Loss Felt by Global Family: BGS Statement on Cuba Tragedy

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The Board of General Superintendents, Church of the Nazarene, extends its heartfelt love, passionate prayers, and deepest condolences to the families of all affected by the Friday, May 18 plane crash in Havana, Cuba.

It was with heavy hearts we learned that 10 Nazarene pastoral couples were among the 100-plus people who lost their lives in this tragedy. They had just completed a national conference for the Cuba Nazarene Church.

“Sharon and I had the privilege of being at the Cuba East District Assembly in January,” said David W. Graves, jurisdictional general superintendent for the denomination’s Mesoamerica Region. “We were touched by their love and passion for Jesus and the Church of the Nazarene. Our hearts are heavy for the families, churches, and the district, and the loss is personally felt by our global family.”

We are comforted by the report from Rev. López, president of the Church of the Nazarene in Cuba, who said the couples were singing, praying, and testifying on their way to the airport. The promise of the resurrection assures us that we will be reunited in praising and worshiping God together.

We grieve with the families of those who lost their loved ones. We also grieve with Regional Director Rev. Carlos Sáenz, Rev. Leonel López, and East District Superintendent Rev. Luis Batista during this time. May the Lord carry the children of these mothers and fathers, surrounding them with His all-embracing peace and love that transcends our understanding.

To Nazarenes around the world, please continue to join us in prayer for all affected by this tragic loss. We embrace Christ’s mandate to console the grieving and care for the widows and orphans.

To Cuban Nazarenes, East District churches, and all hurting in that nation today, we love you. You are truly our brothers and sisters in Christ. We mourn with you, hurt with you, pray for you, and will continue to lift you up in prayer in the days, months, and years ahead.

Our prayer is that God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7). May you hold on to the reality that God, our “Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). Our prayer is for the peace of Christ to be with the people of Cuba during this time of grief and pain.

We are grateful for and we remember their consecrated lives:

  • Mirza Rodríguez Rondón & Juan Luis Vega Velázquez
  • Luis Manuel Rojas Pérez & Maricela Peña
  • Norma Suárez Niles & Jesús Manuel García Oberto
  • María Virgen Filandez Rojas & Rafael Vega Velázquez
  • Ronni Alain Pupo Pupo & Yurisel Milagros Miranda Mulet (Nazarene Missions International district president)
  • Eloy Ortiz Abad & Elva María Mosqueda Legrá
  • Juan Carlos Nogueras Leyva & Noelbis Hernández Guerrero
  • Gelover Martín Pérez Avalo & Yoneisi Cordovez Rodríguez (pastor and district treasurer)
  • Manuel David Aguilar Saavedra & María Salomé Sánchez Arévalo (district secretary)
  • Grisell Filandes Clark & Lorenzo Boch Bring

This article was originally published at: nazarene.org

Absolutely Nothing

“I am convinced that NOTHING can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow – not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love” (Romans 8:38 NLT).

There may be something on your mind – a sin, a bad decision, someone’s rejection, or a particular trial – that makes you feel as if the Father does not or could not love you. However, once you believe in Jesus as your Lord and Savior, NOTHING can separate you from His love. Not people. Not circumstances. Not angels, nor demons, nor the enemy’s entire army. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING my friends.

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Psalm 34:18 is clear, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” So when you feel at your most unworthy or defeated is when the Father is closest, tenderly bidding you to return to Him.

The most dangerous move you can make is to resist His love. So seek His face today. Confess your failings. Ask Him to teach you. Thank Him for inviting you back. Then praise His holy name and love Him in return with all your heart. In His presence enjoy His love always.

*This mini-devotional was written for the app of Mesoamerica Region Nazarene Youth International (NYI). We encourage you to download and use that app, through which short devotional thoughts like this (written by a variety of leaders) will be shared daily.

Adjusting the Sails

By Raphael Rosado

On one occasion, we were coming back from a youth retreat in the mountainous area of my country. When we entered one of the towns that was on our way we noticed a lot of traffic, none of it moving. Of all the days that we could pass by that little place, we had happened to choose the exact day when they were running a marathon.  The road would be closed for several hours!

We started to freak out when we saw people getting out of their vehicles and sitting down in chairs and eating snacks (how we got out of there: that’s a story I’ll tell some other day). There were four of us on that trip. The first one complained sarcastically, “How lucky we are!” The second, more optimistic, one said, “Maybe they will open the road soon.” My third friend wondered, “Maybe there’s another way to get out of here.” Maybe the question you are asking is: what was I doing? Well, I was laughing remembering a famous quote that illustrated our situation well: “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

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In the face of our difficult situation, not complaining, nor sitting down to wait, nor my philosophical reflection about our situation was helpful. Only the person that tried to adapt to the situation and look for an alternative finally helped us get home.

God is a specialist in adjusting the sails, particularly when dealing with humanity. When man sinned at Eden, God’s plan was disrupted, but He didn’t complain. Neither did he sit down and wait. God found an alternative route to our hearts. God spoke to us through the patriarchs, the law, the prophets and finally, when we still failed to listen, God spoke through His own son, Jesus.

Every adjustment seems little to God when compared with the love He has for you. There’s nothing He wouldn’t do to get to your heart.

Remember during Holy Week that there’s no bigger “adjustment of sails” than the one that happened at Calvary. What’s more, if God himself loved us so extravagantly that he was willing to go to such lengths, how much more should we adjust our plans in order to show love for others! Loving our neighbor means we stop complaining about them, and we stop waiting for them to somehow be transformed. Maybe loving our neighbor means that I’m the one who has to adjust the sails in order to see change.

After all, that was what Jesus did for me at Calvary.

Four Quotes from Billy Graham that I Can’t Get Away From

By Scott Armstrong

In the three weeks since Billy Graham died at the age of 99, I have been reflecting on his life and his legacy.  Four of his quotes have stuck with me and I would like to offer them to you here.

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  1. “Being a Christian is more than just an instantaneous conversion – it is a daily process whereby you grow to be more and more like Christ.”

Almost any scholar would categorize Rev. Graham as a “Reformed” theologian and preacher, so some of us as Wesleyans may be surprised that he preached and wrote often on sanctification.  Although he stopped short of understanding entire sanctification the way John Wesley defined it, Graham knew that the legions of new believers who came forward at his revivals needed to continue on to be “made righteous” in holiness.  How was this “progressive sanctification” to take place? Graham consistently referred to the two-fold practice of abiding daily in Christ and obeying his Word.

In his book, The Holy Spirit, Graham beautifully puts it this way, “We are as much sanctified as we are possessed by the Holy Spirit.  It is never a question of how much you and I have of the Spirit, but how much He has of us.”

  1. “Many people are willing to have Jesus as part of their lives – as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church.  But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy – something they obtain and then forget about until they die.  What keeps you from being His disciple?”

In a short reflection on Matthew 8:21-22, Billy Graham penned those words.  He knew Jesus to be clear: absolutely nothing should stand in the way of being His disciple.  In an echo to Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship, he calls out anyone who would use Christ and Christianity as a commodity: something that makes us comfortable in our eternal destiny while demanding nothing of us in our daily lives.  No!  Discipleship requires discipline, and, indeed, is best known as a cross we carry to our own death along the way.

  1. “Courage is contagious. When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened.”

Interestingly enough, this quote may be his most famous.  It is cited in an endless number of “Quick Quotes” websites and came to have wide appeal when it appeared for the first time in his article, “A Time for Moral Courage”, in Reader’s Digest in July 1964.  Rev. Graham later would admit that the times had changed dramatically in the decades since he wrote those words, but that the need for character was still the same.  In fact, he always believed the problem of sin and the essence of the gospel remained the same, even when culture and current events evolved with astonishing speed.  Who would have the valor to live a life of integrity and speak the truth in love to this hurting world? His own life was the answer to that question, even as it invited us to respond – and live – likewise.

  1. “The greatest form of praise is the sound of consecrated feet seeking out the lost and helpless.”

Let’s end on this one, for it speaks deeply of mission and evangelism.  May the heart and life of Billy Graham be multiplied thousands of times over in a present-day army of Christ-followers passionately demonstrating God’s love to a broken world!

 

Hope in the Shipwreck

By Rev. Ken Childress

“No one had eaten for a long time. Finally, Paul called the crew together and said, Men, you should have listened to me in the first place and not left Crete. You would have avoided all this damage and loss. But take courage! None of you will lose your lives, even though the ship will go down. For last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me, and he said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul, for you will surely stand trial before Caesar! What’s more, God in His goodness has granted safety to everyone sailing with you.’ So take courage! For I believe God. It will be just as He said. But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” (Acts 27:21-26)

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Paul’s response was, “You should have listened to me…BUT.”  Paul was sure enough of what he had heard from God that he was willing to put himself in the position of reminding them of what he said. But he did not dwell on that. Instead, he immediately brought them hope. The same God who told him of the shipwreck was the same God who promised life and safety. The Word is consistent in its message – God is a God of hope. Paul even encourages them to eat in the middle of the storm.

The next point is very interesting to me: “But we will be shipwrecked on an island.” We tend to think because God brings hope everything will be comfortable. Nowhere in His Word do I find that statement. I find promises of provision, comfort, peace, salvation, and forgiveness. But nowhere do I find that we may not end up shipwrecked. God told these men, through Paul, that they would live. He also told them they would be shipwrecked.

I have always believed there to be a price to pay for ignoring the will and direction of God.

When we choose to sin against our body – we get shipwrecked.

When we sin financially – we get shipwrecked.

When we sin in relationships – we get shipwrecked.

There is a price to pay for disobedience. But even then there is HOPE. After the storm the sailors realized they still had life and there was dry land within reach.

God gives us His direction for our lives in His Word. When we ignore those directions, there are some things that follow: darkness, depression, hopelessness. But even in the darkness there is a light. And though we will find ourselves in a shipwreck, His love is big enough to find us, spare our lives and get us to dry land. Once we are on dry land He provides us with sustenance and the hand of others who help us get back on our feet.

Yes, with God we learn the lessons of disobedience and we learn that, no matter how far we roam, His unconditional love is able to reach us and save us.

Not God’s Favorite

By Scott Armstrong

Jesus Comes Home with a Sobering Message

Christmas is a time when many of us return home.  We laugh with relatives and gorge ourselves on excellent food.  Grandmas grab our cheeks and tell us we’ve grown sooooo big, which is awkward when you’re 8, but try when you are 40!

Luke 4 tells us of a time when Jesus returned to Nazareth, where he had been brought up.  The little carpenter’s apprentice had grown up and now was an excellent preacher, and the people were amazed at his eloquence.  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked (v. 22).  Surely this can’t be the same little kid that was playing in the sandbox back in the day!

So, as is often Jesus’ custom, instead of basking in the praise from everyone, he turns it on its head.  In fact, he immediately transitions his sermon from good news to judgement.  “I’m here to change the world just as Isaiah foretold” (see v. 18-21) quickly becomes “If you think you’re better than anyone else, I’m here to tell you you’re dead-wrong.”

The result is jarring.  The crowd’s transformation is stark.  The church folk are enraged, throw him out of their town, and are ready to throw him off a cliff (v. 28-29).  Wow! What made them convert from admirers to attempted murderers in the blink of an eye?!

Essentially, he yelled out, “You are not God’s favorite! Stop acting like it!”

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It’s a message that’s painfully appropriate and quite controversial even today.  Christian authors have made a lot of money writing that you and I are God’s favorites.  Preachers use that phrase to try to explain God’s boundless love for you and me.  It all seems obvious, right? And anyway, it feels good to know I am God’s favorite child; it kind of gives me a spring in my step as I leave the service on Sunday!

Here’s the problem: Baked into the definition of the word “favorite” is the singling out of something to the exclusion of something else.  When I ask you what your favorite food is, if you say, “They’re all my favorites,” it makes no sense.  You are either trying to hide something or way too indecisive.  Saying “I like all foods the same” would seem implausible, but it’s at least better than claiming that all foods are your absolute favorite.  Selecting a favorite by necessity means something else has not been selected: it is, thus, not your favorite.

When pressed on this, the authors and preachers insist that, well, when they say, “YOU are God’s favorite,” they actually mean that we are ALL His favorites.  It’s an effective communication technique, but it completely dilutes the word.  In fact, using the word “favorite” in this way can actually have some serious, unintended consequences.

When we start to view ourselves as God’s favorites, we subtly begin to believe that he likes us more than others.  The product of such thinking is ethnocentrism and religious selfishness, exactly what Jesus railed against in verses 24-27.

My political party is right.

My race is better.

My denomination is the best.

My way of viewing the world is the only real way anyone should see it.

And it also makes us spoiled.  We start to expect God to be at our beck-and-call.  The “favorite” child at Christmas demands that his parents save the last piece of pie for him.  Every gift becomes boring within a few hours. Nothing is appreciated. Everything is deserved.  Jesus says it this way, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum’” (v. 23).  We are here for the show, Jesus! Come on, we prayed; why won’t you grant us our every wish?

God lavishes his love on all of us in the same measure.

That’s the point.

He has no favorites.

As we near Christmas, hear again those amazing words from Jesus’ homecoming sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (v.18-19).

Interesting last word: “favor.”

Our God comes to the poor, to the prisoners, to the blind and oppressed.  His favor is offered to all in abounding measure.

What if you were actually not God’s favorite?

It’s painful and humbling to acknowledge.  But maybe admitting it would open you up to truly receiving God’s favor for the first time.  Maybe it would allow the God who plays no favorites to anoint YOU, as well, to go to the broken-hearted and usher in the Lord’s favor.

May today this scripture be indeed fulfilled in your hearing.

 

Come, All You Not So Faithful

By Rev. Chris Gilmore

One of my favorite Christmas carols begins with the line, O, come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant. I imagine shepherds and wise men singing these words and asking others to join them as they visit the newborn and long-expected Savior. It is an invitation to gather around Jesus to celebrate his coming.  Come, all you faithful.

But what about the not-so-faithful? Are they invited as well? Can only the joyful and triumphant come to Jesus?

If so the guest list will be remarkably small. Even those who are the most enthusiastic about Jesus are at times unfaithful. We all fail to live up to our own standards, let alone God’s.  We’ve all felt defeated. Honestly, some of us find ourselves here quite often.

As we read the gospels we find that the invitation is much broader than the faithful and joyful. There we see that it is Christ himself who does the inviting. Jesus reveals that his kingdom and his table and his grace are for all people. That he came for the whole world and he invites any and all to come to him. Jesus embodies a love that is for people wherever and whoever they may be.

Sometimes we don’t communicate that message very well. Sometimes we exclude folks who are messy or who sin differently than we do. Sometimes we find it difficult to make room for people who aren’t just like us. Sometimes we act as if we’ve been faithful when we haven’t. Sometimes we pretend to be joyful and triumphant when we are anything but. Sometimes our behavior builds barriers between Jesus and the people he loves.

But Jesus is better than that. And its his party, not ours. And he says you’re invited.

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So yes, come all ye faithful. And come all ye not so faithful too.

Come all you who feel defeated and who feel hopeless.

Come all who are worn out and carry heavy burdens.

Come you who are stressed and at the end of your rope.

Come all who feel dirty and unlovable.

Come you who grieve.

Come wise men with gifts fit for a king.

And come drummer boys with nothing of value to bring.

Come lepers and tax collectors and prostitutes.

Come you who feel overlooked or pushed out or rejected.

Come shepherds and doctors and inn keepers and waitresses.

Come people from every tribe and every tongue. Come young and old.

Come you who feel betrayed. And you have done the betraying.

Come all who blew it this year. And last year.

Come doubters and skeptics. Come with your questions and your intellect.

Come all who hunger and thirst for something more.

Come all of you with baggage.

Come all of you with fear.

Come you with broken hearts and shattered dreams.

Come you have already quit. And those who wish they could.

Come refugees and CEOs.

Come you who are enemies. Come you who are strangers.

Come you anxious and come you hiding behind a mask.

Come you who can barely muster a prayer and you who cry out daily.

Come wanderers and seekers, legalists and charlatans.

Come me. Come you.

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“Come and behold him, born the King of Angels.”

Come and see that the Lord is good.

Come and find hope and help and healing.

Come find rest.

Come and find meaning.

Come and find belonging, find family.

Come find forgiveness and salvation.

Come and find light.

Come find a fresh start.

Come and find grace.

Come and find Jesus. He is Christ the Lord.

When you come you will find that he is better than we have demonstrated and more marvelous than we deserve. He is trustworthy and he is true. He is for us. He is with us.

And you, whoever you are and wherever you’re at or however you feel, are invited. Come.

 This article was originally published at: iamchrisgilmore.com