Sola Scriptura (“Scripture Alone”) – Part 1

In October we celebrate the Protestant Reformation. It was in October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther an Augustinian Monk nailed 95 theses on the Wittenberg Church in Germany. That spurred a movement that would change Christianity forever.

Because of that, this week and next week, we will take a look at one of the “Five Solas” of the Reformation. It will be “Sola Scriptura”, which means the “Scripture Alone”.

In 1521 at the historic interrogation of Luther at the Diet of Worms, he declared his conscience to be captive to the Word of God saying, “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.”

In our world there are many fonts of authority that we use to learn about life, the universe, and spiritual truths. The Reformers stood firm in only one foundation, the Scripture.

THE BIBLE IS THE ONLY RULE OF FAITH & PRACTICE

The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, having been given by inspiration of God, are the all-sufficient and only rule of faith and practice, and judge of controversies.

In the New Testament we have an important text that is the foundation for the doctrine of the Scripture. It is in 2Timothy 3: 14-17. Here is the text:

“2Tim. 3:14-17 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, [15] and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. [16] All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, [17] so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

This text is rich in teachings about the Scripture and its importance for our life. Let us see a few of them.

1 – To Know about God – If there is a God, and He created us, would it be too difficult to imagine that He communicated to us? If He did, would it be too difficult to imagine that He would do it in a way that we could understand?

The Bible is the way that God decided to REVEAL HIMSELF.

Who He Is – It is in the Bible that we learn who God is, His love, His mercy, His sovereignty, wisdom, etc.

What He Did – It is in the Bible that we learn about God’s deeds, His actions, and His works. If you want to know what God did, you have to come to the Scripture and learn.

His Will – Finally, it is in the Bible that we learn about God’s will, what He desires, what He wants from us. It is in the Bible that we discover His plans for the universe and for each one of us.

My friend, if you want to learn about God, you will need to read the Bible, study the Bible, and meditate on the Bible. There is no other way.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Stewardship is not about money, it is about love – Part 3

Charles Bugg defines stewardship in the Holman Bible Dictionary as “Utilizing and managing all resources God provides for the glory of God and the betterment of His creation.” Christian Stewardship regards the obligation of Christians in managing and utilizing intelligently the gifts that God has given.

As you can see, stewardship is not just about money, but it is about love. Today we will see two more characteristics of this love.

3 – A LOVE THAT IS TESTED BY GOD

 “1Chr. 29:17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things have I given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you.” 

David in this verse tells us that God tests the heart. Stewardship is not about money it is about heart. This is the question that all of us needs to answer, is our heart in the right place?

A. INTEGRITY – The first thing that David mentions is integrity. God tests our heart to see our integrity in returning to Him what He gave to us. Many times we are at fault in our integrity when it comes to money and giving.

B. SINCERITY – The second thing that God will test is the sincerity. David calls it honest intent. The sincerity of our hearts makes the difference. Are we giving to bargain with God? Or are we giving because we are grateful and we recognize His presence in our life and we want to participate in His project?

4 – A LOVE THAT IS LOYAL

1Chr. 29:18-19 O LORD, God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep this desire in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. [19] And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, requirements and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”

Finally, David will share with us that love must be loyal.

A. DESIRE TO GIVE FOREVER – David’s prayer is that God will keep this desire to give forever. He prays that people will always have this desire to give to God and His mission.

B. KEEP THEIR HEARTS LOYAL – David also asked God to keep the hearts of the people loyal to Him. Love demands loyalty. We give to causes that we love and we are loyal to.

C. WHOLEHEARTED DEVOTION – Finally, David prays for his son, and asks God to keep the heart of his son devoted to God. He uses the words wholehearted devotion, the whole heart. In this way Solomon will be able to obey the Word of God.

As we can see, Stewardship is not about money, it is about love. We give because we love God and everything that He is and does for us. We give out of loyalty to Him and to His cause.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Stewardship is not about money, it is about love – Part 2

It is quite common, for people to contribute to the church just because it will help them with their taxes. Sometimes, at the end of the year people will give to the church just to get a receipt, so they can declare contributions in their taxes.

Do not get me wrong, those offerings are great and sometimes they really help churches close the year in the black. My concern is that they are doing it for self-interest. They are doing it because they love themselves. We are learning in this series that stewardship is not about money, it is about love. So, let us take a look at what kind of love.

1 – A LOVE THAT PRAISES GOD

This love should be expressed in worship and praise to God. Here is the text about David’s offering:

“1Chr. 29:10-13 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying, “Praise be to you, O LORD, God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. [11] Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, O LORD, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. [12] Wealth and honor come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. [13] Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.” 

David, in this text is using his poetic vein, he is putting in words beautiful expressions of praises. He praises God.

  1. FOR WHO HE IS – Here are the expressions that he uses to define God, “You are our Father, you are Eternal, Great, powerful, glory, majesty, splendor”
  2. FOR WHAT HE DID – David describes what God did and has done. Here are the expressions that he uses: “Creator, everything comes from him, wealth and honor, He is the ruler, in His hands are strength and power.”
  3. WITH THANKSGIVING – Finally, David expresses his gratitude: “Now, our God, we give you thanks.” A love that praises, also gives thanks. When we learn everything that God is and does, we should throw our arms and hands up and give Him thanks.

2 – A LOVE THAT GIVES BACK

The second lesson that we learn with David about this kind of love is that love gives back. Here is the next part of the prayer:

1Chr. 29:14-16 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand. [15] We are aliens and strangers in your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope. [16] O LORD our God, as for all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name, it comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 

We also learn in this prayer that stewardship is about love and a love that gives back.

A. GENEROUSLY – David says, “who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this?” Humanly it would be impossible to do that. David is recognizing that they could not do it by themselves. They were giving beyond their expectations.

B. RECOGNIZING THE ORIGIN – And then, David realizes that everything that they have belongs to God, and what they are giving is from God Himself, it came from His hands.“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” They were just reciprocating, what God did for them. God gave to them, so they would be able to give back to God.

My friend, we should give, not to obtain some advantage in our finances. We give because we recognize who God is, what He has done in our lives. The giving is an expression of our gratitude. He has given us so much, and this is why we should give generously.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Stewardship is not about money, it is about love – Part 1

During these times, people, churches, ministries, and organizations are doing everything that they can to get some money from their members and friends. Let me share with you a way that some of them use to get money from people.

Maybe I should rephrase it in this way, “Today I am going to share with you how you can save a life of a poor little girl in Latin America. With a picture of a poor girl, the leaders introduce the little girl, telling the people that she lives in one of the poorest countries of the world, and she does not have food, clothes, and cannot go to school, because there is no school where she lives.”

Sometimes they will use videos showing the girl saying, “I am hungry.” “I do not have toys to play with.” Then, they would say, “Look at her, don’t you feel bad, for having all the comfort in the world and this poor little girl does not have enough? With, only $100 per month, you can save her, send her to school; give her a daily meal, and some used toys. If you will add $20 more, we can include in the package her little brother for one breakfast per day. If you add $10, I will send you her picture, and a monthly letter, sharing with you what she is doing with your offering.”

At the end, they would close saying: “Please send the money to my personal account, but you have to send now. Her time is running out.”

Sometimes people use an emotional appeal to get money from us. This explains how hard it is to talk about money in the church. When we talk about stewardship, we know that that will turn people off. It does not matter how subtle we will be. Some people will be offended and upset.

Stewardship is more than money; it is about love. There is a beautiful text that helps us to understand that. It is a wonderful prayer from king David. We find this text in 1Chronicles 29: 10-20.

He is the great King David at the end of his life, and he has the desire to build a Temple for the Lord, but the Lord did not allow him to do that.

Here it is what David said about that,

“1Chr. 28:2-3 King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my brothers and my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it. [3] But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’”

Do you struggle or feel uncomfortable when pastors talk about money in the church? This beautiful text helps us to learn that STEWARDSHIP IS NOT ABOUT MONEY, IT IS ABOUT LOVE.In the next weeks we will unpack the wonderful lessons about this truth.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Beatitudes: The Happiness That Nobody Wants – Those Who Are Persecuted for Jesus – Part 4

As a disciple of Christ, we need to prepare ourselves to face challenges, opposition, and persecution, throughout our lives. We learned in our last article how to deal with persecution. In this article we will learn something very important.

4 – THE REWARD FOR THOSE WHO ARE PERSECUTED

Finally, we learn that there will be a reward for those who are persecuted. Their sacrifice will not be unnoticed. God is watching, and paying attention to everything that happens to those who are suffering because of His Name and His Word. Here is the text: Matt. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

  1. A GREAT REWARD – The first thing that Jesus mentions is that it will be a great reward. It is important that if we compare with the last beatitude, we can see the difference. In that one Jesus said that theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. All real Christians and those who are persecuted because of righteousness belong in the Kingdom of Heaven. But here those who are persecuted because of Jesus will receive a GREAT REWARD.
  2. IN HEAVEN – The second thing that Jesus mentioned is that the reward will be in Heaven. That creates some problems for some of us, because we live in an immediatist generation. We want things right now, in our lifetime. We do not want to wait until we get there.
  3. THE CROWN OF LIFE – The other reward mentioned in the New Testament is the crown of life. Crowns were a sign of victory, honor, and in some contexts, authority. The people who suffer because of Christ and His Word will receive honor above the other believers. “Rev. 2:10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you; the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.”
  4. REIGN WITH CHRIST – The other reward that they will receive is the authority to reign with Christ. They will receive honor and authority. Some of those people were in the same church, denomination, and region, and we never thought that they were important or worthy, but they suffered because of Christ and His Word, and they will be way above the rest of us in the Kingdom of Heaven. Rev. 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years.”

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he says, Phil. 1:29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him,” He is making clear here for the members of that church that our relationship with Christ does not involve only faith in Him, it should go all the way, no matter the consequences.

There are those who believe in Christ, there are those who believe and suffer for Christ. The challenge for all of us is to be in the second group, those who believe in Christ and are willing to suffer for Him and His Word.

For that we will need grace from God.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Beatitudes: The Happiness That Nobody Wants – Those Who Are Persecuted for Jesus – Part 3

My friends, Jesus made clear to His disciples that they would be persecuted. The other authors in the New Testament took the same route, writing to the churches that they would face persecution because of their faith. 

In this third article we will learn what Jesus and the apostles had to say about handling persecution.

3 – HOW TO DEAL WITH PERSECUTION

We need to learn how to deal with persecution. We need to know that if we have a commitment with Christ we will be persecuted. The important thing here is to know what we should do when we see persecution coming, or we are in the middle of it.

  1. DO NOT BE SURPRISED – The first thing that the Bible tells us is that we should not be surprised. By now you should know that it is coming. This is what Peter said: “1Pet. 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” 
  2. PRAY FOR THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU – The second thing is to pray for those who persecute you. This is the right thing to do and the Christian thing to do. Pray for them. This is what Jesus said: “Matt. 5:44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,”
  3. BLESS THOSE WHO PERSECUTE YOU – The third thing is to bless those who persecute you. The text is very clear, bless and do not curse. The Christian has a different attitude in the persecution. Those who persecute us should be blessed. This is what Paul wrote: “Rom. 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.”
  4. ENDURE IT – The fourth thing is to endure it, to hang in there. We take it, even when it is painful. We put ourselves in the hands of the faithful Creator, because He will take care of us. Paul and Peter emphasize this: 

1Cor. 4:12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it;” 

“1Pet. 4:19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” 

  • TESTIFY – The fifth thing to do is to testify, to give your Christian testimony. This will be a wonderful opportunity for us to share the Gospel with those who persecute us. They will not understand at the beginning, but eventually they will see that there is something different in our lives. This is what Jesus said: “Luke 21:12-13 “But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. This will result in your being witnesses to them.” 
  • FLEE – The sixth thing to do is to flee to another place. If you can do that, if you can avoid or leave that situation and place, do so. You do not need to suffer persecution if the ability to get out is in your hands. Unless the Lord directs you otherwise. This is what Jesus said to the disciples: “Matt. 10:23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 

Matt. 23:34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town.”

  • REJOICE AND BE GLAD – The seventh thing, the Word says, rejoice and be glad. We are participants in the sufferings of Christ. We are in the right direction, we are in the company of great people, like the prophets who suffered for Christ. Jesus said: “Matt. 5:12 Rejoice and be glad,” And Peter wrote this: “1Pet. 4:13 But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

As you can see my friend, our Lord and His apostles wanted to prepare the church for the trials that every disciple would face. 

May God give us grace and strength to be disciples no matter the price.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Beatitudes: The Happiness That Nobody Wants – Those Who Are Persecuted for Jesus – Part 2

All the Christians should know this, opposition to our faith is a certainty. It is not a matter of if, but when. Jesus warned the disciples from the beginning.

This is what Jesus said: Matt. 5:11 “Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely…”

1 – THE SPECIFICS OF THE PERSECUTION

The first lessons that we learn with this verse is the specificity of the persecution. Let us see some of the descriptions.

  1. REVILE – To heap insults on, denounce, find fault, rebuke. The word in Greek carries the idea of reviling, upbraiding, or seriously insulting, and literally means to cast in one’s teeth. To cast insults is to throw abusive words in the face of an opponent, to mock viciously. This is what Peter told the church, “1Pet. 4:14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” 
  2. PERSECUTE – To pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group, as an extended meaning of pursuing a person on foot in a chase. Jesus would emphasize this idea later, “Matt. 24:9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me.”
  3. UTTER ALL KINDS OF EVIL AGAINST YOU FALSELY – To say all kinds of evil, wrong, and false things about you. Faithfulness to Christ will bring enemies of the gospel to say all kinds of evil against us falsely. Whereas insults are abusive words said to our faces, these evil things are primarily abusive words said behind our backs. Jesus experienced this kind of persecution, “Mark 14:56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.”

2 – THE REASONS FOR THE PERSECUTION

The next aspect of persecution that Jesus mentions in this Beatitude is the reason, “Matt. 5:11 “… on my account.” It is because of Jesus

  1. BECAUSE OF WHO THEY ARE – The main reason for this specific persecution is who we are, WE ARE CHRISTIANS. Peter made this point clear for the church, “1Pet. 4:16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. Paul also, mentioned it to his disciple Timothy, “2Tim. 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,” The first reason is directed to who we are, we are Christians, and because of that we will be persecuted.
  2. BECAUSE OF WHAT THEY BELIEVE – The second reason is because of what we believe. Many people are Christian, but their belief in Christ is according to this world, they do not have a deeper commitment with Jesus and His Word. They do not stand firm in those beliefs, and because of that they are not persecuted. This is what Paul wrote to the Galatians, “Gal. 6:12 Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ.” 
  3. BECAUSE OF YOUR TESTIMONY – Finally, we will be persecuted because of our testimony. It is not only for what we believe, but also for what we say. It is our confession about Jesus and His Word that will bring persecution to us. This is the vision that the apostle John had,“Rev. 20:4 I saw thrones on which were seated those who had been given authority to judge. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God.” 

As you can see my friend, this persecution is directed straight to those who call themselves Christians, believe in Him, and proclaim Him and His teachings.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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Beatitudes: The Happiness That Nobody Wants – Those Who Are Persecuted – Part 1

We are getting to the end of the Beatitudes. Jesus will talk about the consequences of being a Committed Christian. And, as you already noticed, it is not a wonderful and easy thing.

Today, Successful Christianity is measured by the amount of money you make, the good things that you have, and the success of your professional, family, and social life. In Jesus’ book this is not so.

If you are a real Christian, obey God and follow Jesus, you will face troubles, and persecution.

Most of the scholars treat the verses 10 to 12 as if they were one Beatitude. I decided to treat them as two independent Beatitudes.

So today we will examine the first one:

Matt. 5:10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 

We already saw the definition of righteousness: “Righteousness: what is right, justice, the act of doing what is in agreement with God’s standards, the state of being in proper relationship with God”

Righteousness is doing things according to God’s standards; it is behaving in a way that is approved by God in His Word. It means that if you decide to obey God’s Word and do what He asks you, you will be persecuted.

Let us see the ways we should do that and the results. We also will see who the righteous are.

1 – THOSE WHO STOP DOING THE WRONG THING

There are two righteousness attitudes that produce persecution; the first one is when we stop doing the wrong things.

It is very important for us to understand that we are dealing with the last steps in the Christian Journey. It means that we believe in Christ, we have a commitment with Him and His Word, and we practice His teachings.

In this whole process in our Christian journey we will put away behaviors that should not be part of Real Christian Life.

The problem is that when we do that, people around us will not be happy, and that includes some of our friends, family members, colleagues, and bosses.

In his first letter the Apostle Peter says this: “1Pet. 3:9-12 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” 

In the next chapter he mentions this: “1Pet. 4:2-5 You won’t spend the rest of your lives chasing your own desires, but you will be anxious to do the will of God. You have had enough in the past of the evil things that godless people enjoy—their immorality and lust, their feasting and drunkenness and wild parties, and their terrible worship of idols. 

Of course, your former friends are surprised when you no longer plunge into the flood of wild and destructive things they do. So, they slander you. But remember that they will have to face God, who will judge everyone, both the living and the dead.” 

In the verse 4 Peter says that our former friends will be surprised with the new direction of our life. Because of Christ in our lives we will not do the same old things that we used to do, and because of that, we will get in trouble sometimes. People will not understand why we are not doing those things anymore.

Paul in Ephesians says this: “Eph. 4:22-29 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore, each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. 

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” 

It is clear that because of the presence of Jesus in our lives we will stop doing things that God in His Word considers wrong and unrighteous.

Have a blessed week,

Pastor Lucas

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