I love VBS! I love seeing the kids doing fun stuff and learning good stuff in the process. This past Monday I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Rhonda Mitchell over at the “Imagination Station” explain to the kids how the body works and how we are “wonderfully complex” (a reference to Psalm 139.14). And then she had them stuff a cloth “G.U.T.S.Y. Bear” (God’s Unique, Talented, Special You!) with fiber stuffing, a paper heart, and a string for guts. The kids then drew faces on their bears and glued googly eyes on them. One creative young man, Logan Gamache, decided to make a frog instead of a bear by gluing the eyes where the ears where. At his age I was prone to doing the same sorts of things. Yes, this young fellow will go far!

Speaking of googly eyes, here’s what happens when a creative young Bulgarian man, Vanyu Krastev, has too much time on his hands and too many googly eyes in his pockets: 

 

 But I digress…

This past Sunday after Chris and Kay Lynn announced VBS, I stated that when I was a kid all we had was catechism. But that’s fun, too, isn’t it? Let’s see…here’s the first Q&A of the Heidelberg Catechism (written in 1563 and still in use today in some Presbyterian and Reformed churches):

  1. How do you come to know your misery? A. The law of God tells me. (Romans 3.20 & 7.7-25)

What?” you say, “it’s more fun for kids to learn about how they are wonderfully complexby way of stuffing a cloth bear as opposed to memorizing how youcome to know your misery’?” That’s fun, too, isn’t it?

OK, OK…we’ll leave well enough alone—for now.

And thank you so much, Chris, Kay Lynn, and everyone else who helped teach kids, feed kids, corral kids, get kids wet, and otherwise help out with VBS.

 

April 2, 2017

As I prepare for my message this Sunday, titled, “Jesus and Demonic Possession,” it occurred to me how little personal experience I have with this subject.  I myself have never been possessed by an evil spirit (acted like it at times), nor has anyone in my immediate or extended family (when my kids were two I wondered about them), nor for that matter have I’ve ever seen anyone act anything like the stories of demon-possessed people in Scripture.  Not even when I lived in Cuba, where some folks practiced Santeria (an unholy mixture of African animism and “Christianity”) did I experience anything like that. 

I have, however, studied the subject over the years, both out of morbid curiosity and academic interest (is there a difference?), even as far back as my high school days in the 60’s.  You see, I was educated by Jesuits, an order of the Roman Catholic Church which to this day regularly practices exorcisms.  I vividly remember listening to my public speaking teacher simultaneously scare and entertain us with stories of demon-possessed people and exorcism rites when he was a missionary in India.  And of course, listening to him meant we had less school work to do. 

Speaking of Jesuits, Pope Francis, a Jesuit himself, advises priests to refer people to exorcists if they suspect demonic activity is at work in any of their parishioners.  But he cautions that they should first be examined by medical professionals to ensure that they receive the medical attention they need should their ailment be of a psychiatric nature rather than a spiritual malady.  In spite of some significant differences in the way Pope Francis and I see things, I must admit that there’s some wisdom to be found here.

I also find that some people are either overwhelmed with thoughts about demons, as though they were evil spiritual gnats incessantly swirling around their heads, 24/7.  Alternatively, others completely ignore the otherworldly rascals as though they did not exist at all.  Both are wrong, and by not knowing the truth both open themselves to Satan’s lies and influence. 

This reminds me of something I read a while back in the preface to C.S. Lewis’ satirical/apologetic novel, The Screwtape Letters,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight.”

I wholeheartedly agree.  And I find that the best antidote to Satan’s influences on me, which is to say, tempting me to sin and trying to get me to believe his lies, is prayer coupled with reading, studying, meditating, and believing God’s word.  God’s word is the absolute truth, and knowing and believing His word is the highway to freedom (John 8.31-32). 

Speaking of God’s word and the truth…  I am taking my message for this Sunday from the story of the Gerasene Demoniac in Mark 5.1-20.  I like this story because it illustrates God’s grace and mercy poured out on a poor helpless victim, one who was delivered from the worst form of the devil’s influence—demonic possession.  And once delivered he traveled throughout ten cities in the region where he lived filled with joy and telling everyone he ran into about all the good that God did for him.  Talk about a happy ending!

 

 

 

March 26, 2017

Just over three years ago, February 2, 2014, to be exact, I started teaching a series at Rio West which I titled, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, According to Mark.”  The title for this series was taken from Mark 1.1 which reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”  I picked the gospel of Mark because it’s concise, and I determined that it was important to teach through the life of Jesus.  He is, after all, “the founder and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12.2).  Made sense to me!

Well, I got as far as chapter 6, vv. 30-44 , on October 11, 2015—and then the merger thing got started, we got busy, and “Mark” became another name on our phone list—make that several names.  FWIW, that last message I taught on Mark is the story of Jesus miraculously feeding the five thousand—with only five loaves and two fishes—a miracle of Biblical proportions (duh)!  Now, 21st century medical science has been able to replicate some medical miracles, albeit nowhere near as effective or efficient as how Jesus healed the sick.  But replicating food is something we can’t do.  Not yet, at any rate.  But there’s good news!  In the 23rd century humanity—or humanoid-anity—will have invented the food replicator.  Don’t believe me?  Then check this out:

.  See, I told you so!  Until then we’ll just have to work overtime to afford an extra bag or two of groceries.

But I digress…  Over the next three Sundays Pastor Dan and I will be teaching from Mark’s Gospel.  The three messages are:

  1. Sunday, March 26:  Jesus and the Unpardonable Sin – Mark 3.22-30,
  2. Sunday, April 2:  Jesus and Demonic Possession – Mark 5.1-20, and
  3. Sunday, April 9:  Jesus and His House – Mark 11.15-19.

I will be teaching the first two and Pastor Dan will teach the third one.  After that comes Easter!  Pastor Dan and I will be co-teaching on Easter Sunday.

Well, I suppose I should say something about my message for this Sunday, “Jesus and the Unpardonable Sin,” from Mark 3.22-30, before I sign off.  Are you ready?  Got a pencil and notepad ready (electronic or caveman-style)?  OK, here it goes… 

If you’re concerned about having committed the “unpardonable sin” then you haven’t done it!

That’s it.  That’s my message for this Sunday.  Now that you’ve read it here you can relax and take this Sunday off and pig out on pancakes.  But not donuts.  Eating donuts is the unpardonable sin!

Seriously, I’ll have much more to say on this subject—and grace, and faith, and discipleship—this Sunday, which I pray will be a means of grace to you and edifying to your faith in Christ. 

PS:  Save the pancakes for another Sunday when Pastor Dan is teaching.  I jest, of course, as always.

 

 

First, thank you, Ted, for making this blogging thing possible--and for doing it so quickly!

Second, this is my first blog ever.  And as a good academician I must begin with a definition of a "blog."  I borrowed this from Wikipedia:

"A blog (a portmanteau of the term web log) is a discussion or informational site published on the World Wide Web and consisting of discrete entries ("posts")"

In turn, the word "blogging" is the verb form of the noun "blog."  Therefore the act of writing a blog, as I am doing here, constitutes "blogging." There!

I have wanted to write a blog for some time now but never got around to it.  It is my intent to write in here now & then about things which interest me, and the things which interest me most include theology, family, history, food, music, and politics--in that order.  Oh, and humor, of course, but that will be an integral part of all the other parts.

I have chosen to call myself "CalvinCuban" because, well, it sounds cool.  I got the idea for the name from the blog of a Cuban Orthodox priest by the name of Father Ernesto Obregón.  He refers to himself as "OrthoCuban" and also as "Father Orthoduck" (his blog is @ http://www.orthocuban.com/).  The "duck" thing is, well, you have to be Cuban to undertand these things.  Fr. Obregón came to the U.S. around the same time I did in 1961 and, as with me, came as part of the Operación Pedro Pan (Operation Peter Pan) program, a massive airlift of about 14K Cuban children from late 1960 through mid 1962.  The program was initiated and  sponsored by the Archdiocese of Miami.  Therefore, I will follow the lead of my Cuban Christian brother and adopt "CalvinCuban" as my handle since I like reformed theology and I am Cuban.  How can anyone argue with such impeccable logic?

I also considered calling this a "clog" instead of a "blog" for three reasons.  First, "clog," which begins with a "c," better matches the "C's" in "CalvinCuban."  Second, my bathtub drain frequently clogs (yes, that does factor into the equation).  And third, one of my favorite musical genres, along with worship music, classical music, and Cuban music, is bluegrass music.  Clogging, you see, is a form of bluegrass dancing.  And if you're not familiar with clogging, here's an illustration:

 

 

God bless.  See you around.

CalvinCuban

About the moment I hit “SAVE” on my last blog entry I noticed I had written the wrong date for the Newtown, CT tragedy.  I had put “12/13…” instead of the actual date of the event which was “12/14…” As soon as I noticed it, I tried to go back to edit it and found THAT isn’t an option – at least not for someone like me with limited power and authority.  In a sense, you could say my mistake is forever recorded in this “electronic book” unless someone with greater power comes along and changes it.

Today, I was reading 2 Samuel 14 – the story of David and his son, Absalom.  Absalom had killed his brother Amnon and out of fear of retribution from his father he’d run away and was gone for three years.  It says, however, that David “longed for Absalom.”  Strange to think that a father could love his child so much and would want to be with him even though he'd done something so wrong..

In verse 14 it says”Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.”  You know, I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life that bring a lot more shame than a typo in a blog.  Things that I cannot go back and “undo.” They were far worse – bad enough to “banish” me from God’s presence.  If you are reading this, maybe you are looking at your past mistakes and wishing they could be “undone.” The reality is they too are like water spilled on the ground. Once they happen, there isn’t anything YOU can do to take them back.  Our sins are like that, too.  And just like Absalom was cut off from David beause of what he had done, our sin cuts us off from God. Yet, I believe that God does "long for us" - He is "David" looking for his son, He is that Father waiting for his prodigal son to return.

So He (God) has devised a way (the Way, in fact) so that you and I don’t have to be estranged from Him. That Way became flesh over 2000 years ago.  And we celebrate His birth in just a few days. He is the way – and the ONLY way – to bring a sinful child back into the presence of his Father. For me and my family, this gives us something to celebrate.  And I hope you, too, have a Merry Christmas in the presence of your God!

We are striving to make this website as useful and informative as possible.

Your suggestions and comments are greatly appreciated.

Let us know what you think.

 

God bless

 

Ted

 

 {jcomments on}

9/11… 12/13… These are dates that will always be linked to tragedy.  Like a lot of people, I was (and am still) really shaken by the events of last week when a gunman took the lives of 20 children and six adults before killing himself in a small elementary school in Connecticut.  Last night, a vigil was held in the town of Newtown, CT in which the President addressed an audience of grieving people and pledged that he would do everything in his power to prevent something like this from happening ever again. (http://video.msnbc.msn.com/nbc-news/50220190#50220190) I appreciated his words, not just that pledge, but much of what he said especially because he book-ended his speech with scripture – very meaningful scripture.

 

And as I listened to what he said, I was just thinking that here is the most powerful man on this planet who is actually powerless in effectively changing the source of the problem.  Jeremiah 17.9 (NIV) says “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”  Other versions use the phrase “desperately wicked…” instead of "beyond cure."

 

The “heart” of man IS the problem – a problem that governments cannot affect – social programs, mental health professionals, laws – these things might have a minor impact, but they’re like putting Band-Aids on a cancer.  They do not and CANNOT address the root problem.

 

Today I was reflecting on that thought and thinking, we could legislate gun control – we could take away all the guns, and the “desperately wicked heart” will use a knife to do something heinous.  So, we need to take away all the knives, right?  It will just find another way to do it.  Shortly after I had that thought, I read another headline: “Children hurt in China attack – More than 20 children are recovering after a man attacked them with a knife.”  Hmmm? “Desperately wicked…”

 

The most powerful man on earth cannot affect a change of the heart.  But Jesus can.  And we, the Church, hold the “keys of the Kingdom” (Matthew 16.18-10) Are we willing to use them?  Are we willing to do everything in OUR power - the power that Jesus has given to us? Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and help people in a dark, dark world?  Not preach to them, not witness and walk away, not condemn them for their blindness – but offer the only REAL hope and solution that people have? A solution that cannot come through a president, or legislation, or a social program.  A solution that only comes when the heart is changed – a change that begins with knowing Jesus Christ. “3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” (John 1.3-4)

 

Church – we’ve got the understanding…WE know the light.  Let’s help those in the darkness to see it.