Fr. Jose Poch

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fitting God in Our Schedule

I have been reading lately, as part of my daily morning meditation, the Book of the Prophet Haggai; and I would like to ask you to consider his words and their application for you and me today. But first let me give you a bit of an introduction.
Around 538 BC, Cyrus, King of the new Medo-Persian Empire, allowed the Jewish people to return to their home land in Judah which had been completely devastated by the Babylonians years earlier in at least three separate campaigns. To get an idea of the state of things in Judah, all we have to do is read Jeremiah’s Book of Lamentations. The rebuilding of Judah would take two fronts, the physical rebuilding of the structures (houses, buildings, and the Temple) and the spiritual rebuilding of a people who had lived in exile for 70 years.
Sixteen years had passed from the time the people came into Judah, but the Temple for the worship of God was still just at the foundations level while the people busied themselves building and improving their own homes with elaborate paneling; and yet their efforts lacked the fruitfulness they sought. The blessing of God had been lifted from them. Into the midst of this reality, God raised a prophet by the name of Haggai who would shake them to the core and point out to them the folly of their efforts. Read these words carefully:
                                    “You have sown much, and bring in little;
                                     You eat, but do not have enough;
                                     You drink, but you are not filled with drink;
                                     You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm;
                                     And he who earns wages,
                                     Earns wages to put into a bag with holes."

Human effort without the blessing of God will always amount to very little because our efforts are very limited even in the best of circumstances and the best of giftedness or talents. While the smallest of the blessings of an Almighty God would be always enough to take us to places we cannot reach by ourselves. God certainly uses our efforts, giftedness, and talents, but He always adds what we can never achieve on our own. The blessing of Almighty God involves His favor, His Anointing, and His hand in supporting our dreams and aspirations. The question for the Jews of Haggai’s time as well as for us today is an issue of priority because the blessing of God is always somehow tied to the priority we give Him in our lives. It seems to me that God will never bless what will never bring Him glory.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Hell on Earth

A couple of weeks ago, I went to a Subway Store I normally frequent near my home. I have made friends with those behind the counter who prepare the sandwiches. They know me by name, and I know their name as well. Without me asking, they even know what sandwich I order and the ingredients I always request in the sandwich. They could prepare it blindfolded I think. They know that I am an Anglican priest, and this has given me an opportunity to speak to them about the Lord, although very briefly because it is a busy place. Occasionally, I have more of their time and get to talk to them more about their lives, their families, their hopes, their faith, etc.
On this one occasion, a couple of weeks ago, I engaged one of them in a faith conversation. She, a middle age lady, shared with me that her life was not going too well. She seemed to be struggling with her emotions even as we spoke. What I got from our conversation is that she is a single mother of two teenagers and did not mention a husband, which told me she was alone in that respect. I asked her if she attended church. She told me that she was Roman Catholic and that Roman Catholics don’t attend church, and she laughed. I know that is not true, but I understood what she was trying to tell me. I also laughed and told her that she should go to church and seek the Lord. She proceeded to share with me that her weekends were spent in partying and drinking beer. We laughed again; And before she went away to help another customer, I said to her, “One day you are going to be sorry that you did not seek the Lord.” 
She laughed and said, “I know.”
As I left the restaurant and got in my car, a thought came into my mind. The Gospel is not just about being saved from eternal punishment or being saved from our just reward before a holy God. This should be enough to scare all of us when we consider the severity of a life lived for eternity separated from our loving God and Father or punished for eternity in that place we have come to know as Hell.
Jesus Christ came into this world not just to give us eternal life after this one is over, but also to give us “abundant life” in the here and now, something that seemed somehow missing in my friend at Subway.
This life we live today is a precious gift of God. One intended to be lived to the fullest; to be most enjoyed; to be fulfilling–a life filled with joy, hope, and peace. A life lived not in chaos, fear, sorrow, depression, or regrets. 
The Word of God, with its laws and directions for our lives, is not intended to show us that God is in charge or otherwise, but rather it is a guide from the Creator and Sustainer of this life on how to live our lives to the fullest and in a way that blesses us and brings glory to Him. In other words the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a parachute against ultimate failure and death but rather a manual to live life today in the way it was intended to be lived–as a true gift, accepted and used. Life on earth today can be a type of heaven or a type of hell.
"The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just a parachute against ultimate failure and death but rather a manual to live life today in the way it was intended to be lived."           
When we present the Gospel to another person we need to realize that the fear of hell at the end of life does not convince very many people (though it should) but rather we should consider that the perspectives of living this current life in order, joy, peace, and fulfillment could be exactly what a person needs to hear to know the difference that Jesus can make in a life. You and I know that Jesus Christ has transformed our lives from chaos into order, from fear into joy, from depression into gladness, from loneliness into a personal relationship with God, and from fear of the end of life to a wonderful expectation that life on earth, as enjoyable as it can be, is but a shadow of what life in the presence of God will be.

"Jesus Christ has transformed our lives from chaos to order, from fear to joy, from depression to gladness, from loneliness to a personal relationship with God, and from fear of the end of life to a wonderful expectation that life on earth, as enjoyable as it can be, is but a shadow of what life in the presence of God will be."

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Facebook Atheists

           Last night, I read an amazing article by Bobby Gruenewald, pastor at, in the latest issue of Outreach Magazine, November-December 2013. It made me think very hard and touched my heart enough that I want to share some of the ideas in it with the hope that it will awaken many of you Christian online social media users (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.).

            Last month in another magazine, I read of a church that asked its members before the beginning of the service to “Turn ON their Smart Phones” instead of asking them to “Turn it OFF”.  They asked them to use social media to share with the outside world what the Lord was saying and doing during the service. Amazing! That is thinking outside the box alright. Well, I was so impressed with the idea that I adjusted it a bit, and now at the conclusion of the service, I ask all those present to “Turn ON their phones” and send out a message to all their friends about what the Lord may have said to them during the service. Let the world know. A kind of “Thus saith the Lord” (that sounds kind of prophetic, doesn’t it?). A new form of evangelism and of church public relations. I am not sure how many of them are actually doing it, but I will keep at it. I think it is a good way of having others (perhaps even non-church users) hear portions of the Sunday message, and it might also encourage them to hear the entire message on our website.

            However, back to Pastor Grunewald’s article. He writes: “Sometimes people treat online interaction like a disposable commodity . . . And yet, the things we say and do online are actually more visible to more people – and more permanent – than our in-person conversations and actions. What we share online is magnified, and it’s out there indefinitely.” Think about these two words “permanent” and “indefinitely.” Once you write something or take a picture of something and send it out through Facebook or Twitter, you will never be able to retrieve it again. It becomes the possession of the outer world. We have heard of numerous instances where employers, schools, and even the courts would be able to know and see your thoughts and actions of days past. You are actually building a lifelong record of who you are and what you think. I have heard of individuals fired from their jobs because of some indelicate pictures they took many years earlier. Think about your Facebook postings and your Twitter comments of the past. Are there any of them you wish you could retrieve or change now. You may have forgotten most of them, but they are out there, and one day they could all become visible.

            The other and perhaps an even more important point the article makes is this: Is the online me a follower of Christ?” What is the testimony of your Lord that you are giving to those who view your Facebook page or receive your Tweets? Review your last ten Facebook postings. Is God being glorified? Are you sharing the Lord with those whom you know and care about? Would they come to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior following your example in the pictures you posts and the words you write? Would they even know that you are a Christian? I see, in Facebook, very passionate people, even people that would say they are Christians, sometimes using the grossest of words, complaining angrily about some restaurant or store or some sports figure or team or posting very seductive pictures. Is this how you want to be known by your friends and by others? Believe me I am not trying to be puritanical, the Lord knows that I am not and I know all my faults and failures, but the gift of all these social media tools we have at our disposal today can be used productively and to the glory of God. It is an amazing opportunity to share love, forgiveness, constructive criticism, grace, faith, and charity towards others, and in such a way that we bring attention to our Lord, and how he can transform a person.

            Think about it.

            Let’s blog!

            Fr. Jose+