven. For Him to be glorified and lifted up. Let us ask for His forgiveness and cleansing, His guidance and peace, His perfect justice and overwhelming love.

Can I count on you? Would you join me? Would you commit some time every day to pray? Let me know by commenting below, sending me an email or text. Could we all be prayed up come election time?

Tough times have always been around and difficulties will accompany us on our earthly journey, whatever happens in November and whoever is elected. Counting on the fact that no human will evade tough times, here is what Jesus said, “…take heart…I have overcome the world.” Can any human candidate say that? He is the ultimate winner…let’s go pray!

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Fresh Mercies

If you are reading this, I know at least one thing about you – you woke up today! Maybe early in the morning, later or in the afternoon (no judgement here), you woke up. And God’s mercies will begin afresh for you!

Jesus taught us to pray that the Father would provide “our daily bread”. God told us that “His mercies begin afresh every morning.” Day after day, we are confronted with life. It is such a daily thing. From our perspective, some of it good and some of it bad. But God, in His infinite wisdom, asked us to pray daily for His provision and He daily resets His mercy.

I often remember the words of Zig Ziglar as he encouraged us to realize that yesterday really ended last night and that today was a brand new day. This great motivational speaker learned and passed on to others the truth that we need to leave the past behind and search for God’s leading and blessing today. It is ours for the taking!

Every day God hits the refresh button of mercies on our lives. Beyond the temporal circumstances, health concerns, virtual schooling, social distancing, riots, grief, the sin in us and around us, His everlasting love and continual mercy will carry us through.

Taking on a new day could be a welcomed task for us or it might be a fear filled endeavor. Let’s go forward in His strength and not just our own, with His blessing and enjoying His mercies. We can do this…with His help!

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Courtesy, Compassion, Conversation

As we experience uncertainty and turmoil in our families and communities, as a nation and throughout the world, we must allow them to act as catalysts that set us on a quest for positive change. Change is crucial for continued growth. Real change starts in us, then moves beyond us, and the ripple affect can be quite a blessing. Let’s think through a path that could bring this about:

It’s truly disheartening how rare it is to encounter true courtesy in today’s society. Common courtesy, civility and simple politeness are overwhelmed and overrun by prejudice, inflammatory remarks, lies, hate, criminality, and disrespect, making it difficult to achieve even in oneself. However, I believe genuine courtesy and civility are among the most crucial items needed in modern societal life. Without the humility and calm inherent to an attitude of courtesy, our daily lives will continue to be consumed by arguments, strife, and death. This is the first aspect of change we must enact. 

Mercifully, we are not left alone to determine what courtesy and civility might look like in this tumultuous world. Our Creator has given us timeless words of wisdom to follow even now in 2020. In His Word, God details His desires and expectations for how to treat one another: with humility, respect, kindness, offering others our support, acceptance, prayer, and encouragement. Healthy relationships, whole families, healed communities, and strong nations would undoubtedly arise from a foundation of these biblical basics.  I would encourage you to include them in your everyday behavior and speech; you’ll see positive changes in yourself and those around you.

This leads us to the next essential component: compassion. A “Good Samaritan” kind of compassion, one that is ready to help heal the wounds of an enemy, foregoing the temptation to disregard or add to their pain. A compassion that realizes we are all part of a shared race, the human race, and that because of this, we need each other. A compassion that steps in to care about the “other,” rather than deliberate the differences between us. An attitude that decides not to use those perceived differences against others. A genuine desire to see the good in others and to work together to find solutions and foster progress. Without this kind of deep and genuine compassion, people are lost in pain, suffering from healable wounds, grieving countless losses alone, and inevitably death will reign. 

Real change starts in us, then moves beyond us.

Once we allow courtesy and compassion to guide us, in even the most uncivil of times, we will truly be ready to sit down and have hard conversations – and have them we must. We must reach across all types of barriers, considering our God-given responsibility to treat one another according to His guidelines mentioned above. We must stop using difference as an excuse to divide and start finding ways either to eliminate those differences or utilize them for the benefit of those who are in need, just as the Good Samaritan did. We must recognize the need for compromise and keep our convictions in prayerful consideration. If we ever want to resolve and heal the matters that have torn us apart and caused such pain, we need to have difficult conversations with the goal of unification and healing.

Disunity has plagued our nation and our world for too long, wouldn’t you agree? Remember that change starts in us…only then can it affect everything and everyone around us. If we were to commit to be part of the solution and not the problem, and to use the tools outlined above, do you feel that we could move forward as a culture?  If we spend our energy on courtesy, compassion, and conversation, maybe we could build ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren a society to be proud of. I truly believe I can do my part to make that happen. How about you?

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