How to Become a Better Christian

 

 

Writing from the hand of God by Jason Flores

Matthew 5:13 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Become the Salt of the Earth 

There are many phrases in our everyday language that are derived from the Bible. People use these terms without knowledge of their origin. In Matthew chapter 5, Jesus speaks to us about being the “salt of the earth.” Salt of the earth people are down to earth, and easy to get-a-long with. These salt of the earth people are the real deal; they are not impressed with new cars, or expensive jewelry, nor do they care if you have a bigger home. Salt of the earth people celebrate your blessings and are not jealous of what you’ve gained. Salt of the earth people see with the eyes of reality; they gain wisdom in understanding the big picture of life.

If Jesus called us to be the salt of the earth, what did He mean by this? Jesus gave this message right after He taught the beatitudes. We are to be the salt of the earth because we are all called to preserve mankind. If salt loses its taste it is useless, and so are we if we lose our fire to serve. If you follow the beatitudes you come to the understanding that you matter. Just as salt preserves, we as Christians preserve what is good in this crazy world we live in.

If you want to be used by God, you must be the salt in your workplace, in your home, and wherever the Lord plants you. You will not be accepted with open arms when you give the right advice, or speak the truth to those who are unwilling to listen. God did not call us to be popular; He called us to be holy. We are to  touch the lives of others and make a difference in their walk by our living example.

Go the Extra Mile

The closer you draw to God, the better you can hear Him. The more you serve Him, the more He instructs and entrusts matters into your hands. We have to go that extra mile. This  means you must work with not only your mind but also with your heart. A perfect example of this is when you have experienced a falling out with someone who is near and dear to you. You, being the spiritual person, must understand that even if it was not your doing, you must take into account that God prepared you to respond in a loving manner. In spite of every part of you believing that you were NOT in the wrong, God tugs at your heart to apologize.  You may say, “What do I have to apologize for, I did nothing wrong!” Yes, you did! Keeping this resentment in your spirit is allowing room for the Enemy to slowly creep in and side with the fact that you are right to stay angry with the person who feels offended by your actions. Emotions are genuine; they may want to hold on to their pain, but don’t allow yourself to be dragged down into that state of mind. The gentleness of the Holy Spirit will comfort them through your prayers. The longer you wait to apologize, the more difficult it becomes to resolve. Five simple words suffice: “I am sorry, forgive me.” That’s simple, but yet we stand our ground…for what?

Matthew 5:41 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

41 Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.

Audrey

Read the Writing on the Wall

Sometimes it takes “the writing on the wall” to convince others of their wrong. The writing on the wall was a hand-written message from God in the Book of Daniel to King Baltassar, which read: mene, mene, tekel, peres. The pale faced king knew something was terribly wrong when he witnessed the hand writing on the wall. He was at a loss, and no one could interpret its meaning. The king called for Daniel; being the salt of the earth type of guy, Daniel tells the king the meaning of the words.  Mene meant that his days were numbered, tekel  meant that he was found unworthy to live or to reign any longer, and peres meant that his kingdom would be divided. King Baltassar was so busy celebrating his wonderful life that he lost sight of his real existence. He failed to learn from the lesson of his father King Nebuchadnezzar and continued to worship false gods.  The king was using sacred goblets that his father had plundered from the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for his celebration. God had had enough, and he used the writing on the wall to set the king straight. The king was worshiping the god Bel in Babylon as the supreme deity. Every day his kingdom would spend twelve large measures of flour, sixty vessels of wine, and forty sheep on the god Bel. And every day the king went to adore this god Bel.

Daniel 5:17 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

17Daniel answered the king: “You may keep your gifts, or give your presents to someone else; but the writing I will read for the king, and tell what it means.

Daniel was the greatest prophet of his time; he already knew the meaning of the message. He didn’t wants any material riches the king offered because he was anointed and served the true God. When you serve the true God, He will supply all of your needs.

Philippians 4:19 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

19 My God will fully supply whatever you need, in accord with his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

People who do not serve God need the writing on the wall to communicate the wrong that they are doing. An arrogant, unapproachable person will never be humbled because he believes he has all the right answers.

You must be sure to check everything out with God before moving on any  important decision, especially when it comes to your family or career. We can no longer take things for granted and expect to make the right choices without including God. God has to be the focal point in our lives if we want to attain success. There are two types of success: one gained by man and the other bestowed by God because of our faithfulness.

During this time the Romans paid soldiers with salt. The word salary means salt. Be the salt of the earth and do what is expected of you, but do it in the name of Christ!

 

 

The Christmas Job As if I were not busy enough, our daughter Sonja asked if
I am part American Indian. Actually a large part of my heritage is Indigenous Americas-Mexico.
Aftermath, Saugas High School Guns in my 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 When I was
Continue Reading

The Lopez Old Wive’s Tales

 

San Francisco circa 1985, cousin Diana’s wedding

 

Deuteronomy 1:11 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

11 May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times over, and bless you as he promised!

 

We have all grown up hearing old wive’s tales. I am part of the Lopez clan, and my mother and her 5 sisters passed on some wonderful ones to us. I loved sitting around my mother and aunts because they were so full of life and laughter. My mother also had 3 brothers, who along with her sisters produced a total of 50 first cousins.

As a child I truly took these old wive’s tales to heart. When my nose was itchy, I knew we were going to have company. I’ve had allergies most of my life, and I can never remember when my nose was not itchy, but that did not matter. This old wive’s tale always came true.  Another one:  when your left hand was itchy,  you were going to get money. I called my sister Norma to ask if she remembered any old wive’s tales. I reminded her of the left hand one and she said, “Oh, that’s not one: it’s really true, every time my left hand itches, I get unexpected money.” I was left speechless and about ready to call her out, when the Holy Spirit quickened my mind to whenever my left hand is itchy, I purchase a lottery ticket.

I shared with my cousin Nellie that I suffered from leg cramps, and she told me an old wive’s tale. Nellie’s advice: “Didn’t your mother tell you that you need to put your shoes under your bed, but they must be facing down?” She added  “You will never suffer a cramp if you do this.” Our home was built in the early 70’s; it was obviously designed by a man because we have small closets. I store my seasonal shoes in a plastic container under my bed. The other night I suffered a massive leg cramp. It started with my foot and quickly traveled to the upper muscle of my lower leg (tibialis anterior). I struggled to get up, because  my foot was curled under. I wanted to scream but Mike was on a business trip, so it was useless. I finally forced my foot with my hand and planted it on the floor when the cramp moved to my upper thigh (rectus femoris muscle). It was 2:30 a.m. when I looked at the clock. I hobbled back and forth, asking Jesus to remove the pain, but to no avail. I crawled back into bed only to experience another round of torture. Then I remembered the shoes under my bed. I prayed out loud, “Dear God, please let at least one pair of shoes be upside down!” When Mike is home, and I wake up screaming from a leg cramp, he usually gets up to rub my leg, while asking me if I had eaten a banana that day. My reply is always the same, “Really, I’m dying here, and you want to know if I ate a banana?” Take it from me, this old wive’s tale is not foolproof. This walking nightmare lasted over 5 minutes.

I talked to my other cousin Elvia, who is Nellie’s older sister, and she shared with me that her mother, my Tia Margarita, made her attach a safety pin to her underwear while she was pregnant during an eclipse. The safety pin was to keep the child from having any birth defects.

My cousin Delia, daughter of my Tio Leandro, said that our grandmother would cover all the mirrors in the house when her children had the chicken pox. Covering the mirrors would keep the pox from spreading.

The spilled salt dilemma

One of my favorite old wive’s tales: when you accidentally spill salt, meant that something bad was going to happen to you. This old wive’s tale required immediate action:  you had to take a pinch of salt and toss it over each shoulder to avert the bad luck. Every time I spill salt this comes to mind, and sometimes I secretly stick to the ritual. I’m just covering all my bases.

I believe we were all told about the broken mirror and seven years of bad luck. When I was younger I accidentally broke my mother’s compact. It was a horrible day because I thought I was doomed to bad luck. I remember counting the years when this would be lifted from me. No one took the time to explain that this was not true. All I heard was, “To bad for you, seven years of bad luck!”

My cousin Connie, daughter of my Tia Consuelo, reminded me of another Lopez old wive’s tale. This one also required action:  if you did not cover your feet at night, the Devil would lick them. My sister Norma and I grew up yelling, “My feet! My feet!” and running to cover our feet whenever we were scared about something. I honestly believe Norma still covers her feet when she gets frightened. As much as I hate to admit this, in all fairness, my feet are always covered.

Nowadays I cover myself with the Blood of Jesus; that is the only thing that keeps me from fear of the unknown. These old wive’s tales become habits that we carry  from one generation to another. I shared some of them with my grandchildren, and they just laughed. They are not as gullible as we were as children.

1 Timothy 4:7 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion,

Many of my cousins are still my dear friends. The Lopez family has strong roots that are too deep to sever. All the cousins I keep in contact with are also serving the Lord. Some have taken the Protestant path, but  in the end we will meet at the banqueting table of the Lord in Heaven. I praise God for them, and am grateful for the love we share. God has blessed us in keeping our faith intact, despite passing on the tales of our ancestors.

The only picture taken from the boat from the not-so-calm sea
Me, Maddie, Wil, Lucas and Jacob 2 Timothy 3:15 New King
Continue Reading

I Confess

James 5:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

St. Norbert Adoration

Our parish has set aside every  first Friday of the month for 24-hour Adoration. As Catholics we pray before the Blessed Sacrament, as it is our belief that we are in the presence of Christ. Every parish holds confessions; at our church we can go once a week. But on this day we have an opportunity to go to Confession after the 8:30 Mass. This Act of Contrition aids us in continuing our walk with the Lord with a clean slate.

A recent Pew Report reveals that over 69% of Catholics do not know that the Eucharist is the living Body of Christ, yet they receive communion when attending Mass. It is through God’s great mercy that a special blessing is extended to those who are ignorant of its true meaning. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is the most important aspect in our belief system, going to confession and receiving absolution cleanses us of our sins.

When we confess our sins we are liberated from all our transgressions:

  1. Guilt is lifted;
  2. We are no longer consumed by the sin;
  3. If you have sinned against others, they, too, are released from bondage.
Conflict

Guilt is one of the oldest tools of the Devil. Satan is constantly reminding us of our sins, and we often allow our self-talk to come into agreement with the Accuser of the Brethren. If you allow Satan to dictate your self-talk, he will overtake your mind; before you realize it, you are obsessed with this sin. You are in bondage because you have permitted negative self-talk to control your senses. You are robbed of joy and without joy there is no peace.

Forgiveness

When someone has sinned against you and has broken your spirit, you develop anger toward that person. When you think of these persons, the Devil reminds you of the pain that they have caused you. It is through the act of confession that this heavy burden is lifted off your spirit and forgiveness takes its rightful place. God wants to heal us, and if we have a spirit of unforgiveness, the Holy Spirit will tug at our heart and guide us into the right path. But we must have the will to forgive.  We need to put all of sin’s debris at the foot of the Cross, where we learn to let it go. To a Christian this is the most difficult obstacle to conquer.

Unforgiveness is a heavy load to carry, yet some people carry this baggage for years. It’s like adding a few unwanted pounds on your body. If you do not change your eating, eventually your body will adjust to the added weight. Unforgiveness works in the same manner:  your mind conforms to your way of thinking, and the negative self-talk assures you how right you are to hold on to these unyielding thoughts. Your pain is all that matters.

Our mind was created to know and to serve God. How can God move in our lives if our minds are cluttered with ungodly thoughts?

I experienced full forgiveness by going to confession, because now my heart and spirit are one with God. Many times I find myself repeating the same sin, so until I can fully break that bondage, I will continue to confess the transgressions.

We all have direct access to God, and asking the Maker of us all for forgiveness is act of moving spiritually beyond our capacity to understand. We need to rid ourselves of the separation from God that we created because of our sin. Our conscience is a gift that constantly reminds us when we fall short. Our conscience also works to free us and binds us once again so that we may have communion with God.

Why do Catholics go to a priest to confess sins? The priest is the intercessor and mediator between man and God. Jesus gave the apostles the ability to forgive sins:

John 20:21-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

I can only express my personal experiences when I do go to a priest and confess my sins. I am completely restored and can continue to serve the Lord with a contrite heart. I am a sinner, and I know that it will only be a matter of hours when something will cause me to fall again. But because I serve a God who is rich in mercy and loves to forgive me, I can ask Him again and again for  forgiveness.  He calls me His friend, and He wants to heal me.

Psalm 103:2-4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Bless the Lord, my soul;
    and do not forget all his gifts,
Who pardons all your sins,
    and heals all your ills,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
    and crowns you with mercy and compassion

The sin of unforgiveness has been linked to many diseases: depression, arthritis, obesity, and cancer. Many times the suffering leads to suicidal thoughts. Therefore don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Do not allow Satan to eat away at your spirit, because this weakens not only your mind but your body as well.

Ephesians 4:26-27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

If you confess your sins to others, make sure that you are doing it to free yourself of the sin, and not for the sake of someone agreeing with you; that would be considered gossip. When confessing to a priest or a pastor you are safe in knowing that a godly person has helped you through your journey to wholeness. I leave you with this fact: the highest suicide rate is among atheists.

The Christmas Job As if I were not busy enough, our daughter Sonja asked if
I am part American Indian. Actually a large part of my heritage is Indigenous Americas-Mexico.
Aftermath, Saugas High School Guns in my 𝐋𝐢𝐟𝐞 When I was
Continue Reading