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Ogost Production

Devotionals

The Missing Cat
 
As we are going thru part of our construction phase, we noticed that Tiger, our 27-pound cat was missing. The sheetrock was going up, many workers were going in and out of the house. The first thought was that the indoor cat was now outdoors and didn’t know how to get home. So there I am driving at 11:00pm calling out the window “Tiger, Tiger, where are you Tiger?”   Nothing. Our cat survived Hurricane Harvey then to be lost because our construction crew left the door open.
 
We decided to pray, and just then I hear a noise behind the walls. That’s right, behind the new sheet rock. Finally, the loud meows lead us to the bathroom area. My son unscrews one of the panels, and there was Tiger. He fell asleep as the crew was enclosing the area.
 
How often do we do the same? We venture into areas that we have no business being in. We get ourselves enclosed, and we need a way of escape. The Bible says “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15 Our cat ventured into a new area, fell asleep, he awoke after we kept calling him, and realized he was trapped in and could not escape.
 
Thank God that when he cried out, our Tiger was able to be rescued. Likewise with you and I. Despite our folly, there is a God that listens to our pleas, our cries, and our prayers. Have you ever placed yourself in a compromising situation? Thank God for Jesus. We worship a wonderful God who when we cry unto the Lord, He rescues us from ourselves.
 
In the Book, Desire of Ages, the writer describes our relationship with Christ in a personal manner. The Elder Brother of our race is by the eternal throne. He looks upon every soul who is turning his face toward Him as the Saviour. He knows by experience what are the weaknesses of humanity, what are our wants, and where lies the strength of our temptations; for He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He is watching over you, trembling child of God. Are you tempted? He will deliver. Are you weak? He will strengthen. Are you ignorant? He will enlighten. Are you wounded? He will heal. The Lord ‘telleth the number of the stars; and yet He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.’ Psalm 147:3, ‘Come unto Me,’ is His invitation. Whatever your anxieties and trials, spread out your case before the Lord. Your spirit will be braced for endurance. The way will be opened for you to disentangle yourself from embarrassment and difficulty. The weaker and more helpless you know yourself to be, the stronger will you become in His strength. The heavier your burdens, the more blessed the rest in casting them upon the Burden Bearer.” Desire of Ages p329
 
May God bless us today, as He rescues us from ourselves
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
The Widow’s Mite
 
In the story of the “Widow’s mite”. She was recognized by Jesus not because of how much she gave, but what was in her heart. And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had. Luke 21:1-4I remember getting a call from a Baptist Pastor whose congregation is in Chicago. He explained that his daughter wants to give to those that are struggling in Houston from Hurricane Harvey. Tiffany went online and found our church listed as one of those that were helping the victims. She raised enough money to send three packages.
 
I explained to the 12 year old girl that it’s not the size of the gift, but the size of her heart that matters. I shared the story of the widow’s mite. How Jesus recognized her heart. The widow didn’t give the largest donation, however she gave from the bottom of her heart what she had. Tiffany wanted to give more, but she couldn’t. She was 12, and had limited resources. I explained to Tiffany, because of this, our Father will recognize that you gave from the bottom of your heart. I prayed with the young girl, and thanked her father for training a beautiful young girl to have the heart to care for others.
 
How often do you wish that you could do more for others, but you have limited resources. How often do you pray that you could have contributed more time for a ministry of the church. I want to remind you that it’s not the size of the gift that matters in the eyes of God, but it's the size of your heart. One of my favorite authors explains it this way“It is the motive which gives true value to our acts, and stamps them with high moral worth or with ignominy. It is not the great things which every eye can see and which every tongue praises that count to our eternal credit, but the little duties cheerfully done, the little gifts which make no show, and which human eyes regard as worthless. A heart of love and genuine faith in a worthy object is more acceptable to God than the most costly gift. The poor widow gave her living to do the little that she did. She deprived herself of food to give those two mites to the cause she loved; and she did it in faith, believing that her Heavenly Father would not overlook her great necessity. It was this unselfish spirit and unwavering faith that won the commendation of Jesus.” {3SP 72.2} 
 
May God bless you as we give from our hearts to our gracious Saviour
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
he Revenge of the Fire Ant
 
I never understood why this one ant was called the fire ant. I thought it was because its color was fire red. Well I learned the hard way why this one ant lives up to its name. Fire ants bite only for the purpose of getting a good solid grip of your skin, and then they use their stinger to inject toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin. This venom creates a sensation that feels like your skin is on fire.
 
Well, I have been on fire for several days. The skin expands as the venom works its way under the skin. How did this happen? We were cutting some over populated trees in the back yard and came across a ground nest. Well they came out to observe what all the commotion was all about. I stepped on their beautifully sculptured mound by accident and the rest is history. These small insects came out with hostile intentions. I kept working on the trees and branches trying to make the backyard look like a park. Well one or two made it to my shoe and worked their way up my socks, up my legs, and served me two summons. The first citation was for destruction of property, and second citation for leaving the scene of an accident. I felt movement, and slapped my pants but didn’t realize what was happening. Then I felt one sting. Then another. Then my pants caught on fire. It was an internal combustion that I wish I never experienced.
 
Since we have two cats, and a border collie, I had to investigate further so that none of our animals confront these insects. Well I learned that the fire ants queen can produce up to 1,600 eggs per day. That's 11,200 eggs per week, 582,400 eggs per year. The queen can live up to 7 years. In a queen’s lifetime, she can produce over 4,000,000 eggs. They have soldier ants that even invade other insect’s nests. When combined as an army, squirrels, or other small animals that visit their colony are not able to withstand the combine toxins that they release.
 
What about us today? The enemy is like fire ants. He will bite us to hurt us. He intentionally will inflict pain to turn our minds and hearts away from a loving Savior. His sting will cause us to be distracted. But the Bible reminds us clearly that all the stings of the enemy will one day be over.   “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1Corinthians 15:54,55
 
Today, we will keep getting stings that will hurt us. We will be walking by accident into areas that the enemy has step as a trap for us. But I need you to know that though we might suffer today because of the stings of the enemy, we have hope. In the book Sons and Daughters of God I discovered this passage of hope.
 
“Moses was bidden to lift the brazen serpent on the pole, and make the proclamation that whosoever should look upon it should live. And all who looked, did live. They recovered health at once.... What a strange symbol of Christ was that likeness of the serpents which stung them. This symbol was lifted on a pole, and they were to look to it, and be healed. So Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He came as the sin-bearer.... The same healing, life-giving message is now sounding. It points to the uplifted Saviour upon the shameful tree. Those who have been bitten by that old serpent, the devil, are bidden to look and live.... Look alone to Jesus as your righteousness and your sacrifice. As you are justified by faith, the deadly sting of the serpent will be healed.“ Sons and Daughters of God. p.222-3
 
May God bless you today, as He heals the stings of this world.
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 
Restoration Part II
 
Last week we spoke about the painful process of removing mold and mildew or any other item that was contaminated when hurricane waters inundated our home. If you don’t remove the germs that are working behind the walls, you will encounter a severe mold issue. Once the walls are removed, subfloors are detached; you then begin the drying process. You can’t rush this stage. This is one of the most important phases of the restoration process. It takes time to dry, moisture to come to the surface and be removed.
 
Now comes the next phase. What kind of materials, colors, and cost will you choose to replace that which was destroyed by the floods? There are three typical responses. Some folks go cheap. Cheapest materials just repair and sell. This actually causes buyers to distance themselves from the property when they look, feel, and check the types of doors, windows, and other things. After the home inspection is done, many buyers will pull away because they wonder, what else has this owner done?
 
Other will replace cost per cost. Which should bring the home value to what it was. I take a different approach. Since the whole house open, I placed Internet cables, and other items that are easy to upgrade due to the open conditions. When its time to sell, these upgrades will make a huge difference. Jesus doesn’t go cheap. 
He paid the ultimate sacrifice for you and I. He is the carpenter of our lives. He sands, He cleanses, He shapes us so that in the end; you are restored into the original image. He never uses cheap materials when it comes to us. In fact, He uses the best. Real wood for fake wood, real paintings with real oil, for printed ones. 18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,” 1 Peter 1:18-20
 
It takes time to rebuild a home that was ravaged by the elements of this world. Jesus takes the time, because we are worth His time. Jesus replaces part-by-part, section-by-section, wall-by-wall, until the Master Carpenter is finished and looks at you and a smile comes upon His face. We have been recreated, we have been reconstructed, reshaped by the very hands of our creator. I discovered this passage in the book ‘Acts of the Apostles’ which reminds me that we are precious in the sight of God.
 
Had silver and gold been sufficient to purchase the salvation of men, how easily might it have been accomplished by Him who says, ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine.’ Haggai 2:8. But only by the precious blood of the Son of God could the transgressor be redeemed. The plan of salvation was laid in sacrifice. The apostle Paul wrote, ‘Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich.’ 2 Corinthians 8:9. Christ gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from all iniquity. And as the crowning blessing of salvation, the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.’ Romans 6:23. “ Acts of the Apostles 519
 
Today, Let us gives ourselves completely to God. Let Him reshape, reconstruct, restore us into His wonderful image.
 
ps  Attached are some of the pictures that we were able to save
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 

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Restoration – Part I
 
Hurricane Harvey came and went. Now comes the restoration part. As the walls were being pulled away from their studs, as the rugs were being torn from their bases, as the wood floors were being pried from the subflooring, I had to ask, “Why do we have to remove everything that was touched by these flood waters?   “Well ya-ll see, its not regular water. It’s dirty water with all kinds of microbes, and all sorts of poisons and toxins that if they penetrate the skin will causes havoc.” Said the supervisor. I was in conflict. Couldn’t we shampoo the rugs? Couldn’t we save some of the wood, or sheet rock? The answer was no.
 
I wanted to preserve all that I could, but the supervisor would point that this must go, and that must go. We need to go to the studs, the foundation and then build again. Then came the crew. With their spray and buckets of mold killer. Every crevice, every crack, every nook and cranny would received 3 different treatments. Then came the dehumidifiers, and the blowers. Sucking the moisture out of the air and structure. The fans would provide an even flow of air to dry the house out. Finally! This phase of the clean up was completed.
 
Before we can rebuild, we needed to remove all contagions. Like cancer in the body. we want to remove all cancer agents as part of the restoration process. We want to be cancer free. Right now, I have the new open view floor plan. From the garage I can see thru the entire main floor of the house. Then it came to my mind, how often do we do the same with God. We want to hold on to the dirty water of sin. We want to hold on to many things that have been contaminated by the toxins, and contagions. In order for Christ to fully restore us, we must allow Him to point to the affected areas, and allow Him to remove them as a skilled physician. At times the process will hurt our souls because we want to embrace and hold on to things that we know we have to submit to God. If we want to be fully restored, we need to trust Christ. He knows exactly want He is doing. 25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36:25-27
 
The hardest part of the restoration process is seeing things I once cherished, being taken outside and cast into a pile to be discarded. I know that it must go, I know in my heart that I have to release and submit to what is best. As the restoration process moves forward, you realize what truly is important, and what is superficial. I have found comfort in this quote “It may be that much work needs to be done in your character building, that you are a rough stone which must be squared and polished before it can fill a place in God’s temple. You need not be surprised if with hammer and chisel God cuts away the sharp corners of your character, until you are prepared to fill the place He has for you. No human being can accomplish this work. Only by God can it be done. And be assured that He will not strike one useless blow. His every blow is struck in love, for your eternal happiness. He knows your infirmities, and works to restore, not to destroy.” The Great Controversy p.168
 
May God bless you today, as He restores us for His glory
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
Signs of the Times
 
During the last week we had an eclipse that spanned the length of the United States. Here in Texas we are now dealing with Hurricane Harvey. As a result many people are turning their attention towards spiritual things. The Bible does speak about natural disasters and cosmic events that God allows so that for a brief moment, we can look to the divine.
 
Throughout the Bible you have epic events. The Flood and the rainbow covenant as a promise to mankind. The Exodus and the 10 powerful plaques on nature that resulted in Israel being set free. The parting of the red sea, and the catastrophic defeat of the Egyptian army. The crossing of the Jordan River and the destruction of Jericho. Over and over God has used nature to capture the hearts and minds of the people. In the Old Testament we have a prophecy that appears to come from a modern day newspaper. “And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord come.” Joel 2:30,31
 
Jesus Himself speaks as a precursor to His second advent signs of nature that foreshadow His arrival. “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;” Luke 21:25 Sounds like what is happening today. The issue is no longer that God is allowing nature as a warning to the world, but are we listening? Today, we have earthquakes, tornadoes, pestilences, and mud slides that bury whole towns. We have water contamination, river contagions, and the oceans are filled with sewage that is harming our ecosystem.
 
When Jesus was speaking to the religious leaders who should understand why God allows these tempests to occur, he said; The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” Matthew 16:1-3 Like I mentioned to our congregation. It is usually when we are in a crisis, that we turn our hearts back to God. You and I can’t control the weather, can’t control eclipses, and can’t control hurricanes. But what we can control is whether we look up, observe the sky, and declare, “These are signs of the times.” “Am I ready for the coming of the Lord?”
 
Today, God is giving us many wonderful, and dramatic natural events. These are warning, these are pronouncements, and these are affirmations. However, are we listen? Are we observing the signs?
 
Here are some words of council “God’s people must take warning and discern the signs of the times. The signs of Christ’s coming are too plain to be doubted; and in view of these things every one who professes the truth should be a living preacher. God calls upon all, both preachers and people, to awake. All heaven is astir. The scenes of earth’s history are fast closing… Chs p.37 
 
May God bless you today as together you look at God’s creation
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pasto
The Revenge of the Fire Ant
 
I never understood why this one ant was called the fire ant. I thought it was because its color was fire red. Well I learned the hard way why this one ant lives up to its name. Fire ants bite only for the purpose of getting a good solid grip of your skin, and then they use their stinger to inject toxic alkaloid venom called Solenopsin. This venom creates a sensation that feels like your skin is on fire.
 
Well, I have been on fire for several days. The skin expands as the venom works its way under the skin. How did this happen? We were cutting some over populated trees in the back yard and came across a ground nest. Well they came out to observe what all the commotion was all about. I stepped on their beautifully sculptured mound by accident and the rest is history. These small insects came out with hostile intentions. I kept working on the trees and branches trying to make the backyard look like a park. Well one or two made it to my shoe and worked their way up my socks, up my legs, and served me two summons. The first citation was for destruction of property, and second citation for leaving the scene of an accident. I felt movement, and slapped my pants but didn’t realize what was happening. Then I felt one sting. Then another. Then my pants caught on fire. It was an internal combustion that I wish I never experienced.
 
Since we have two cats, and a border collie, I had to investigate further so that none of our animals confront these insects. Well I learned that the fire ants queen can produce up to 1,600 eggs per day. That's 11,200 eggs per week, 582,400 eggs per year. The queen can live up to 7 years. In a queen’s lifetime, she can produce over 4,000,000 eggs. They have soldier ants that even invade other insect’s nests. When combined as an army, squirrels, or other small animals that visit their colony are not able to withstand the combine toxins that they release.
 
What about us today? The enemy is like fire ants. He will bite us to hurt us. He intentionally will inflict pain to turn our minds and hearts away from a loving Savior. His sting will cause us to be distracted. But the Bible reminds us clearly that all the stings of the enemy will one day be over.   “So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” 1Corinthians 15:54,55
 
Today, we will keep getting stings that will hurt us. We will be walking by accident into areas that the enemy has step as a trap for us. But I need you to know that though we might suffer today because of the stings of the enemy, we have hope. In the book Sons and Daughters of God I discovered this passage of hope.
 
“Moses was bidden to lift the brazen serpent on the pole, and make the proclamation that whosoever should look upon it should live. And all who looked, did live. They recovered health at once.... What a strange symbol of Christ was that likeness of the serpents which stung them. This symbol was lifted on a pole, and they were to look to it, and be healed. So Jesus was made in the likeness of sinful flesh. He came as the sin-bearer.... The same healing, life-giving message is now sounding. It points to the uplifted Saviour upon the shameful tree. Those who have been bitten by that old serpent, the devil, are bidden to look and live.... Look alone to Jesus as your righteousness and your sacrifice. As you are justified by faith, the deadly sting of the serpent will be healed.“ Sons and Daughters of God. p.222-3
 
May God bless you today, as He heals the stings of this world.
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 

Stop the Leak!

 
I spend some time in Canada fishing with some friends. On the third day we went to a lake in which the only access was by a logger’s trail. We climbed in the four wheeler with our equipment and had the ride of our life. Finally we arrived. It was all carry in, and carry out except for the rowboat that was already at the lake.
 
Everything was going fine until we realized that there was water entering the boat. It was slow and gradual. By the first hour the water level was approaching an inch. By the second hour the boat now had two inches of water. The more water, the heavier the boat, and one of my friends didn’t have waterproof shoes. We discovered that the plug for the boat was not fully in place. We used our mini-coolers as buckets to bail out the water. The plug, however, after awhile gave way and started to let water into the boat again.
 
Even though we did well on the lake, there was that constant reminder, since you could hear the water lapping against the side of the boat. For some people, just bailing out the water every 15 minutes would suffice to prevent us from sinking into the lake. But the problem persisted and persisted. No matter how many times we bailed out the water, it would come back. We had a second problem that developed. Because of the excess weight, the battery that powered the motor died. The only paddle that we had was broken in half. So now we had two problems. We had to paddle back, and the water was coming into the boat.
 
In life, we don’t like to fix the problem, we instead deal with the symptoms of the problem by bailing out the water over and over again. When you have a headache, most people pop a pill to deal with the pain. However, they have not addressed the issue that causes the pain. If we fixed the leak, we would not have had to bail out the water. If we fixed the leak, the battery would not have died on us because of the extra weight issue. If we had fixed the leak, no one would have gotten their shoes and socks all wet.
 
I need you to know that we have a Friend who knows how to stop the leaks in our life. He deals with the real problems, not just with the symptoms that result from the problem. When speaking to the woman at the well, the young lady was only thinking of dealing with her symptoms. However Jesus was dealing with the sin problem in her life. “Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:13,14
 
Dealing with the problem is more difficult. It requires change. It requires commitment. It will take longer, but the effect will be lasting. How is your walk with God today? Do you pray that God will deal with the real issues, or just with the results of the problems that you are facing? Here is a passage from one of my favorite books
 
“Jesus did not convey the idea that merely one draft of the water of life would suffice the receiver. He who tastes of the love of Christ will continually long for more; but he seeks for nothing else. The riches, honors, and pleasures of the world do not attract him. The constant cry of his heart is, More of Thee. And He who reveals to the soul its necessity is waiting to satisfy its hunger and thirst. Every human resource and dependence will fail. The cisterns will be emptied, the pools become dry; but our Redeemer is an inexhaustible fountain. We may drink, and drink again, and ever find a fresh supply. He in whom Christ dwells has within himself the fountain of blessing, ‘ a well of water springing up into everlasting life.’ From this source he may draw strength and grace sufficient for all his needs.” Desire of Ages p. 187
 
As you walk with God daily, let Him ‘stop the leaks’ in your life, not just the symptoms.
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 

I didn’t realize that trees could become weeds in the field. We have these little cute trees that have sprouted up in our backyard. However, I noticed that too many trees can harm the growth of the bright green grass, and the border plants. So we began the process of trimming up the trees from the bottom of the trunks up, cutting down the small trees, and opening the space by removing the excess shrubs. Then we realized that we had huge over hanging branches. Well, those were cut down. We are not finished yet, but without trimming, cutting, and clearing it becomes difficult to have a healthy yard.
 
I learned three lessons. The first lesson is that each tree, or shrub grows from the same nutrients that are available in the soil. If you don’t weed out the excess growth, the main trees will lack the nutrients to remain healthy. I have two trees that are almost dying because all the smaller trees are absorbing the same nutrients. If there something in our lives that is excess? Is there something that is absorbing our time? Something that is choking our religious experience? If there is, we need to weed out those things that will battle for our relationship with Christ. In the parable of the sower, Jesus explains to His disciples. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.” Matthew 13:22
 
The second lesson I learned is that all the trees, shrubs, and grass compete for the same light. They will grow following the rays that our sun provides. After a short while, the trees grow branches in all interesting ways because another tree is blocking their access to the sun. After a while there is so much growth that darkness sets in as each one tries to grow above the other. Be careful when someone tries to block the light of your spiritual growth. Each one has to have their own time in the light. Every person has to have their own walk with Christ. You can’t have a personal relationship with Christ from someone’ else’s experience. After a while, you will lose your joy with the Lord. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5,6
 
The final lesson is that of water. The roots of all these trees, shrubs, and plants grow towards the water. When you have too many weeds, some areas don’t get the water that is needed. They are blocked off. Sometimes the water gets redirected, other times the water get absorbed by the other trees or shrubs more quickly, in turn giving less water for the others. Within a short time some will turn brown, and eventually die because they are not receiving the water they need. Today, we receive water from drinking the word of God. The Bible fills us daily as we drink from the fountain that points to Jesus. If we are not opening up the Bible daily, after a short while our spiritual life begins to diminish. “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” John 4:14
 
Weeds in the field of our heart can hurt our relationship with Christ. In the book a “Call to stand apart”, the author reminds us and warns us about the dangers of weeds that can grow in our spiritual lives. “Grace can thrive only in the heart that is being constantly prepared for the precious seeds of truth. The thorns of sin will grow in any soil; they need no cultivation; but grace must be carefully cultivated. The briers and thorns are always ready to spring up, and the work of purification must advance continually. If the heart is not kept under the control of God, if the Holy Spirit does not work unceasingly to refine and ennoble the character, the old habits will reveal themselves in the life. Men may profess to believe the gospel; but unless they are sanctified by the gospel their profession is of no avail. If they do not gain the victory over sin, then sin is gaining the victory over them. The thorns that have been cut off but not uprooted grow apace, until the soul is overspread with them.” A Call Stand Apart p.21
 
As we walk with God daily, let Him prune the excesses, and the weeds that spring up in our lives
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pasto
Texas Monkeys
 
I was reading an article of a hunter who was confronted by a monkey in Texas. The monkey chased the deer away so that the hunter would not be able to fire his rifle. The first thought that came to my mind was that the man was definitely drunk. Everyone knows monkeys don't live in Texas, Right? To my surprise, we have Texas snow monkeys. How did this happen?
 
In 1966 a splinter troop of Japanese macaque moseyed down a mountainside into the suburbs of Kyoto. The monkeys shoplifted food and other goods, and acted like teenagers on the run. . The town folks determined that these monkeys had to be relocated. Reluctantly they handed these monkeys to Edward Dryden, an eccentric rancher in Texas. The 158-member troop withered in the Texas heat, and many died. But the survivors began to adapt. The monkeys learned the value of shade under the majestic trees and cool running creeks; in Japan, thermal pools warmed them in winter. After three decades in Texas they are thriving in an environment completely counter to their original habitat.
 
They coexist in troops of several hundred led by a king and queen. Royalty's perks are tempered by a responsibility for the troop's safety. In 1993 the monkeys' king, Rocky, was killed by a mountain lion while defending the troop. According to the records, the last Japanese-born, or bilingual, snow monkey brought to Texas died 18 months ago. All the monkeys now are native Texans. These Texan monkeys are brilliant, and many have discovered ways of escape from the sanctuary. Now they reside in the south Texas countryside as feral monkeys. So if anyone asks if there are actually monkeys that live in the prairies of south Texas, the answer is yes.
 
Several lessons of life we can learn from these monkeys. First, they elect their king and queen as their leaders. There is a process, and a choice. The monkey has a complex election system. It’s not who is strongest but who is concerned about the troop. Jesus in one of His lessons to His disciples places the same concern this way. “But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister:” Mark 10:31,32
 
Second lesson we can learn from these Texan monkeys is the fact that the king is willing to die to protect their troop. In 1993, their king called “Rocky”, died protecting his flock . As a leader, are you willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for others? Leadership is not about yourself. It is not about your abilities, but about your willingness to put others first. Christ, our King, died protecting us. “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
 
Final lesson we can learn from these Texan monkeys is the fact that they help each other break free from their bondage. According to an observer, these monkeys tested the electric fence. One monkey at a time was zapped with an electrical pulse, which cause them to fall from the fence. The next Monkey would avoid that line, until another wire was discovered that had a pulse. Again the next monkey would be stunned and fall off the fence. The next monkey would avoid the next two electric grids. Finally a pattern would emerge until a monkey would be on the top of the fence and be set free. Jesus taught His disciples to work together and help mankind become free from the bondage of sin. Today we are to help the world break the yoke of depravity and break the chains of iniquity that the enemy has bounded us with. We are to preach the gospel that will set at liberty mankind from the chains of sin. Jesus never lost focus as our king of kings. He was our spiritual leader who never lost sights of why we are hear. “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” Galatians 5:1
 
In the book “Acts of the Apostles”, the author describes the life of the disciples with the same willingness to sacrifice for others. In all their missionary endeavors Paul and Barnabas sought to follow Christ’s example of willing sacrifice and faithful, earnest labor for souls. Wide-awake, zealous, untiring, they did not consult inclination or personal ease, but with prayerful anxiety and unceasing activity they sowed the seed of truth. And with the sowing of the seed, the apostles were careful to give to all who took their stand for the gospel, practical instruction that was of untold value. This spirit of earnestness and godly fear made upon the minds of the new disciples a lasting impression regarding the importance of the gospel message.” Acts of the Apostle p.186
 
May God bless you today, as you walk with the Lord, and realize the grand sacrifice that He made so that we can be set at liberty.
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
The Touch of a Mother
 
There are days that are incredibly special. One of them is when a child is born. I remember when our first child was born. I was afraid to touch him, hold him, as I looked at those little feet, and those little hands. There I was holding this newborn son wrapped in a little blanket. The moment Jonathan started to cry, there was this instinct in me, and right away, I gave our son to Val. That moment was special, the event was fantastic, and I was emotional as I looked at this little bundle of joy, and passed him with gentle care to his mommy. Maternal instinct kicked into place as she placed this bundle of joy to her chest. The baby at first looked puzzled, and then he became claim. He was listening to the heartbeat that he had heard all those months. Then within seconds, he closed his eyes and fell asleep. I knew right there and then that God gave mothers’ a special touch. I was in awe, with the influence of motherhood. 
 
As the child grows you have special moments. The first roll; where the child rolls over. The first time crawling; as the baby takes little paces toward you. The first footsteps, as the child tries to walk towards you and then flops on his rear-end. The first time he sticks his finger in the electrical socket. Well that's another story. The first babble; Then comes the first time he said dada. Oh what a day that was!
The touch of a mother can be very impactful in the lives of our children. This touch continues and touches our lives for years to come. In 1872, the author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Howe shared the idea of setting aside a special day set aside to honor Mothers and celebrate peace, but the idea never took root, until the early 20th century. Anna Jarvis appreciated her mother tremendously. A couple years after her mother's death, Anna Jarvis held a ceremony to honor her late mother. The experience so moved her, that she began a campaign to establish a formal holiday to recognize mothers. West Virginia adopted the idea in 1910, other states followed their lead the next year. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday of May "Mother's Day," a national holiday to honor mothers. So today, we have a day to honor our Mothers. 
 
In the Bible, honoring our Mothers was important to the Lord. “My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:” Proverbs 6:20 Honoring our mothers is even part of the Ten Commandments “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” Exodus 20:12 How we listen to our mothers, how we treat our mothers, how we respond to our mother’s council speaks volumes on who we are as Christians. When we listen and follow the godly council that is imparted to us, we become blessed.
 
In the book “The Adventist Home”, the author describes the important relationship that mothers can have with Christ. Let mothers come to Jesus with their perplexities. They will find grace sufficient to aid them in the management of their children. The gates are open for every mother who would lay her burdens at the Saviour’s feet.... He ... still invites the mothers to lead up their little ones to be blessed by Him. Even the babe in its mother’s arms may dwell under the shadow of the Almighty through the faith of the praying mother. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit from his birth. If we live in communion with God, we too may expect the divine Spirit to mould our little ones, even from their earliest moments. Adventist Home p.274
 
Let us be grateful that God is our original parent, and that we want to become more like Him
 
 
Angel


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
The Quiet Spot
 
Do you have a quiet spot where you can go? A spot where you and God can be alone to talk? Here in Houston I have found several quiet spots to talk with God. One spot I discovered takes a ten-minute bike ride and you follow a side trail where a soft beach by a creek is discovered. Another location is driving to one of the secluded parks and as you walk on the trails you get to the opening where there is a bench. You have a seat and it’s just you and the Lord. One of my favorites is driving to Galveston and watching the sunrise. As you look out at the ocean you see the sea gulls and other birds riding the soft breezes. You look a little further and you see the dolphins as they play in their pods. Sometimes you need to just get away and find your quiet spot where you and the Lord can just have a deep conversation.
 
Jesus had His quiet spots. “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.” Mark 1:35   Christ is our example. If He found that quiet spot; we need to follow His example. Why is this important? I have discovered three reasons why we need that quiet location.
 
The first reason is when you are out in nature; you see the creative expression of God’s love. The sun as it rises or sets. The waters as they glitter and make their soft relaxing sounds as they roll down a creek or stream. The tender sounds of birds in the air, or migration of ants as they travel in single file with a freshly discovered supply of food on their backs. There is something about nature that brings relaxation to the soul. Even Jesus as He spoke to the disciples used analogies of nature. “Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” Luke 12:27
 
The second reason to seek out a quiet place is that you can commune with God without any interruptions. You tuck your phone in your pocket, and commune with God. What is surprising is that you begin to realize that God is speaking to you also. All you need to do is listen in that secluded place and you begin to hear the still quiet voice of our Savior. But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.” John 10:2-4
 
Finally, There are times when you are hurting. You just want to vent to God. Object to God, protest to God. And finally cry to God. In those quiet places you and God can have a conversation. He responds by having you remember many of His promises found in the Scriptures. Give thanks unto the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the people. Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works. Glory ye in his holy name: let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and his strength, seek his face continually. Remember his marvellous works that he hath done, his wonders, and the judgments of his mouth;”
1Chroniles 6:8-12
 
I personally can testify that in those quiet moments with God, you will receive comfort and strength. You will walk closer with Him, and your soul will be refreshed. Here are some insights that I have discovered. “In a life wholly devoted to the good of others, the Saviour found it necessary to withdraw from the thoroughfares of travel and from the throng that followed Him day after day. He must turn aside from a life of ceaseless activity and contact with human needs, to seek retirement and unbroken communion with His Father. As one with us, a sharer in our needs and weaknesses, He was wholly dependent upon God, and in the secret place of prayer He sought divine strength, that He might go forth braced for duty and trial. In a world of sin Jesus endured struggles and torture of soul. In communion with God He could unburden the sorrows that were crushing Him. Here He found comfort and joy.” Desire of Ages p.364
 
May God bless you today as you and He commune together
 

Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
The Pine Derby 
 
Our Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs were involved in a pine car derby event at our Family Life Center. I was a last minute entry. When building my car, I used the wrong glue. It was gorilla glue, which expanded. My glue enlarged into the wheels and locked them. When I arrived at the 2017 Pine derby event, I had a non-functioning car. The “Pit crew” I call them came to the rescue. They quickly removed the wheels, and went into rapid pit crew mode. The superglue went on, the graphite went on the wheels, but I did not have any weights. No problem. Four quarters, two dimes, two nickels, six pennies and the car met the 5 oz. regulation. I named the car, “the Money Changer.” There was only one problem. I was running out of super-glue. The final three pennies only received a little dab. The number 36 was slapped on one of the coins and we were off.
 
To my surprise I came in 1st place the first two round. Then something happened. Two of my pennies flew off the car. The next round I came in 2nd. Another penny came off. I slid to 3rd place on the final round. The little pennies made a big difference. Thanks to the pit crew, the pennies were glued back on for the pastoral challenge. To my surprised, the car came in 1st for all of the rounds.
 
I learned two lessons. The first lesson - it's the little things that can make a big difference. You need to have the proper glue, the correct graphite, and the correct amount of weight placed in the right locations. The heavier weight in the rear section working gradually to lighter weights towards the front. In real life, it's the little things that make a big difference. Proper tire pressure, correct octane, and suitable oil that will make your vehicle operate correctly. Saying good morning when you arrive at work, writing a little note telling someone when they did a good job, calling your parents to say how much you appreciate them.Seems like a little thing, but it makes a big difference in the lives of others.
 
In the Bible there was an incident where a boy only had enough food to feed himself, but he shared the little he had. In the hands of God, it's the little things that count. “And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.” Mark 6:41-44   It’s the little things that make a big difference.
 
Second major lesson learned. It takes a team to make great things happen. If it weren’t for the pit crew, I would have been sidelined with my pine car out of commission. However, when people work together, great things can happen. When you look at the birth of the nation of Israel. It was a team that led them out of Egypt and towards the Promised Land. Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. When you look at the Gospel being preached to the world, it was a team of disciples that carried the message of Christ to the Greco-Roman world. “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease.” Matthew 10:1   It takes a team to make great things happen. At creation, there was a team. At the baptism of Jesus, there was a team. Even at the cross, there was a team. Teamwork makes great things happen.
 
How do these two lessons impact your walk with Christ? It's the little things that make a big difference. How is your study time? How is your devotional time? Just a few moments with Christ everyday makes a big difference. How is your church life? Are you involved in a ministry of the church? Jesus send out the disciples by two so that they can encourage each other and lift each other during the crisis moments. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Hebrews 10:25
 
As you walk with Jesus - just remember the simple lessons of the Pine derby. Here are some additional insights.
 
Never underrate the importance of little things. Little things supply the actual discipline of life. It is by them that the soul is trained that it may grow into the likeness of Christ, or bear the likeness of evil. God help us to cultivate habits of thought, word, look, and action that will testify to all about us that we have been with Jesus and learned of Him!” Child Guidance p.129
 
“The secret of our success in the work of God will be found in the harmonious working of our people. There must be concentrated action. Every member of the body of Christ must act his part in the cause of God, according to the ability that God has given him. We must press together against obstructions and difficulties, shoulder to shoulder, heart to heart. If Christians were to act in concert, moving forward as one, under the direction of one Power, for the accomplishment of one purpose, they would move the world.” Christian Service p.75
 
May God bless you today as you and Jesus walk together.
 

Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
Over my head
 
There I was shopping for a Wi-Fi range extender. I was reading the specs on each of the boxes as if I knew what it meant. On the section that was labeled “standards” it read (IEEE 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz and a/n/ac 5 GHz.). Well that was a tongue twister. Under the section “security” it read WPA/WPA2-PSK and WEP. I whispered to myself, that I am out of my league. So I chased down a floor manager and asked if she could help me understand what does these things mean. Well she gulped and declared, we can’t recommend a product, you need to make your own choice otherwise we will be pushing a specific product line and quickly walked away and vanished. I was left dumbfounded. She was just as confused as I was.
 
Finally I told myself, “breath and think”. Who in the church knows about these things and could help me? The light bulb in my mind turned on. I called Michael. I explained my dilemma. Quickly he asked for the various name brands on the shelves. He directed me to two over the phone. Asked for the info on the front of the box. Did a quick search to see how each of the products was rated. He finally led me to what I needed. At home, I passed the box to my son, and within minutes, the range extender was working like a purring kitten.
 
I was over my head and I knew it. However, I needed help, so I called a person who knows the field of technology. Have you ever been over your head? It can be in the area of finances, or home repairs. It can be in the area of medical issues or family matters. One thing is clear; there is some one who can help you in that time of need. I am sure that on your phone you have a list of people who are experts that you trust in their respective fields. The list can include construction firms, lawyers, seamstresses, medical doctors, computer tech’s, counselors, musicians, wedding planners, mechanics, and many others. We have our limitations. No one is able to be proficient in every profession of life. So we are interdependent on each other. Not everyone is a mechanic, not everyone is a medical doctor, and not everyone is an artist. We each have our gifts. The same is true with the church of God. “For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:4,5
 
One area of our church that I admire and appreciate is our music abilities. I will never be able to sing, or play instruments in the band. It would be over my head. However, I can appreciate, and enjoy the great gifts that God gives to His people. I love art and how people are able to bring life to a canvass. I will never be able to paint like Rembrandt, Michael-Angelo, or Picasso. However, I can look in awe like a child and praise God for the gifts that he gave to them. We worship a God that gives various talents and gifts to others Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. 1 Corinthians 12:4-6,18
 
There is one area that I clearly recognize that I am over my head. I have tried and tried over and over again and with each attempt made matters worst. I acknowledge that I need help. I have discovered One person who is an expert in the field that I have the greatest deficiency. All I need to do is pick up the phone and give Him a call. He has a 24 hour service, and can come immediately when called upon. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Acts 2:21 What is the Lord’s expertise? Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.” Ezekiel 36: 25-27
 
I have tried over and over again to cleanse my soul, but each time I have failed. The more effort I put into it, the worse the sin stains became. The worse the sin stain became, the worse I felt. I was a lost cause, and I knew I was over my head. Then I discovered that I could not cleanse the sin, only Jesus could. This new understanding changed everything in my life. I had to recognize that I was in over my head with the sin problem. So I called my best friend Jesus, and He came to my aid. I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalms 51:9,10 Once I understood that it was not about me, but about allowing Jesus to come into my life, and allowing Him to remove those sin stained areas of my life, I was no longer depressed, discouraged, and disheartened. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18
 
How are you today? Are you over your head with some aspects in your life? Let me share with you some words of encouragement. “Because man fallen could not overcome Satan with his human strength, Christ came from the royal courts of heaven to help him with His human and divine strength combined. Christ knew that Adam in Eden with his superior advantages might have withstood the temptations of Satan and conquered him. He also knew that it was not possible for man out of Eden, separated from the light and love of God since the fall, to resist the temptations of Satan in his own strength. In order to bring hope to man, and save him from complete ruin, He humbled Himself to take man’s nature, that with His divine power combined with the human He might reach man where he is. He obtained for the fallen sons and daughters of Adam that strength which it is impossible for them to gain for themselves, that in His name they might overcome the temptations of Satan.“ Confrontation p.45”
 
May God bless you as He cleanses your soul daily and you become free from the burdens of sin.

Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor

 

“But they shall not cleave one to another”
 
What happened in England recently is not new to the word of God. Time after time Europe has tried to unite as one cohesive power. Emperors, kings, tyrants, dictators, and even democracies have tried to unite Europe under one form of government or system. Each attempt has been unsuccessful. The most recent attempt is the Euro. From the start this endeavor was doomed to fail. The signs were there, however many refused to acknowledge the word of God. From the collapse of the Greek economy, to the Brexit (Britain Exit) referendum, all these were indicators that the word of God cannot be broken. “But they shall not cleave one to another” Daniel 2:43
 
Years ago I was asked the question by some of the members in the congregation. “It appears that Europe will unite as one”. I mentioned to the members that this European venture would not last. Why can I speak with certain expediency? Because God Himself foretold what would happen to Europe. The Bible is clear, there is no deviation, there is no misinterpretation, and there is no misunderstanding. In the prophecies found in the book of Daniel, the king of Babylon had a dream. No one could give its interpretation. However, God revealed to Daniel what the dream was about. “As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass.” Daniel 2:29
 
God gave a dream to the king of Babylon what would happen throughout the ages. Daniel would explain the meaning beginning with the golden head, to the feet and toes of the statue made of iron and clay. In the explanation of what would happen with the nations of Europe, Daniel is told that Europe will never unite again as one super power. “And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, forasmuch as thou sawest the iron mixed with miry clay. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.” Daniel 2:41-43
 
How certain is the dream? How certain is the explanation for Europe in the last generation? “…the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.” Daniel 2:45 At times it appears that God has forgotten His own prophecies about the nations of Europe. Many have tried to unite Europe through the ages, in the end all failed. Why? Because God said that all efforts will fail.
 
Too often, many forget the words of God. Too often many forget that this world will eventually come to end. Too often many exclaims the very same words found in Epistle of Peter “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness,” 2Peter 3:3,4, 8-11 
 
 
What happened in Europe is a simple reminder of three things. First, the word of God will always stand the test of time. Second, we are living in the final chapter of earth’s history, as we know it. Third, Christ is coming again to reclaim planet earth. And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.” Daniel 2:44
 
How are you today? Do you stand firm with the word of God as the inspired truth for humanity? Or do you question the Bible because you lack clear understanding? The word is clear,  Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” Matthew 24:35   Here are some further words of encouragement.
 
“We must cherish and cultivate the faith of which prophets and apostles have testified-the faith that lays hold on the promises of God and waits for deliverance in His appointed time and way. The sure word of prophecy will meet its final fulfillment in the glorious advent of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as King of kings and Lord of lords.... With the prophet who endeavored to encourage Judah in a time of unparalleled apostasy, let us confidently declare, ‘The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him.’ Let us ever hold in remembrance the cheering message, ‘The vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come’.” Conflict and Courage p.242
 

Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
The Wheel bug
 
I was sitting in my truck when a supersized bug landed on my windshield. Upon investigation, I discovered that the bug is called a wheel bug. These bugs can grow up to 3 inches in length. The wheel bug is part of a group of bugs classified as assassin bugs. These huge bugs eat bees, flies, caterpillars and any other bug that it deems as edible. The method used to entrap their victims is by injecting a paralyzing toxin.  Within seconds the poor critters are paralyzed and become part of the cycle of insect life.
 
During the mating season in autumn, the female will lay between 40 to 200 eggs on tree twigs. The eggs will hatch in the spring. These bugs are considered the lions of the assassin bug species, which has over 150 kinds. The wheel bugs give a chirping sound by rubbing the tip of their rostrum back. Their bite is stronger than that of any bee, wasp, or hornet. Very often when bitten, the person will experience extreme pain for days; follow by numbness in the affected area. It takes almost two weeks for the affected area to normalize. Finally, the wheel bugs like to inhabit active gardens. They are natural pesticides. They keep the insect and bug population in check when producing a garden.
 
What can we learn from this bug? First, observation is its nature. The wheel bug is predatory. It takes what it wants, it eats when it wants, and it moves where it pleases. Sound like humanity today. The wheel bug is an opportunist. Today, because of sin, we have a lot in common with the wheel bug. Humanity loves to eat, drink, and live a life of sin. Many of our youth and adults don’t like to be told what to do and how to live their life. The Bible describes is this way. “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.” Matthew 24:36-39
 
There is a price to pay for this vulturine life style. Because of the bugs diet, and predatory lifestyle, the wheel bug usually lives for only one year. They are the lions of the bug species. For example, an African lion lives 14-18 years in the wild. However, when placed in a preserve, or a zoo, the lions can live from 25 to 30 years. Why? Their life style changes dramatically. The same occurs with us today. Our life style has an impact on physical as well as our mental health.
 
Second observation is that the water bug eventually is accountable for its actions. This vulturine way of life causes the wheel bug to have many battles not only with its victims, but also with other assassin bugs. We are told as Christians that our behavior will have consequences. Jesus states in Matthew 12:36 “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment.” Paul in his letter to Rome describes the judgment this way. “But why dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” Romans 14:10 Whether we like It or not, our actions, our life style, our behavior in this life will one day come before the creator of the universe for judgment.
 
Third observation is that the wheel bug can be used for good, and for a productive life. Gardeners are faced with many types of bugs that hurt their garden and crops. One approach is to use pesticides to control the bug population, which also adds chemicals that are harmful to the human body. Another approach is to use natural remedies like the wheel bug. In so doing, the garden is spared from toxic chemicals to eradicate the pests. The Bible says “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
 
In this life, we have a predatory nature. We are destructive if left to our own devices. The Bible describes, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? then may ye also do good, that are accustomed to do evil.” Jeremiah 13:23 Paul in the New Testament describes our nature this way.  O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? Romans 7:24 Can we be delivered from our destructive nature? Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17  
 
The beauty of the Gospel is that we come to Jesus as sinners; we come to the Creator as selfish and opportunistic. But when we do, we become converted. He changes our nature into one that is different. We are transformed by the power of His blood. The vulturine nature becomes one of love, kindness, and seeking to help others. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;” Titus 3:3-6
 
How are you today? Are you like the wheel bug? Self-centered, and self-seeking? We have a Savior who has the power to change us, to transform us, and to recreate us. The choice is yours. Here are some insights.
 
“God has given us the power of choice; it is ours to exercise. We cannot change our hearts, we cannot control our thoughts, our impulses, our affections. We cannot make ourselves pure, fit for God’s service. But we can choose to serve God, we can give Him our will; then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ.” The Ministry of Healing p.176  
 
“Bread supplies the need of our nature; we know by experience that it produces blood, bone, and brain. Apply the same test to the Bible; when its principles have actually become the elements of character, what has been the result? what changes have been made in the life? ‘old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.’ In its power men and women have broken the chains of sinful habit. They have renounced selfishness. The profane have become reverent, the drunken sober, the profligate pure. Souls that have borne the likeness of Satan have been transformed into the image of God. The change is itself the miracle of miracles. A change wrought by the Word, it is one of the deepest mysteries of the Word. We cannot understand it; we can only believe, that, as declared by the Scriptures, it is ‘Christ in you, the hope of glory.’ A Knowledge of this mystery furnishes a key to every other. It opens to the soul the treasures of the universe, the possibilities of infinite development.” My life today p.26 
 


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
Scars
 
I was driving around the neighborhood to see how our neighbors were fairing after the recent floods. The clean up has begun, but as I spoke to some of my neighbors, I realized that they have scars over the ordeal. Some have financial scars due to the loss of their cars. They will never recoup what they lost. Some have memorabilia scars. Pictures of family, items given as a present, and favorite clothes were all lost. These are lost and never will be replaced. Some have pet scars. Some of their favorite animals perished in the flood. Others have medical scars, injuries that occurred while trying to evacuate as the banks of the bayou were inundated with the waters. Still others have psychological scars, as they remember the fear and the panic that over took them as they scrambled to leave their homes.
 
In life we have scars that are seen and some that are unseen. I have medical scars from various injuries and operations. My cousins have battle scars from the war and different engagements with the enemy as they fought for our country. Others have relational scars from broken marriages and broken homes. Some of my high school friends have scars that they carry from bullies who frightened them many years ago. Scars are real whether they are seen or unseen. Today, we have one who will carry His physical scars for all eternity. “But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said unto him, we have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.” John 20:24-28
 
Jesus will carry the scars of the cross for all eternity. Why? As a reminder of the cost that was paid on the cross for our redemption. We are told that in heaven Jesus will remove our scars received on this earth and give us a new life, a new start, and a new beginning. “And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” Revelation 21:3-5
 
What about you today, do you have scars? Scars that are seen or unseen? One only needs to look at the Bible to see how Jesus deals with scars. David and Bathsheba are a timeless case. Their reputations, their sin became a public scandal. Yet, the next king of Israel came thru the line of Bathsheba. Look at Mary Magdalene. Her life brought shame to the family. How did Jesus treat this woman with emotional scars? He not only forgave her, but He gave her a new beginning. Moses took it upon himself to be the deliverer of Israel, that didn’t go so well. He was in seclusion for over 40 years as a result of his behavior. Did God remove the scars? Moses became not only the deliverer, but he was the only person in history who was able to walk upon the mountain and be close to God. The Bible is filled with people who have scars. Yet, Christ healed those deep scars. Jesus is in the healing business. He understands our plight. He understands our pain. He understands our difficulties. He lives today among us. As we look at our scars let us remember the greatest scar that humanity will ever behold. The scars on the hands, on the feet, and on the side of Jesus. Those are His battle scars of encouragement for us today. That through Jesus, He takes our scars, and provides the healing balm for our soul.
 
Here are some words of reassurance. We are pilgrims and strangers in this world; but we are traveling to a heavenly country. We shall meet with disappointments; but it is our privilege to turn every apparent defeat into a victory. Satan will contend for our souls every step of the way; but if we look over to Jesus, our present help in every time of need, he will lift up for us a standard against the enemy. Instead of complaining at every difficulty, we are to fight the good fight of faith, enduring hardness as good soldiers of the cross of Christ. The wounds and scars of our warfare will be to us, as to Paul, the trophies of victory“ HS 130.4
 
God’s workers must gain a far deeper experience. If they will surrender all to Him, He will work mightily for them. They will plant the standard of truth upon fortresses till then held by Satan, and with shouts of victory take possession of them. They bear the scars of battle, but there comes to them the comforting message that the Lord will lead them on, conquering and to conquer.“ CM 155.1 
 


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
The Clean up
 
The Houston area was inundated with floodwaters. But, the clouds rolled back and the sun finally began to shine. The water level slowly diminished and the streets became accessible. Then the clean up began. All damaged walls were cut open to expose the dark crevices. Tainted insulation was removed. Marred furniture was removed. All that was damaged, all that was tainted, and all areas that developed black mold were carried outside to be discarded. The pain staking clean up began.
 
I was reminded of several things. First, we carry a lot of baggage. I saw many different damaged items cast into the dumpster. Some items appeared to be not used or touched in years. Second, if these water-infested items were not removed, the infestation would impact the rest of the house. Third, it takes time to do a proper cleanup. Each item needs to be inspected, each item needs to be either kept or cast into the dumpster. If you rush the process you can miss items that need to be cast aside or items that need to be kept. Finally, to repair the home, you can either go cheap or do the repair correctly with quality replacement items.
 
I am reminded of how we as Christians often carry lots of baggage on our journey. Like in the story of Pilgrim’s progress, only when the baggage was released, did the pilgrim finally discover joy and peace. Do we carry baggage today? Does our past weigh us down because we don’t know how to leave the baggage behind? We carry our past, our burdens, our afflictions, when Christ has made it clear what needs to happen. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
 
Second, the damaged items need to be removed. Only the Holy Spirit can do this removal and cleansing process. Very often as Christians, we appoint ourselves as the cleansing agent. We choose which items need to be removed and which need to be cast out. In the end, we do a terrible job. Often we hold unto that which needs to be removed, and cast aside that which we need to hold unto. Let Christ be in charge of the cleanup crew. He knows what needs to happen so that He can rebuild us into His image. “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18
 
Third, the cleanup process takes time. When we rush the process, we miss out on many things. Cleansing takes time. I have had stains on my shirt. If you rush the removal of the stain process, you rub the stain on to other parts of the shirt and make the matter worse. However, when you take your time, and clean the affected area, the shirt becomes clean and like new. In the spiritual realm, the Bible points out our sins, and we give our lives over to Jesus. He takes our lives, and cleanses us from our sins thru His blood. That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:26,27
 
Fourth, the replacement process has a cost. Very often as Christians, I often hear how salvation is free. However, there was a cost for our salvation. Jesus paid the price. Because of His death, He purchased our freedom. He paid the ultimate price through the cross. He didn’t cut corners or take the cheap way out to restore us. He didn’t go with the inferior replacement value. In the eyes of Jesus, we are special and worth every drop of blood in order to save us. The word of God is clear. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:” Ephesians 2:8
 
How is the cleanup process in your life? Only One can restore us. Only One can refashion us. Only One. Here are further insights "The work of Christ in cleansing the leper from his terrible disease is an illustration of His work in cleansing the soul from sin. The man who came to Jesus was ‘full of leprosy.’ Its deadly poison permeated his whole body. The disciples sought to prevent their Master from touching him; for he who touched a leper became himself unclean. But in laying His hand upon the leper, Jesus received no defilement. His touch imparted life-giving power. The leprosy was cleansed. Thus it is with the leprosy of sin,” deep-rooted, deadly, and impossible to be cleansed by human power. ‘The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.’ Isaiah 1:5,6. But Jesus, coming to dwell in humanity, receives no pollution. His presence has healing virtue for the sinner. Whoever will fall at His feet, saying in faith, ‘Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,’ shall hear the answer, ‘I will; be thou made clean’. Matthew 8:2,3” Desire of Ages p.266 
 
“The Lord would have all His sons and daughters happy, peaceful, and obedient. Through the exercise of faith the believer comes into possession of these blessings. Through faith, every deficiency of character may be supplied, every defilement cleansed, every fault corrected, every excellence developed.” Acts of the Apostles p.563 
 


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 
The Island
The Island
 
The rain came down and the waters came up. The Houston area experienced what is called a “500 year flood”. I watched thru the windows to determine if the water was going to reach our home. The first day of the storm resulted in the water cresting around a foot from our front door. Our family thanked the Lord for His goodness. Our boys grabbed the kayaks and canoe to helped the neighbors evacuate from their homes. Throughout the day and night, the water level dropped 10 inches. We thought the worse was over. However, the director from Lake Conroe decided to open the spillways, which were north of us. The next day the water level rose 14 inches in a matter of only a few hours. The only thing we could do was to pray. The water surrounded us completely and our home became an island in the midst of the storm.
 
Once again we prayed that God would protect our home. That day, the water crested less than half an inch from the lip of the front door. Our family prayed for the neighbors and that God would take away the water quickly and protect our home. “Just take away the water quickly Lord!” We prayed. That night, the waters dropped 18 inches.
 
More storms came, more rain came and we held on to the promises of the Lord. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves. The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.” Psalms 93:3,4 “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing: I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me.” Psalms 69:1,2Despite the rain, and the predictions that things were going to get worse, the water level just kept going down. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it: if a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would utterly be contemned.” Song of Solomon 8:7. God in His merciful love spared our home. The waters had surrounded our Island, and did not go any further.
 
Have you ever been surrounded by the circumstances of life? Have you ever felt that you were in over your head? Have you ever felt that you were drowning in the turmoil of life? I want you to know that we worship an awesome God. Why He spared our home, is not for me to question, but one thing I know, that when we cry out to Him in the midst of the storm, He listens and cares. The disciples were in the midst of major storm. Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat. The disciples were paddling to get to safety. Finally after all their efforts, they went to Jesus for a solution to escape the storm. “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:37-41
 
I want you to know that we have a Jesus that can calm the storms of your life. We need to trust Him, we need to claim His promises, we need to come to the One that by the utterance of one statement “Peace be still” the storms of your life will be rebuked and peace will enter your soul. Here are some words of encouragement.  “How many, in the trying scenes of life, amid perplexities and danger, fight against the storms of adversity alone, forgetting that there is One who can help them. They trust in their own strength and skill, till, baffled and discouraged, they remember Jesus, and humbly call upon him to save them. Though he sorrowfully reproves their unbelief and self-confidence, he never fails to hear their earnest cry, and give them the help they need“ 2SP 309.2 “Not a sigh is breathed, not a pain felt, not a grief pierces the soul, but the throb vibrates to the Father’s heart.... God is bending from His throne to hear the cry of the oppressed. To every sincere prayer He answers, ‘Here am I.’ He uplifts the distressed and downtrodden. In all our afflictions He is afflicted. In every temptation and every trial the Angel of His presence is near to deliver.” The Desire of Ages, 356   
 


Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
Multiplying your Talents
 
Finally our church renovation is over. After weeks of the members dedicating their time, talents, and tender for the Lord, the reconstruction phase of our entire church are finished. We had what is called the “500 year” flood. Our church is now a statistic of that event. Our members came together as the body of Christ to tear the rugs off the floor, cut holes into the sheet rock, removed insulation. Throwaway massive amount of water damaged items.   Once the building was clear and dry, we began the slow process of rebuilding.
 
During this phase, I learned that our members had many talents. From sheet rocking, to properly installing insulation. From painting, to how to arrange décor. I learned not only the talents that our members have, but also how to perform some of these same talents. I no longer paint the same; in fact, I no longer tape when painting the edges. The members taught me the art of professional painting. Even when installing sheetrock, I learned new ways.  I also learn the art of taping and mudding. I even learn new ways to decorate an office using the patterns from the rugs and existing décor.
 
In order to learn these new talents, I needed to take the time, ask questions why they did certain things a certain way. It was an incredible learning experience for me. Our church looks fantastic. Our members are wonderful, and the depressing experience of being flooded turned into one of appreciation for what God has given to our church.
 
Have you ever wanted to learn how to play the violin? Have you ever wanted to learn how to paint pictures? Have you ever wanted to learn how to decorate, or cook, or even learn the art of landscaping? The Bible tells us. “For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.” Matthew 25:14-18  
 
God has given us all abilities, talents and gifts. The question that I have for us today, is simple, Are you using the talents that God has given you first? In order to acquire more talents, we must first use what God has given us. To often, Christians hide their talents like the man who digged his talent in a hole. You might only have one talent, but it can be a great talent for the Lord. First we must appreciate what God has given us, before we can acquire new ones. I once didn’t like making flies for salmon fishing. It took too much time. I just wanted to fish. But then my fishing buddy encouraged me by telling me that you don’t understand how fulfilling it is to make your own flies, and catch a big salmon with what you made from your hands. I tried it once. I learned from my friends, then from YouTube. He was right. Now I make flies for not only salmon fishing, but for many types of pan fish.
 
My members have taught me new talents. I have learned that many of the great writers of today started in their 50’s and 60’s. Some of the most innovative architects and astrophysicists started in their late 40’s. Some of the great biophysicists started in their late 30’s. Some of the great software architects started in their 20’s and earliteens. Some of the great musicians started in their childhood.  There is no time frame for learning a new skill. Here are some words of encouragement. “Talents used are talents multiplied. Success is not the result of chance or of destiny; it is the outworking of God’s own providence, the reward of faith and discretion, of virtue and persevering effort. The Lord desires us to use every gift we have; and if we do this, we shall have greater gifts to use. He does not supernaturally endow us with the qualifications we lack; but while we use that which we have, He will work with us to increase and strengthen every faculty. By every wholehearted, earnest sacrifice for the Master’s service our powers will increase. While we yield ourselves as instruments for the Holy Spirit’s working, the grace of God works in us to deny old inclinations, to overcome powerful propensities, and to form new habits. As we cherish and obey the promptings of the Spirit, our hearts are enlarged to receive more and more of His power, and to do more and better work. Dormant energies are aroused, and palsied faculties receive new life. “ Christ Object Lesson p.353
 
Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 
 
 
Flashbacks
 
Have you ever had a flashback experience?   While visiting my in-laws in Vermont a young man was driving fast on a side road during a snowstorm. He put on the brakes but the vehicle did not stop, it kept on sliding, slithering, and skidding right thru the stop sign and right into the passenger’s side of my car. To this day, whenever I see someone coming from my right at a stop sign I hesitate driving thru because of what happened. I get flashbacks.
 
Just recently we had a massive flood in our area of Texas. Homes were damaged, cars were swept away, animals were drowned, and people lost their lives. I thought the nightmare of that experience was washed away into my memories, until the thunder began to clap and the lightning flashed thru the skies. The rain came rushing down like the sheets of water coming down Niagara Falls. The sewer caps began to rise up into the air as the water pressure increased from the rushing waters underneath. The creeks became rivers and the banks overflowed. The waters began crossing over the bridges once again. “Oh no Lord! I thought the last flood was called the 500 year flood!” I exclaimed to the Lord. My heart was trembling as I drove my truck creating a water spray that went 15 feet into the air. Just then I had another flashback.
 
The mind is incredible, it has the capacity to remember, restore, and relive events that occurred in the past. These occurrences are vivid. These recollections have a powerful emotional component that is real. Flashbacks can be so factual, that it has caused people to blackout from shock as they relive their past experience. Since these recollections can be impactful, the enemy has used his power of persuasion to impact the minds of Christians to remember their past sins and the experience of guilt, embarrassment, and disgrace.
 
Some Christians feel so worthless, that they go into depression because of their past. They forget that Christ has not only forgiven their past but has guaranteed a future for those who have given their lives to Christ. The Bible is clear, “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house.” Matthew 9:6,7   The Jewish leaders did not believe that Christ had the power to pardon, redeem, and restore. So Jesus ties the miracle to forgiveness. In the time of Christ, it was thought that people that were ill due to the direct result of unconfessed sins. Jesus then heals the man as a proof that the man is also forgiven.
 
All throughout the Bible, God clearly explains His plan of salvation. “Behold, for peace I had great bitterness: but thou hast in love to my soul delivered it from the pit of corruption: for thou hast cast all my sins behind thy back.” Isaiah 38:17 “He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:19 Flashbacks will occur throughout our lives. When it happens, let us remember that God has forgiven us. He is transforming us; He has cast those sins behind His back into the depths of the sea. 
 
Here are some further insights “You cannot atone for your past sins; you cannot change your heart and make yourself holy. But God promises to do all this for you through Christ. You believe that promise. You confess your sins and give yourself to God. You will to serve Him. Just as surely as you do this, God will fulfill His word to you. If you believe the promise, ‘believe that you are forgiven and cleansed,’ God supplies the fact; you are made whole, just as Christ gave the paralytic power to walk when the man believed that he was healed. It is so if you believe it. Do not wait to feel that you are made whole, but say, ‘I believe it; it is so, not because I feel it, but because God has promised’.” A Call to Stand Apart p. 30
 
“Jesus sees the guilt of the past, and speaks pardon, and we must not dishonor Him by doubting His love. This feeling of guiltiness must be laid at the foot of the cross of Calvary. The sense of sinfulness has poisoned the springs of life and of true happiness. Now Jesus says, ‘Lay it all on Me’. I will take your sins; I will give you peace. Banish no longer your self-respect, for I have bought you with the price of My own blood. You are Mine. Your weakened will I will strengthen; your remorse for sin I will remove. Then turn your grateful heart, trembling with uncertainty, to Him and lay hold on the hope set before you. God accepts your broken, contrite heart, and extends to you free pardon. He offers to adopt you into His family, with His grace to help your weakness, and the dear Saviour will lead you on step by step, you placing your hand in His and letting Him guide you.” Our Father Cares p133
 
“When we repent of our past transgressions of His law, and resolve to render obedience in the future, we should believe that God for Christ’s sake accepts us, and forgives our sins. Darkness and discouragement will sometimes come upon the soul and threaten to overwhelm us, but we should not cast away our confidence. We must keep the eye fixed on Jesus, feeling or no feeling. We should seek to faithfully perform every known duty, and then calmly rest in the promises of God.“ The Sanctified Life p. 89 
 
 
Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
 
The Iron Clad Beetle
 
While attending an Adventurer camporee, I spotted an insect that I have never seen before in my life. After many web searches at various sights, finally I discovered what type of beetle it was. Even then, most of the sights had little to say on the beetle. The beetle is called the Iron Clad beetle. They are black and white and love to eat fungi that grow on decaying wood. These beetles have a hard armor that is part of their exoskeleton, which makes it difficult to penetrate. Well I discovered that when they are disturbed they play dead. The legs fold in like a turtle and don’t move until they feel the area is safe again. The camouflage of the beetle is intriguing. When you first observe the beetle, it looks like bird dropping, so as a result many birds or beetle eating species leave this beetle alone. The beetle lives in the lower part of Texas and the Northern part of Mexico. Besides this, that is all the information that I could find on the beetle.
 
What can we learn from the Iron Clad Beetle? The first lesson that I can learn from the beetle is that it stands always in its armor. I am reminded in the Bible that as Christians we need to Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Ephesian 6:11-13 The battle is not ours. We didn’t start the war, however Jesus gives us the armor to fight the battle with Him.
 
The second lesson that we learn from the Iron Clad beetle is how to fight. When attacked the beetle takes its stand. The beetle allows itself to be bombarded but doesn’t move. It holds its ground. It has its armor on. In the end, it is left alone. Our normal reaction is to go on the offensive and attack, but the beetle takes a stand and relies on the armor that God has given it. I am reminded of a text in the Bible that goes against our nature, however this is the example that Christ Himself followed. Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” Matthew 5:38-44  
 
This is a tough lesson to follow. It goes against our instincts. However, it is clear that whatever happens to us, we are never to forget that we are Christians. We should not allow the circumstances that come our way to affect us, but just the opposite, we smile, we return kindness for hatred, we hold on to Christ, who has given us the armor to stand firm.
 
Being a Christian is not easy. The enemy of Christ bombards us because of who we are. Others also bombard us for many reasons. Despite the shelling, despite the onslaught, despite the assault that comes our way, we are never to forget this valuable lesson. We love the Lord, we will follow His example, and in the end, we will follow the banner of Christ to victory.
 
Here are some insights: With sadness Jesus looks into the upturned faces before Him. He notes the spirit of revenge that has stamped its evil imprint upon them, and knows how bitterly the people long for power to crush their oppressors. Mournfully He bids them, ‘Resist not him that is evil: but whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.’ These words were but a reiteration of the teaching of the Old Testament. It is true that the rule, ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth’ (Leviticus 24:20), was a provision in the laws given through Moses; but it was a civil statute. None were justified in avenging themselves, for they had the words of the Lord: ‘Say not thou, I will recompense evil.Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me.’ ‘Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth.’ ‘If he that hateth thee be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink.’ Proverbs 20:22; 24:29, 17; Proverbs 25:21, 22 . The whole earthly life of Jesus was a manifestation of this principle. It was to bring the bread of life to His enemies that our Saviour left His home in heaven. Though calumny and persecution were heaped upon Him from the cradle to the grave, they called forth from Him only the expression of forgiving love. Through the prophet Isaiah He says, ‘I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not My face from shame and spitting.’He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth.’ Isaiah 50:6; 53:7.” MB 70-71
 
“And from the cross of Calvary there come down through the ages His prayer for His murderers and the message of hope to the dying thief.   The Father’s presence encircled Christ, and nothing befell Him but that which infinite love permitted for the blessing of the world. Here was His source of comfort, and it is for us. He who is imbued with the Spirit of Christ abides in Christ. The blow that is aimed at him falls upon the Saviour, who surrounds him with His presence. Whatever comes to him comes from Christ. He has no need to resist evil, for Christ is his defense. Nothing can touch him except by our Lord’s permission, and ‘all things that are permitted ‘work together for good to them that love God.’ Romans 8:28.” MB 71
 

Dr. Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor
Fire Ants
 
I have watched how God has placed in animals and insects the gift of protecting their young ones. I call it motherly instincts. During the April 18, 2016 flood in Houston, I noticed that there were patches of insects floating on the water. At first I didn’t understand until I took a picture. The ants interlocked themselves into one unit. The ants on the bottom sacrificed themselves so that the ones above them would survive. Then I noticed something incredible. Many ants were carrying the eggs of their unborn. Others were taking water from the flotilla that was created and pushing the water bubbles over the side. Others were interlocking into a second layer and creating a higher mound for their queen, and the other eggs.   The work was constant and moving.
 
My neighbor saw that I was taking pictures of the phenomenon, and shouted that I should avoid the fire ants, for they will climb on you and sting you. Later I decided to investigate these creatures. I discovered that these fire ants can sting you, and the sting is very painful and feels like small fires on your skin. In fact, small animals die from the army of stings that these fire ants inflict when an animal approaches their nest. Another discovery is that the queen can live up to seven years, and produce up to 1,600 eggs in one day.
 
The Bible talks about the ant and how they work in unison. “There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their meat in the summer;” Proverbs 30:24,25  
 
Imagine a church that is as wise as the ants? I have learned four lessons from these fire ants. First, they are willing to sacrifice for their children. Paul in his letter to the Christians in Rome writes. “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1 They protected their eggs at the cost of their lives. We as Christians need to learn what it means to sacrifice in a world that is self- centered, where many have a sense of entitlement. To sacrifice is to put all on the line for our General, our Savior, and our Redeemer.
 
Second, they work as an army. An army works as one unit to achieve one goal. An army can build roads, bridges, in record time. An army well trained can safeguard and deliver their people even though they might be out numbered. The Bible tells us that God’s angels work in unison as an army to protect, provide, and promote the Gospel of Jesus. King Nebuchadnezzar when converted describes God this way. “And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?” Daniel 4:35 If the fire ants had worked independently from each other, the colony would have perished. But because they worked as one team, they were able to survive the storm that would have destroyed them.
 
Third, they fulfilled their individual role and task that was assigned to them. Each ant had a specific role to fulfill. When a team works together, their individuality is not destroyed. In fact, each is dependent on each other in order to survive. The soldier, the worker, and the queen ant have their individual tasks to perform. We each have individual gifts and talents that are to be used for the glory of the church community. Paul in his letter describes it this way. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will. But now are they many members, yet but one body.” Romans 12:4-6, 11, 20
 
Finally, there is structure to their lives. The soldier ant is the largest in size. Their goal is to protect the colony. They walk the perimeter of the colony and the moment their border is compromised, they spring into action. The worker ants are able to carry heavy loads for their size. They hunt for food and take care of the eggs. The queen ant produces eggs for the survival of the colony. There exists in the colony a structure so that every ant not only functions, but also has a place in the society of the colony. Imagine if all the ants were queens? The colony would have drowned that day. Imagine if all the ants were soldiers? The colony would not have a future existence for the queen would have perished. Imagine if the colony would have been all workers. They would have protected the eggs, but within time they would have lost their purpose without the queen. Each is dependent on the other because they have a structure, an organization. The Bible explains that the church is the body of Christ, and that body has an ordained structure so that the Gospel can be proclaimed to the world. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues. Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret? Romans 12:27-30
 
We can learn from the fire ant. A united church for Christ can perform wonders for His glory. A divided church will quickly cease to exist. We are an army of Christians. Does the church have a clear objective as to why we exist? "The final objective of all efforts of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is that of preaching the gospel and preparing men and women to meet the Lord." {4BIO 427.1}
 
Solomon wrote about the ant, and mentioned that they are “exceeding wise”. God has provided to us from nature lessons that we can apply to our lives. Here are some additional insights. “We are not merely to tell our children about these creatures of God, the animals themselves are to be their teachers. Ants teach lessons of patient industry, of perseverance in surmounting obstacles, of providence for the future. Birds teach the lesson of trust. Our heavenly Father provides for them, but they must gather food, build nests, and rear their young. Every moment enemies seek to destroy them, yet they go about their work cheerily! Their little songs are full of joy!” TEd 70.6
 
“The habitations which the ants build for themselves, show skill and perseverance. Only one little grain at a time can they handle, but by diligence and perseverance they accomplish wonders. Solomon presents to the world the industry of the ant as a reproach to those who waste their hours in sinful idleness, in practices which corrupt soul and body. The ant prepares for future seasons. This is a lesson which many gifted with reasoning powers disregard.” 13MR 336.2
 

   Angel J. Rodriguez, D.Min
 Houston Central - Senior Pastor

Week meditation...

j "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

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