Fr. Jose Poch

Monday, April 13, 2015

Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

By James Wilson
 Fr. Jim is an Anglican priest in Northern California and president of PrayNorthState
Used by permission of the author.

Our president closed out a White House summit on violent extremism refusing to name the religious perpetrators a Culture of Terror.  Instead he lectured on how Muslims have been interwoven into American Culture since our founding.  He did not bother to name the Founding Fathers who worshipped Allah – because there are none.  He failed to mention the contributions of Islam to American life – because there are none.

The closest Islam comes to America’s formative period is provoking our first foreign war – during the administration of Thomas Jefferson.  Pirates serving the Sultan of Tripoli – Libya – preyed on European and American shipping with impunity.  Crews were captured and held in torturous conditions of slavery because – as the Sultan and his envoys explained it – there is no other purpose for non-Muslims than slavery, torment, and death.  They demanded tribute of the United States – about twenty per cent of the national budget – but the pirates still attacked and killed.  Europe was in the same boat.  Jefferson and Congress declared war, sending the Navy and Marines.  The incident gives the Marine Corps hymn “to the shores of Tripoli.”  Muslim views on non-Muslims are neither new nor changed.

During the (Teddy) Roosevelt years an American ex-pat, Perdicaris, was kidnapped with his family by a Muslim war lord named Raisuli; his quarrel was with the Moroccan government but using an infidel as a pawn was okay with Raisuli.  Roosevelt famously sent a communiqué reading roughly, “Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.”  Perdicaris was released along with his family.  The bottom line is that Presidents Jefferson and Roosevelt understood an enemy when they saw him; they likewise understood the duty of a president to defend his countrymen from all enemies.  They got it that Islam is the enemy of all that is not Islam because that is what Islam says about itself – and always has.  We – and our leaders – need to get that today.

We can never afford to forget there are millions – hundreds of millions – of Muslims who are decent people seeking to raise their families and live in peace with their neighbors.  We are not and should not be at war with them.  But just as unaffordable is the delusion that Islam is not at war with us and with everyone who does not bow to its tyranny of blood.  The holiest documents of this religion call for extermination or enslavement of all who fail to adopt it.  They demand death for women raped without producing four witnesses – or who marry outside Islam.  Every nation coming under Islam has adopted a degree of this coercive mentality and most are as rapacious as the Barbary Pirates Jefferson fought to a standstill.

There is one other thing we dare not forget.  Just as Islam hates the Cross of Christ and the mercy and grace it promises to all who live at Its base – just as Islam is evil – Muslims are people.  Muslims are in fact people for whom Jesus Christ gave His life just as surely as He gave it for Jews and Gentiles.  Any of us who dare to call ourselves Christians or Jews must be prepared to protect our families and our way of life on the one hand and acknowledge with joy any opportunity we are given to show that grace and mercy to people of Islam.

We are not at war with these people.  Our God is the One who desires that none should perish.  He came to bring abundant life (John 10:10); He came to set the captives free (Luke 4:18 and Isaiah 61:1) for all time.  We are not at war with Muslim people, but we are at war with Islam’s war on the whole world, and with their special hatred of America and Israel.

I am astounded at the President’s disconnect from reason and history.  Truthfully I should not be. Anyone who golfs when American citizens are murdered but calls a news conference to denounce violence when Muslims are killed – in the utter absence of evidence their deaths were at all connected to their religion – has no idea of his responsibilities.  Anyone so ignorant of history as to think the Crusades were an invasion of Muslim lands – or that Christian holy books promote the brutality advocated in the Koran – such ignorance as he shared at the National Prayer Breakfast – is capable of irrationality on a cosmic scale.  But the rest of us need to think clearly and walk the tightrope between offering peace to those who honestly want peace and death to those who clearly prefer death with seventy imagined virgins awaiting them.

It is very simple.  Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.

James A. Wilson is the author of Living as Ambassadors of Relationships and The Holy Spirit and the End Times – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Californians: More Blood on Our Hands?

By James Wilson
Fr. Jim is an Anglican priest in Northern California and president of PrayNorthState
Used by permission of the author.

My mother was in the last stages of an atypical form of tuberculosis when she asked me to show her the compassion of helping end her life and her suffering.  I told her this was not an option; my faith forbade it.  I assured her I would honor her wishes for no heroics to prolong her life.  I said there is a world of difference between refusing to prolong life and taking active steps to hasten death; this is the prerogative of none but the Father. But she had asked for compassion…

Truth is there is no real compassion in bringing about the death of another, however much that may be the intent.  Compassion is – by definition – engaging and walking with the other.  As harsh as this sounds, assisted suicide is – at the end of the day – a quick, convenient, and disengaging fix for a seemingly intractable dilemma.  The harder yet authentically compassionate approach is to walk with the loved one while seeking solutions that permit dignity in life.  Anyone who has witnessed a death or observed a corpse knows there is no dignity in unnecessary or premature death.

Unnecessary or premature death is precisely the issue when we choose to support – or fail to oppose – SB 128, the assisted suicide bill currently before California’s Legislature.  In my mother’s case – as soon as she realized assisted suicide was off the table – she began to deal with the unfinished relational business of her life.  She made her peace with her son, for one thing, but of far greater importance was the peace she made for the first time with God.  I was privileged to lead her to the Lord just eight days before her natural death.  In the meantime she was medicated and sedated as necessary; she was able to communicate, and she was able to be at peace for the first time in her life.  That peace was palpable.

I will never forget watching her features relax and her lifelong agitation resolve as she asked Jesus to become her Lord.  When she lapsed into a coma days later her face was still at peace and her death was a beautiful walk from this life into the next.

I was privileged to testify before the Senate Health Committee March 25 as they considered SB 128.  I shared my experience with my mother as well as with my cousin, Bruce Burke.  Bruce asked no assistance in dying; he held himself here until he could receive the permission of his family to go.  That given, he went home within hours.  I am a pastor of thirty years’ spent walking with people in their last days; God knows there are common elements in these stories.  The most important – I believe – is that when people appear to linger it is generally precisely because they have unfinished business with family, with friends, with God.  When that business is completed they let go and God lets go.  It becomes time.

When we honor a desperate cry – instead of the one making that cry – we cut the person we love away from what God intends.  The medical doctor and psychiatrist from UC Irvine informed the Senate panel assisted suicide laws make no provision for psych evaluations, for changed decisions, a decision manipulated by others – or simply misunderstood.  He pointed out that terminal prognoses are often wrong – there is no way to accurately assess whether a person has six months or more to live – as the proposed law says must be determined before suicide assistance is permitted.  He spoke of the man who survived a suicide jump from the Golden Gate Bridge; asked what he thought of on the way down he said only that he realized his life was nowhere near as miserable as he imagined just before he leapt.  I can add – as someone who has intervened in more than one suicide attempt – I have never met anyone who regretted the second chance successful intervention provides.

My mother was mentally ill most of her life; her initial decision to terminate her life was not “informed consent” any more than are most such decisions.  Yet she did change her mind when faced with my commitment to life.  Walking with people – in an informed and compassionate manner – is always the best way to go.

Another reality is that palliative care – keeping a patient as comfortable as possible – is much more available and effective than proponents of assisted suicide know or confess.  Patients can be medicated for pain and even sedated to very deep levels.  Under such circumstances the mind, heart, and body are permitted to prepare the patient for death until it comes in the one or is shorted out in the other.  Yes, that work of preparation can and does go on even when consciousness remains hidden but real; I speak from abundant experience with people who were comatose and then returned.  More importantly from an ethical standpoint, as that same psychiatrist declared, the physician’s purpose is always to cure; if cure is impossible then to care, but never to kill.  The difference is between caring and killing.

Assisted suicide ultimately addresses only the desire of those being left behind to witness as little of the patient’s suffering as possible.  It is not – at the end of the day – for the patient, but for those attached to the patient.  As understandable as are these feelings and intentions, it is still murder.  And the reality is that people determined to end their lives will always find a way to do it.  There is no need to enshrine such a decision in state law and so create a seedbed for the well documented rash of copy-cat suicides that follow legalization of assisted suicide in other states and nations.

SB 128 was approved by the California State Senate Health Committee on a party-line vote of six to two with one Democrat abstaining. It now goes to the Senate Judiciary Committee for hearing on April 7 and – if approved – to the full Senate.  If it succeeds there the process must be repeated in the Assembly before it reaches the Governor’s desk for signature.  There is plenty of time for people who support life as our first God-given right.  The question is, “Will we?”  There were two hundred fifty supporters of that bill in the hearing room on March 25; there were about fifty supporters of life.  Where are the rest of us – now – when the chips are down?  Will we show up for the next round?

My own last words for the committee were these: “For the love of God, how much blood must we Californians have on our hands?  We lead the nation in the killing of Native Americans over the past two centuries.  We lead the nation in elective suicide – independently of this bill – and we lead the nation in elective abortion.  Must we add more?  Where does it end?”

I say this to all Californians who support the right to life at any level.  If we are not showing up, speaking up, and praying up at a time like this – in person to pack these legislative chambers out – this blood is on our hands.  Not just the blood that will be shed under SB 128, but all of it.  If we are not clearly communicating to our leaders that a vote in favor of SB 128 is a fatal blow to their political careers no matter what other good things they have done that blood is on our hands.  All of it.  And the good news?

The good news is that the Lord our God honors repentance – re-focus on Him – whenever and wherever it begins.  If we are showing up, speaking up, and praying up at this time we are becoming part of the redemption of California and our nation.  All of it.

Californians – and for that matter, Americans – need to say a declarative No to state sanctioned participation in unnecessary and premature death at all levels.  More than that, we need to say a declarative Yes to the Lord Jesus Christ as He says, “I came that they might have life and have it to the full.”

James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships and The Holy Spirit and the End Times – available at local bookstores or by e-mailing him at

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Body and Blood of Jesus

This week we will be celebrating Maundy Thursday, according to the liturgical calendar of many Christian churches. Maundy comes from old English for “Mandate” or “Command” and the biblical passage from where it comes is John 13:34-35. It was the night of the Jewish Passover and the last supper Jesus was to spend with His disciples. After He said the customary Jewish blessing, broke the bread and gave it to them to eat and partake of and then did something similar with a cup of wine and gave it to them to drink with the words “This is My body” and “This is My blood,” He gave them these instructions, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes” (1 Cor. 11:26). The intention seems to be that Jesus desired that His disciples, then and now, would celebrate these same acts “often” in remembrance of Him and of His sacrifice for the salvation of all. He then gave them what Jesus called “a new commandment.” John 13:34-35: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” This is what we celebrate and are reminded of on Maundy Thursday.
Different church groups, though we all hold together to the one faith and the important basics of the sound doctrine the Bible teaches, approach the Eucharist, Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion differently from one another. I would like to share in this blog how the Anglican Church normally understands what we call the Real Presence of Christ in the bread/body and the wine/blood in the Eucharist.

We, Anglicans, do not believe in transubstantiation (that the substance of the bread and the wine literally become flesh and blood), nor even what has been called consubstantiation (that the substances are commingled so that what we receive is literally a combination of flesh/bread and blood/wine). On the other end we also do not adhere to the Eucharist simply being a memorial (a celebration and remembrance of a past event). We, Anglicans, adhere to The Real Presence. We do not try to explain away what is clearly a “mystery” but we do affirm without any doubt that Christ is indeed present for us in the Eucharist and that we who receive the bread and the wine are indeed receiving Jesus Christ in the bread and the wine.

When we read the New Testament and in particular those passages which inform and teach us on the Eucharist, one of the first things we need to acknowledge is that Jesus was the One who instituted the Eucharist, or Communion or Lord’s Supper the last evening He spent with His disciples before the crucifixion, but in actuality never fully explained what He meant by it.

However, it takes the Apostle Paul to explain the meaning and significance of the Eucharist instituted by Jesus. It is St. Paul who makes clear for the Church the connection between Passover, the Jewish Sacrificial system, Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world and the Eucharist. Our understanding of the Cross and of the Eucharist is all Pauline. The institution of the Eucharist by Jesus is found in almost all of the Gospels, Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24 and Luke 22:19-20. Some also see in John 6:32-58 a reference to the Eucharist, although this is not necessarily so. It is in the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians where the Apostle clearly develops our understanding of the Eucharistic meal, and in particular 10:16 and 11:23-33. It is to that passage that I want to draw your attention as we discuss our Anglican understanding of the Eucharist.

First, it is clear that in the Eucharist we REMEMBER. We remember what our Lord Jesus Christ did on Maundy Thursday at the Last Supper and even more so what He actually did on Good Friday on the Cross. May we never ever, ever forget for here is the basis of our eternal salvation.

Secondly, the Eucharist is clearly a worship service of PROCLAMATION for all and to all. We proclaim that Jesus died for us, that in His death our sins were paid for (atoned), that Jesus saves from eternal death, that we have been reconciled with God the Father through the death of the Son. May all hear with clarity that Jesus Christ is our Redeemer and Lord and Christ and that there is no salvation or removal of sins other than in Him and through His sacrifice.

Thirdly, it is equally clear that when we receive the bread and the wine we are indeed receiving the Body and the Blood of Jesus our Lord and this not just symbolically but in some “mystery” in actuality. This is where the teaching of the REAL PRESENCE finds its basis. The words of Paul in this passage indicate to us that there is a “worthy” and an “unworthy” manner of receiving the Eucharist. If received “unworthily” “guilt” of Jesus' death is laid upon them and “judgment” is laid upon such a person. Much more can be said about these two conditions. But even more to our point, the Apostle indicates that those who receive the Eucharist in an “unworthy manner” somehow do not receive the blessings that flow from it and therefore “many are weak and sick and even have died.” What is this blessing, or presence in the Eucharist, that leads to “strength”, “healing” and “life” for those who receive it in a “worthy manner?” What is there “in” the Eucharist itself? In accordance with our Anglican heritage we affirm the “mystery” that somehow, which we do not try to explain or it would cease being a “divine mystery”, Jesus Christ is PRESENT in the bread and the wine. We believe from the passage above and from the words of Jesus Himself that it is indeed His Body and His Blood that we receive in the Eucharist.

Is this helpful to you? How so?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

What is Killing Men's Desire for Marriage?

Recently, a number of people have mentioned to me a YouTube video by Russell Brand, yes, that Russell Brand, the ex-husband of singing sensation, Katy Perry, where he discusses the book and film “50 Shades of Grey” and the issue of pornography, whether so called soft porn or hardcore porn. In his video commentary he makes some very excellent points such as the reality that pornography is a disconnecting act from true love and from real intimacy, and it is a commodification and mainstreaming of soft porn. He calls it warped, perverted and a deviation from true love and the act of procreation. “It reduces sex to an extracted physical act, diminishing trust in the couple”, he says, “Introducing a promiscuity in what is natural, and corrupting it.”

He then lists several effects of soft porn, among them: voyeurism, objectification of women as sex objects, the wrong validation of masculinity and fear of true intimacy. If you wish to see the entire video commentary look for Russell Brand, 50 Shades – Has Porn Ruined My Chances of a Happy Marriage?

Recently I read a fantastic article and blog on this subject in a daily blog commentary I receive from, titled “Is Porn Killing Men’s Desire for Marriage?” which I want to recommend we all read, whether you are male or female or whether you are young or older. You can find the article at

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Persecution of Christians in the U.S.

When we think or speak of Christian believers being persecuted, the first thing that would occur to us is persecution in the Middle East, where ISIS has murdered a large number of Christians in the name of Islam, or perhaps in Nigeria, where Boko Haram is abducting young Christian girls, bombing churches and killing Christians, or in Libya where 21 Coptic Christians were recently beheaded, staining the beach with their blood, the blood of martyrs, or perhaps in some other country such as Iran, Cuba or North Korea or even China, where Christianity is persecuted and silenced. In some of these places, we might understand some of the persecution in that missionaries are there attempting to convert some of their citizens to the Christian faith and away from Islam or Communism. I am not excusing any persecution in these countries. News sources are daily telling us of terrorist attacks against foreigners, such as in Tunisia, and many of these attacks are related overtly or covertly against Christianity. But to think of Christian persecution, here, in the U.S. may seem too many as unthinkable and made up. But it is not, it is very real, Christianity and our Christian values are under attack even here in the U.S.

The following two stories have greatly alarmed me and are the reasons why I am writing this blog on Christian Persecution in the U.S.

A judge in Washington State authorized the “personal ruin” of a florist whose Christian faith prevented her from promoting a same-sex wedding and who was sued by both the state and the homosexual couple. Benton County Superior Court Judge Alex Ekstrom granted a summary judgment in the case against Barronelle Stutzman, that is a judgment without the benefit or the judicial right to a trial. It was Ekstrom who said last month that Stutzman personally was liable for the claims against her, placing her business assets, her home and personal savings at risk.

The judge ordered that the state and the homosexual plaintiffs, each of whom filed lawsuits, could collect damages and attorneys’ fees from Stutzman. “The message of these rulings is unmistakable: The government will bring about your personal and professional ruin if you don’t help celebrate same-sex marriage,” said ADF (Alliance Defending Freedom) Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner.

All that Stutzman, the flower shop owner, wants is the right to live in peace and in accordance with the precepts of her Judeo-Christian values. She declared, “America would be a better place if citizens respected each other’s differences and the government still protected the freedom to have those differences. Instead, the government is coming after me and everything I have just because I won’t live my life the way the state says I should. I just want the freedom to live and work faithfully and according to what God says about marriage without fear of punishment. Others have the freedom to say or not say what they want to about marriage, and that’s all I’m asking for as well.”

You might think that the Constitution of the U.S.A. and the First Amendment of said Constitution would protect this flower shop owner to exercise her religious liberty, but no, not according to this judge. According to arguments in the case, Washington officials believe the state’s statutory protections for homosexuals trump the Constitution’s protection of religious liberty. So even the personal assets of Stutzman can be taken from her. It almost seems as if she had no rights to own anything in this country if she doesn’t abdicate her faith in the Holy Scriptures.

The second story is as follows: Chaplain Wes Modder is a highly decorated, greatly respected and deeply praised officer serving in the Navy's Chaplain Corps. His 19-year career has spanned honored assignments such as serving as chaplain of the Navy SEALs. Just a few months ago, Modder’s commander called him “the best of the best” and a “consummate professional leader” worthy of an early promotion. Then came what appears to be a “set-up” by a homosexual activist to destroy the career of Chaplain Modder because of his biblical view on sexuality and marriage.

In 2014, Modder’s assistant, a “married” homosexual, covertly searched through Chaplain Modder’s confidential counseling files and then forwarded pirated copies of them to the Equal Opportunity reps as evidence of “discrimination.” In those private counseling sessions, Modder had called homosexuality “sin.” As a result, the base commanding officer at Naval Nuclear Power Training Command, Captain J.R. Fahs, removed him from his unit, told him to clean out his desk and forbade him to minister to the spiritual needs of military personnel.

On appeal, Chaplain Modder reminded Captain Fahs that the Navy upholds the rights of conscience of chaplains and service members afforded in the FY13 and FY14 National Defense Authorization Acts to express their sincerely held beliefs. For a second time, Captain Fahs denied Chaplain Modder his right to religious liberty! Read the full story and see the official military documents of this case here.

If the Navy does not reverse this injustice, then every chaplain in the military is at risk for the same punishment for following the religious dictates of their conscience. Congress has passed laws protecting Chaplain Modder and other chaplains from religious discrimination, yet the Navy is ignoring them.

When will these forms of persecution reach our doorsteps? Could your assets be taken from you simply at the whim of the state because you uphold your Christian faith and choose to live in accordance with the Word of God? Could you lose your job simply because you are a Christian and choose to behave in accordance with your Christian values? Could you lose your liberty and end up in prison because you place Jesus ahead of the government and because you choose faithfulness to God above all other allegiances?

I am reminded of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, at the conclusion of the Beatitudes, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A "Little Boy" With a Huge Faith

Jesus, in Matthew 17:20, spoke to His disciples, in the hearing of a multitude of witnesses and observers that had gathered around them, after the disciples could not heal a young boy of a disease that constantly and without warning attacked this young lad, and said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.” He uses similar words in Luke’s Gospel 17:6 when, after He teaches them through parables, they request “Increase our faith.”

I think we all might occasionally request from God the same thing, “Lord, increase our faith.” We recognize our need to believe more, to trust more, to act in faith and by faith more, to move mountains by the power of prayer and faith, deep faith, growing faith and powerful faith. We usually would feel this need in times of difficult circumstances we or our families might face. Who doesn’t need more faith, the kind of faith that Jesus speaks to His disciples about in these two passages?

A week ago, I was invited to attend a premiere showing of a new film that will be coming out to theaters in April 2015. The title of the film is “Little Boy” and the premise of the film is a little boy who dares to believe in the power of his prayers and in a God who would answer those prayers. He is laughed at by other boys and girls, ridiculed even by his own brother, assisted rationally to understand faith from a well-meaning and caring priest (an adult-kind of faith) while all along the little boy believes with all his heart and might that faith is not just rational but real and practical and that it resided in him and in his believe in God. He believes that he can indeed move mountains and in particular cause his father to return from the war. This is a most wonderful film about family, faith, courage, forgiveness and doing what is right. I highly recommend that we all see this film! Not only to support Christian films, which we must do, but to learn and be encouraged in our faith by this “Little Boy.”

The ultimate teaching I receive from Jesus’ words about faith and that is beautifully portrayed in this film is that the issue of faith is not asking for an increase of it, but rather using the faith we already have in us, in our hearts and in our minds, our assurance of who God is and of how much He loves us. If we dare to believe in an Almighty God that can do all things, we can have the faith that is necessary to deal with all things in our lives, the difficult ones, the easy ones and the extremely hard ones that threaten our peace and our well-being.

Once again, I encourage you and your families to go see this film. It will come out in the theaters on April 24, 2015. Support these types of films and be blessed. Let others know.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Persecution of Christians

We have all been reading recently and for several months now story after story of beheadings, executions and just chaos and mayhem in the Middle East at the hands of the so called ISIS group of Islamic terrorists. We have seen Iranians, Americans, Japanese and others executed in horrific ways, photographed and videotaped in a prideful and menacing way. Exactly what they want is not well known, at least not to me, not fully nor completely. No matter how many planes drop bombs and try to stop the growth of this group, it seems that it continues to grow in numbers and support. They are like a bad infectious rash. This week a video surfaced where one of the cells of ISIS, now in Libya, has executed 21 Egyptian Christian men near a beach.

I would like to offer you for your consideration and prayer the comments made this week by The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Anis, Archbishop of the Episcopal/Anglican Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa. You may read his entire comments and others at

A second site I would like to bring to your attention is by the Christian Aid Mission Society where they report how the Islamic State (ISIS) is having a very different effect among Yazidis, an ethnoreligious community in Iraq that was once inaccessible to native Iraqi missionaries, as members lived reclusively in distant mountains near the border with Turkey. Since Islamic State (ISIS) atrocities drove them from their mountain strongholds last year, however, Yazidis now account for most of the people who have turned to Christ through a local ministry. You may want to read more on this move of Christ at

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

On Ash Wednesday

Each year Ash Wednesday begins the Season of Lent, a Season of 40 days, not counting Sundays, which continue to be considered Feasts of our Lord Jesus Christ and which precede the marvelous day of Easter in which, of course, we celebrate Jesus’ Resurrection and His victory over death, sin and all that stands between us and our great God. It is a period of 40 days in which the Church invites us to set time apart to refocus all our attention on the things that truly matter in life, and not those that are passing away so easily and with increasing speed, things of everlasting consequences, things that transform life as we know it in the here and now. It is a period of 40 days that set us apart from all that surround us, inside and outside of ourselves to bring us into a closer relationship with our God and our Lord.

For Lent to have its full effect in our discipleship, repentance, renewal and continuous walk in the Spirit, we have to consciously plan for it by giving ourselves to daily spiritual disciplines such as the reading of God’s Word, prayer, meditation, solitude, fasting, sharing our lives with others in Christian love, sharing the Gospel with others who may ned to hear of God’s love for them, caring for the poor and the destitute, and even the abstaining of those things and/or personal pleasures that might take us away from doing these things just listed. Conscious planning and execution of these disciplines will make for a very successful Lenten Season.

The marks for the beginning of Lent are Ash Wednesday and the sign of the cross made with ashes on our foreheads. The sign of the cross with ashes on our foreheads signal that we recognize that we are created beings and that we did not create ourselves or depend on ourselves for our existence or even our daily sustenance. The ashes on our foreheads also signal that we were not created from gold or silver or any other precious metal or stones, but from the very dust of the earth to keep us humble and earth focused. The ashes also signal that we are mortal, that the breath we breathe and the life we live comes from the Lord our God and that outside of Him there is no life in us. The words spoken over us as the sign of the cross is made on our foreheads with ashes keep this idea in view, “Remember that you are dust and to the dust you will return.”

But Lent also reminds us that there is life beyond our mortality, that the God who gave us life from the beginning is the same God who gives us life for all eternity through His Son our Lord Jesus Christ. That beyond the struggles of life and the sacrifices of life and the mortality of life, there is an Easter morning waiting for us. Peter reminds us of this in 1 Peter 1:3-5, after recounting our new birth, he writes, “to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Lent is a rich time of introspection, growth and maturing. Let us use it well and to God’s glory.

What do you think? Share your thoughts! 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Cuba-U.S. Relations

Because I was born in Cuba and most of my friends and acquaintances know this and even strangers I meet recognize it almost immediately because of my accent, which they tend to question its origin soon after hearing me speak, although I have been in the US for over 47 years, longer than I ever was in my native country, the question has been asked over and over again as to what I think of the recent developments in relations between the United States and Cuba.

Recently President Obama announced that it was his intentions to reestablish relations with the Cuban government which had been broken since the days of Missile Crisis in 1962, the Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the establishment of the Economic Embargo in the early 1960s after the Castro regime and dictatorship confiscated all American interests in the Island. The Embargo was originally commercial, economic and financial but it did not include food and medicine but in 1962 it was extended to include all imports into the Island. The Helms-Burton Act of 1992 further restricted U.S. citizens from doing business in or with Cuba, and mandated restrictions on giving public or private assistance to any Cuban government. Later during the Presidency of Bill Clinton in 1999 the Embargo was expanded to include any foreign subsidiary of U.S. companies to trade with Cuba. The Embargo has now been in effect for over 53 years. If the intent was to topple the Cuban Communist government and bring about a more democratic form of government, it has failed, but if the intent was to weaken communism in the Island and its exportation of it to other Latin American Countries at our doorsteps, then we might say that it has partially worked. People stand on different sides of the aisle as to whether the Embargo has been successful, partly successful or a complete failure. I respect the opinions of all and request that my opinions also be respected.

The reality is, no matter what position you take, that the people of Cuba have paid a very heavy prize as a consequence of the Castro takeover of the Island in Dec. 1959. Both those who have been forced out of their home land and have rather chosen exile to many other countries around the world and primarily here to the U. S., and those who have remained in the Island experiencing great oppression and scarcity, we have all paid a very heavy prize. Now, news of the reestablishment of relations with Cuba alarm every Cuban, whether here in the U. S. or in Cuba. What will this all mean? Will the U.S. begin to support the existing Cuban Communist government through the lifting of sanctions and an increase in exports into the Island without demanding a more democratic form of government in the Island? Will the U.S. remove Cuba from the list of state funded terrorism? Washington placed Cuba on the list in 1982, citing then President Fidel Castro's training and arming of Communist rebels in Africa and Latin America. The list is short: just Iran, Sudan, Syria and Cuba. The Cuban government will make this a requirement of further talks in April 2015 in Panama. Will we give back the portion of the Guantanamo Bay we have held for over 100 years, (since 1903)? There are so many questions left unanswered.

So here is my personal opinion on this issue. Perhaps it is time for the Embargo to be lifted, for the sake of the people in Cuba, but let us not be naïve, the problems in Cuba are not just the Embargo, although it is one of the primary reasons for the economic collapse of the Island’s economy, but the real and unresolved problem is the Communist regime of the Castro brothers, who control the populace by keeping them subjugated and in fear. Any imports from the U.S. into Cuba will still be regulated by the Castro government and may not ever get to the people who need them. I am in favor of ultimately lifting the Embargo, it has been long enough and it has not been completely successful, but we also must receive from the Cuban government a promise to democratize the government of Cuba and cease the exportation of communist terrorism from Cuba. If they want new relations, let us have them effective and properly balanced, both sides acting in complete transparency and the best of intentions, otherwise, it will not work and it will return to bite us, you know were. It is good for neighbors to get along and to support each other, whether individuals or countries but they must act with equal mutual interests. I think President Obama, who has socialist leanings, should be extremely careful how he deals with the Castro brothers and until there is transparency and democracy we should not give any assistance to the government of Cuba, either by lifting the Embargo or establishing unchecked relations with the Castros.

At least this is my opinion as a Cuban-American. What do you think?

Would You Be My Valentine?

On Saturday, February 14, 2015, we will be celebrating the Day of St. Valentine. St. Valentine of Rome, according to tradition, was a Christian saint who was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians who were persecuted under the Roman Empire and was later executed. There are surely other traditions to the origins of St. Valentine’s Day. The date was first associated with romantic love during the High Middle Ages when the tradition of courtly love flourished and has further evolved into a day in which those in love give each other flowers, presents or some other expression of affection. Today, on Valentine’s Day even friendships are celebrated.

I have been married for almost 39 years to my one and only Valentine and I look forward to celebrating this day with her and not only this day but every day for the rest of our natural lives. When I think of Valentine’s Day I can’t help but to think of that precious poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:


How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and if God chooses
I shall love thee better after death.

However, the true purity and perfectness of real and lasting love can be found in no other example than in the sacrificial love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The love within the Trinity itself for each of its members is the greatest example of love. That is why they relate to each other with the filial terms, My Father, My Son and My Spirit. They are intrinsically related to one another in inseparable ways. But also the love of the Trinity for the world and the creatures they created is clearly evident in the way the Father constantly seeks the lost, with mercy and compassion, the way the Son sacrificially offers Himself on the cross as the Redeemer of sinners and the way the Holy Spirit works within each of us to sanctify us and lead and draw us to the Father and to the Son.

The greatest, most beautiful and most profound description of this love within the Trinity and therefore the greatest example of what love should and must look like for all of us, including within the marriage relationship, is not in a poem but rather in St. Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians: Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” This is the kind of love that all of us seek for with the greatest longing, hunger and thirst for passionately and that would satisfy us at the deepest levels and would be the greatest gift we could give to one another this Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year.

Is this how you express love for your Valentine? You should! What do you think?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Spanking or Not Spanking . . . That Is the Question

Recently, Pope Francis got into some undeserved trouble, in my opinion, for suggesting, during his weekly general audience, which was devoted to the role of fathers in the family, that spanking a child for the purpose of discipline, was not wrong, as long as you preserved the child’s dignity. He of course was not advocating child abuse of any type or degree, even if some go the extra mile and call “spanking” child abuse automatically.

The truth is that the Bible itself calls for some forms of corporal discipline as a means of helping a child grow up and mature as a well-disciplined adult. It is the most solemn duty of parents, who love their children, to insure that their children grow up to be well-behaved, respectful of others, well-adjusted members of society that respect and obey the laws of the country and the rights of others. The maturing and disciplining of one such adult begins at home and starts at the crib, with tenderness, respect, and a great deal of love, mercy, forgiveness and compassion, but it would be naive on all our parts to think that discipline will not also be necessary and with it correction and at times punishment. The particular passages of the Scriptures I am thinking about are from the Book of Proverbs:
  • “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly.” (13:24)
  • “Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him.” (22:15)
  • “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die. Punish him with the rod and save his soul from death” (23:13-14).
  • “The rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother.” (29:15).

The mention of the “rod” brings back all kinds of images of child abuse, of belts and belt-bruises, of sticks and scars and broken bones, of rulers on the knuckles, etc. but that is not the intention of the Scriptures at all, but rather the idea of not sparing correction from a child but gaining their respect so that you can mold their character into a respectful human being. The norm, as the Pope, explained, is that a child should never, in fact must never, be struck on the face or on any other part of the body, the head, the torso, the arms or the legs other than in the fleshy part of the rear or the butt and most certainly never out of anger or revenge.

I was raised in what I consider to have been a loving household, not perfect by any sense of the imagination and most certainly I think my father in particular may not have always been fair in the ways he disciplined me but I certainly grew up respecting him, his word and his decisions, my mother on the other hand, was not a strong disciplinarian and we ran around her, not always listening or obeying. Today, I am extremely grateful to both my mother and my father, they balanced each other and I am today a human being that has learned the values of respect, obedience, family and to respect others. I never got into drugs or gangs (they were all around me in High School), or other mischievous behaviors because I would not have known how to face my father. Even as an adult, I respected him, even after his death, I still respect his memory and the disciplined-life he taught me. My work ethics were high because I learned them from him and would have been extremely embarrassed to come to him and tell him I was fired from any job for laziness or misconduct of any kind.

When the time came to raise my own family, I practiced what I learned at home. Never have I struck either of my daughters in the face or on any other parts of their bodies, but I did spank them both a few times and the time came when all I had to do was raise my voice and call them by their full names and they knew I was displeased about something and they automatically ceased what they were doing.

Let me be clear either extreme is very unhelpful and will lead our children to chaos, lack of discipline and potential behavior that will damage them at the end. No discipline is also child abuse and extreme discipline is equally child abuse and more, which neither do I advocate, nor the Bible, nor I think the Pope. Some parents have other ways of disciplining their children, timeouts, take away something they like, etc. If those work for you and your children, go right ahead and use them, it is preferable in my opinion, but spanking (in the rear and for the purpose of discipline not abuse or anger, of one who cannot defend themselves) is sometimes a good attention getter that leads to respect, and discipline.

At least this is my opinion. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

On Rest and Relaxation

We all want more time to rest and relax. We crave those days when we have nothing much to do but to sit down with friends or family and just simply talk, even if about nothing. I some days just simply crave more time with God when I can talk to Him with an open and vulnerable heart and not in a hurry to get to work or to my next appointment. Sometimes, even taking time to write these blogs is a major enterprise, not because I don’t have anything to share, but simply because I don’t find the time, or perhaps make the time, to sit down, focus and write. We sometimes run around like “chickens with our heads cut off”. This analogy is very meaningful to me, because I remember back in Cuba when you would go to the market place and buy live chickens which then would be brought home and their necks twisted in such a way that they died after jumping around for a while. I know you don’t want to hear of these things but that is the experience of many in other countries, where animals are purchased alive. This word-picture is a living one for me. Sometimes our schedules rule us in such a way that we feel harassed, restless, busy, and in a hurry, jumping around like one of these chickens.

As if by a message from the Lord, two different magazines I received this month and within days of each other, addressed this issue for me, one was a daily devotional by Ligonier Ministries named TableTalk which I use often in my daily quiet times. It has articles and a daily Bible reading with a brief commentary. In the month of February the articles addressed the issue of Labor and Rest. The different authors focused on how the creation story in Genesis 1 calls us to “labor” and in fact God Himself calls the man and woman, whom He created in His image, to that noble task of laboring, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” God Himself “labored” for six days creating all that has ever been created. “Labor” is good, it is honorable and it is helpful and contributes to our own wellbeing, that of our families and of society.

But Genesis 1 also calls us to “rest”, for God also rested on the seventh day. He so intended for us to follow after His example on this issue, that He hallowed the seventh day and made it holy, that is He separated it from the rest of the days as a day of rest and relaxation, and a day of worship to Him. For us to labor without rest is then an act of disobedience of biblical proportions. All of us must find and make time to rest and relax from work, all of us need a time to have some fun and enjoy the company of family and friends, a time to do the things that bring us peace and joy. We all must make the time, it generally will not come to you without you planning for it and making sure you keep that appointment with your own body, soul and mind.

The second magazine I mentioned above is the Leadership Journal, winter 2015. In it there is a very interesting article by Bill Hybels, pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, titled, The Secret of Strategic Neglect and it is based on a book he just wrote under the title Simplify. In it he tells us about sitting down with his calendar before the Lord and a submitted spirit and scheduling not all that he wants to accomplish but asking himself in the presence of God who he wants to become, as a father, a husband, a friend and a pastor, then and only then, he will schedule work stuff. Bill says that “simplifying his life is not necessarily about doing less but about working smarter.” You have to ask yourself constantly, “what does God want me to accomplish?” and then purposely “neglect” those things He is not calling you to do.

Wow! Do I even dare practice these principles? I wonder what my calendar would look like if I start chopping it down to size. What would I leave out that I am doing today - Diocesan involvement, which of the Bible Studies should I stop doing, how about my daily meditation I write for the congregation? Do I limit how many people I see for counseling each week? Where do I start? For one thing I must continue to put self, family and friends ahead of work, always making time in my schedule for us/them, occasionally take days off, even a study week where I read books that refresh and build me. Secondly pace myself, where I can, and be clear as to what is of the Lord and what is of my ego as a pastor. Will you give it a try as well? Let me know what you think?

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Much hype has been given to some films this past few months and I wanted to offer my own opinions and recommendations for all of you. The films “Moses: Gods and Kings”, “Unbroken” and “American Sniper” were released toward the end of December. Of these three films, Maly and I went to see “Unbroken”, a film chronicling the life of Louis Zamperini, a WWII American hero who was able to survive great odds in his life, including being shut down in the Pacific Ocean, facing sharks and ultimately facing a worse enemy, man, in a Japanese concentration camp. This is a film about the faith of a man, who gives his life to the Lord and promises to serve him if he survived. A promise he fulfilled after the war, returning to Japan and serving there. The words his brother spoke to him when they were both children will forever remain with me, “If you can take it, you can make it.” These words are so true in so many areas of our lives. I highly recommend this film to all of you.

A second film she and I went to see, was a special showing of “American Sniper.”  The story of Chris Kyle, an American soldier who served four tours of duty in Iraq. He is credited with saving an enormous number of lives in combat as a sniper or sharp shooter. He was considered a legend among his pears and the greatest sharp shooter in the history of this nation. It is a film about patriotism and love of country, a film about personal sacrifice and the giving of oneself for a cause greater than one man. You will leave the theater with a greater understanding of the sacrifices our soldiers go through in the war in the Middle East today. It is also about how great the human spirit can rise. I highly recommend this film as well.

We have not gone to see, yet, “Moses: Gods and Kings”, so I cannot give you my personal recommendations, however, the comments I have read about this film are not very favorable and is true to the biblical story only in passing and the mention of some of the same names. I recently read an article in Biblical Archeology Magazine, here is an excerpt of that article: “It is beyond me to understand why one of the most action-packed, intense Biblical narratives needed such dramatic altering. . . . Their story was so different that if they didn’t use the Biblical names and released the same movie with a different title, I might not have even recognized it—especially with all the Arthurian mythology woven in—though the caricature and stereotypes that ran through the film shoved the viewer in that direction. . . . The movie is manipulative in its anti-religious polemic. All the supernatural elements of the story (which are in the Bible to make theological points about the God of the Hebrews and thus are literally important to the characterization of God, regardless of one’s faith position) are stripped away or given a “scientific” explanation within the dialogue. . . . Moses is a firm atheist until he suffers a traumatic brain injury which makes him hallucinate a boy-god. Which brings us to the petulant, malicious boy-god, who plagues the Hebrews alongside the Egyptians, ignores Moses’ pleas for mercy and binds the Hebrews to him without choice in the final plague. All of these alterations were designed to make religion look senile. This is misdirection at best considering the blatant attempt to attract religious viewers with the movie’s “Biblical” subject matter.” For these reasons and others I have read, I do not recommend this film. If we go see it, it should be for us to be informed so that we can best be able to share the truth and bring the lies into light. Otherwise, it is not worth our support, contrary to what I wrote to you in last month’s newsletter.