As a boy of about 6 years old, I can remember attending a funeral of a family friend. The service was held in an old Gothic style mausoleum nestled somewhere in the City of Los Angeles. After the mass, the immediate family and a few close friends were ushered in an elevator along with the casket for entombment, I found comfort and security by clinging onto my dad’s leg as I stood there eye level with death. Recently I was faced with one of the greatest struggles of my life as I came to terms with the passing of my father. For some odd reason I never believed that he would one day succumb to the destiny that awaits all mortal beings. For as Holy Scripture reads “… inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes the judgment (Heb. 9:27). Yes, I was
devastated and brought low by this huge loss, but I was lifted up and comforted by clinging tightly onto my Heavenly Father and my sadness was transformed into joy by the fulfillment of His promises for those who have been redeemed by the precious Blood of the Lamb – our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (read ? 1 Peter 1:18-19). All believers can find comfort in the powerful Words of our Lord, who say’s “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In my Fathers house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you (John. 14:1-2).”
My father left me with so many beautiful examples to follow in life.
I can remember him telling me so many years ago “Son you have no idea, how much love a father has for his children” and he was right. At that point of my life I didn’t have the slightest idea of that type of love. He didn’t have to preach a message of love to his family for his love motivated actions (even discipline) demonstrated it more eloquently than words could ever express. In his eulogy I wrote “If you would ask me which word, best describes him I would have to say, it would be the word GRACE. For he was a man who ministered great grace to his children whom he truly loved and it was because of this God given gift which enabled him to give freely to his family, Even when we truly didn’t deserve it.” My mother’s description of her husband of 66 years is “your father was a great husband to me and a great son to his parents.”
LOVE MOTIVATED GRACE
Grace is motivated by love for anything that we do on this earth which is not according to scripture worth absolutely nothing. How many times have we heard people cry out and proclaim to their parents, mates or siblings “You have never loved me!” In response the other party says, “How can you say I have not loved you? I have given you everything!” You see it’s not how much one gives, but why we give that matters. Could it be that we as a society are losing the true concept of what love is and what love is not (read 1 Cor. 13)? We are warned in scripture that “because of lawlessness (lack of control) is increased, most peoples love will grow cold (Matt. 24:12 & Also read 2 Tim. 3:1-5)
God’s love for His children has never grown cold, but remains alive and passionate (read Lam.3:22-23). We witness in John. 4:7-30 the transformation of the Samaritan woman who was drawing water at the city’s well. It was there that Jesus confronted her with the truth of her past and present life style, I found it very interesting that she did not receive this truth as a threat nor did she counter with “You’re not my husband nor my boss and who do you think you are, talking down to me like that ? “No, God’s love motivated words softened the heart of this wounded street wise woman who had been around the block more than once. Jesus’ motive was not to expose and ridicule this woman’s failures, but only for her to see them for what they were, confess them and then allow God to cover them with His precious Blood (read 1 John 1:9 – cool huh?).”
If you and I are to become effective ambassadors for the Kingdom of God, we too must possess this great gift of LOVE, for it is the conduit in which the power of God will bring healing to a hurting and morally bankrupt society. For His instruction to us is;” Above all, keep fervent (stretched out) in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8.)”
APPLES AND ORANGES
What would you do if you stopped at a roadside fruit stand and asked the attendant for 6 oranges and he bags 6 apples and hands them to you? More than likely you would say “Hey, I asked for 6 oranges and you gave me 6 apples.” To make matters worse, he says “those aren’t apples they are oranges. “This dilemma can be likened to issues that have been faced in Christendom for centuries, for we are not Christians just because we call ourselves Christian, but our claim must be backed up by the fact that we become the fruit of divinity living in us read ? 1 John. 4:4). Jesus tells us “For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thrones, nor do they pick grapes from a brier bush. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart (Luke 6:43-45).”Once again Jesus addresses this issue in John. 13:35 and says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have LOVE (Agape ? the highest form of unconditional, sacrificial & well balanced love) for one another.”
LESSONS TO LIVE BY
During the most rebellious years of my life, my dad found himself unable to find a solution to the insanity I was creating for myself and everyone around me. I was told years later that my dad had sought counsel from his pastor and the counsel he received was “Love him.” I’m so grateful that he was a man who was able to follow instruction, for Love me he did. But please understand my dad was not a push over, but in contrast he helped push me back into reality. For years he would remind me of the need to save money for a rainy day, after years of repeating himself on that same lesson, he turned to me one day and said “son, either your gonna get it or your not.” I knew that he was serious and my response to him was “ok dad I got it,”
I had no idea that years later I would draw from the lessons that he taught me during those trying years, for the day has come when my own children are now experiencing their own issues as they travel though their difficult adolescent years. Bill Cosby once said “that his dad would have this big grin on his face as he asked him, “so, son how’s family life?”
Over these years not only I have come to gain understanding of parental love, but I’ve also learned that when one can add love motivated grace into an offense (whether we are the perpetrator or the victim) the equation will always be FORGIVENESS. You and I as Believer’s are called to become dispensers of grace, for our instructions are to “??.. Consider how to stimulate (provoke, with passion, incite) one another to love and good deeds (Grace ? writers insert) (Heb. 10:24).”
WE HAVE A FATHER
Though God blessed my family with the best dad ever, and I love and miss him so very much.. I can with joyful confidence proclaim that we all have a Heavenly Father who knows us by name and though we may stumble and fall, He continues to Love (Agape ? the highest form of unconditional, sacrificial & well balanced love) us just the same (read Songs of Solomon.:2:4, Matt.7:11)! May the Lord Jesus continue to bless you, and thank you for allowing me to share my experience, strength and hope with you all.
Your friend always in the journey.
Rev. Joe A. Rivera
PRESSING ON FAITH MINISTRIES
IN LOVING MEMORY OF MY DAD
MARTIN O. RIVERA
1923 – 2008