Hope In Past Mercies
Dear Family in Christ,
This time of year provides lots of opportunities to stop and reflect on the months that have gone by and to think about what is still ahead. If it’s the Lord will, we will live to see in 2016. Wow! Every review of the past affirms to the truthfulness of the great hymn by Puritan pastor, Samuel Rutherford, “With mercy and with judgment my web of time He wove, and, yes, the dews of sorrow were lustered with His love. ("The Sands of Time Are Sinking") I agree that we cannot live without some level of regrets. The presence of sin in the world and in our hearts means that we have not yet finished a day in which everything we did was exactly right. We cannot live as a Christian without the thanksgiving that overshadows the sorrows. Think of it; when you look back over your life, you see many reasons to praise and thank the Lord for His grace and goodness to you. We see how He has been faithful in keeping His promises and how gracious in dealing with us kindly. Past mercies help undergird our present hope for the future. As we consider God's ways with us over the last twelve months, we are encouraged to trust Him for whatever He brings into our lives in the year ahead. As we consider how the Lord has helped us thus far, we are strengthened in our faith to depend on Him as we move into the future. Past grace guarantees future grace. The foundation of this hope is found in Romans 8:32. "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" Paul is saying to us, "Look back at all that God has done in giving us Jesus Christ." He did not spare Him, which is a calculated way of reminding us that He did send Him to the horrible death on the cross. God "delivered Him up" to that painful and shameful death so that we, His people, could have our sins forgiven and lives transformed. If God did not spare even His Son in order to provide for us, how can we think for even a moment that He would fail to give us anything we need in the future? The cross of Jesus Christ guarantees that God will graciously provide for us all that we need both in this life and the life to come. That is why Jesus Christ came to earth. That is why He was born. So as you celebrate Christmas, with whatever traditions and activities you and yours enjoy, take advantage of the opportunity to praise God afresh for the great, what Paul calls the "unspeakable," gift of His Son. If you have Christ you can be sure that, from your heavenly Father's kind hand, you have and will have everything you need. Have a blessed and merry Christmas! In Christ, —Pastor Ernesto Sanchez
God’s blessings and peace to all! Welcome back! After a great summer I have to ask, “How’s your garden?” My wife Ivette’s favorite pastime is working in the garden. If you see flowerbeds in front of the home, it’s obvious that Ivette, not me, has put a lot of love and care into them. The results are beautiful flowers, trees, and shrubs. I’m pretty sure many of you have also worked hard in your gardens this year. Many people take great effort to care for and cultivate their garden, but how many of us make an effort to cultivate our spiritual garden? The spiritual life has often been compared to a garden, which requires frequent care and cultivation. One necessary task to cultivate our spiritual life is the daily practice of prayer. It’s amazing how many of us neglect this important practice. Our flower and vegetable gardens wouldn’t survive the relentless sun without water, yet how many of us fail to water our spiritual garden with the essential ingredient of prayer? A spiritual garden will not last long unless it is watered daily with the practice of prayer.
Ever wonder why our lives seem so dry and brittle and God seems distant? Could it be because we make little effort to spend time with God in daily prayer? For most of us prayer is an afterthought, something we do only when we are in trouble or have some need. How would you feel if the only time your children spoke with you is when they needed money or help? Imagine how God must feel! The practice of prayer requires discipline. It requires that we take time out of our busy schedules and focus our attention upon God. It is difficult, at best, to go this alone. One day we may feel very committed to this task, yet another day we may feel too busy, or tired or preoccupied with something else to make the effort. This is why I think we need some help with this discipline.
One such help is to have a prayer partner, someone who depends on you to pray for them and someone upon which you can depend to pray for you and keep you on task. Solomon, the wise king of Israel, once wrote, “It is better to have a partner than go it alone. Share the work, share the wealth. And if one falls down, the other helps. But if there’s no one to help, tough!” (Ecclesiastes 4:9- 10 MSG) Solomon knew that any task is easier when you have someone to help. This is also true for our prayer life. When we have a partner who depends on us, it gives us more incentive to pray. We will also be more faithful if we know that we will be asked by our partner if we have been praying. Prayer partners work on the same principle. It’s easier to cultivate your spiritual garden and maintain a vital, dynamic relationship with God when we have some help to do so. As Solomon said, when you have a partner to work with, you not only share the work, you share the wealth. And what great spiritual wealth we can harvest when we work together to cultivate our spiritual garden. The fruit that is produced is a life filled with “love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NASB) These are fruits that mature into eternal life.
Many churches are adopting this new spiritual discipline or ministry and I thank my colleague, Reverend Darrell, for sharing this experience from his church. In the next few weeks we will have signup sheets for anyone interested in joining Prayer Partners. I want to encourage everyone to consider signing up for Prayer Partners and pairing up with someone who can provide you with some spiritual support and to whom you have some spiritual accountability. Remember, it’s better to have a partner than go it alone. See you in church. Blessings!