Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Book Review: The Total Money Makeover

I just finished reading The Total Money Makeover: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness, by Dave Ramsey. Ramsey is a well-known financial planner, who broadcasts his financial advice to millions each week on his radio program, The Dave Ramsey Show. His hook sounds something like this: “If you're making payments on your car, your furniture, your house and your credit cards, you're a typical American...and you're in trouble. If you're behind on your payments and see no earthly way to dig your way out of your miserable pit. You need help.” If you've never heard Dave on the radio or read his works, be prepared for his direct talk. He doesn't sugar coat his advice. He'll tell you what's smart and what's stupid. He won't tell you that the road out of debt is always easy. Read his book and you'll know very clearly where he stands. Ramsey gives a step-by-step approach to getting out of debt, saving and investing for the future. I have always gained something from Dave Ramsey’s books, and this one is no exception. Dave very clearly outlines a financial plan that is worth consideration. It can be summarized into five steps: Step 1: Save $1,000 as a Starter Emergency Fund. Add to it when possible to have 3-six months living expenses as your emergency fund. Step 2: Get rid of debt. Start the Debt Snowball until only mortgage remains. Step 3: Invest 15% of your Gross Income for Retirement (401K, Roth, and Traditional IRA). Step 4: Payoff Home Mortgage. Step 5: Save, save, save Do it and your financial life will be healthier!

Friday, July 26, 2013

New Post

For those of you who have not heard, I have relocated to the Midwest. My wife and I are now living in Illinois, in the Chicagoland area. I am now serving as the Vice-President for Administration for the Illinois Conference. Although we officially began July first, we are still in the midst of transition. ...and even though we are in transition still, I have spent this week at Camp Akita, the Illinois Conference camp. The first part of the week at pastors meetings, meeting and getting acquainted with many of the fabulous pastors here in Illinois. The second part of the week, family Camp Meeting. That's the update. Every week, I hope to share something that might be of help to you. Blessings!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Best Question Ever, by Andy Stanley

Book Review: “The Best Question Ever,” by Andy Stanley

What drew me to this book? One, I am a book lover, and two, I was intrigued by what could possibly be the best question ever. Was I disappointed? In a word, “Yes”.

The primary argument Stanley makes is that asking yourself this question will help you in making decisions, avoiding financial ruin, saving your marriage, sparing yourself from painful emotional scars, help you to never get caught up in addictive sin, and guide you toward the fulfillment of your dreams.

The problem is that all the answer were short clich├ęs and redundant platitudes. It couldn’t have taken him very long to write it, because he didn’t have much to say. In his defense, Stanley is usually a very good communicator. Not in this case. Another frustration is that it took Stanley until the third chapter to actually get to the question and it took three more chapters to develop the question to its final form.

My advice? Save your money…I’ll tell you the question… “What is the wise thing for me to do?” That’s it? Yep. So, it’s up to you to decide whether this is the BEST question ever. My feeling is that most of us know enough about the Bible and life to know what we ought to do. But so often we do otherwise. Maybe a better question is “What does it take for us to apply the things we know to do into our lives?”

Grace, by Max Lucado

Book review: Grace, by Max Lucado
I just finished reading the book, “Grace,” by Max Lucado. This is the 16th book I have read by Max Lucado and I have to rank it in the top three.

One of the things I appreciate most about Lucado’s books is his ability to teach, inspire, and uplift. His writing style is easy to read and follow, and is full of practical, everyday life stories that make sense to the average reader. If you are looking for a deep theological study of grace, this is not the book for you, but if you are looking for a devotional book, I would highly recommend this book.

Grace is the kind of book many people are interested in learning about and this book makes it easy to do so. I thought each chapter was packed full of things I could apply to my life.

This book would also serve well as a book for a small group study. At the end of each chapter, you will find a readers guide with weekly in depth study of the scriptures.. This is also a great book for giving as a gift to a friend who is searching for answers or open to the good News of Jesus and what he has done for us.

I hope this is helpful.

Revelation, part 4, "Open the Door"

Revelation, Part 4, "Open the Door" from Santa Rosa SDA on Vimeo.

Questions after 1.26.13 Revelation Sermon

Question 1: Why is Christian Theology so heavily based on the writings of a person, Saul (Paul), who never knew Jesus?

Answer: Here are a few reasons…
One: Although he did not spend time with him like the 12 Apostles, Paul did encounter Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9) He also spent time with Peter and James, who validated his calling and his message to the Gentiles.

Two: Because he was Christianity's most important early convert and the first major missionary to preach the Christian gospel to non-Jewish people. Christian theology is based so heavily on him because he was the first to explain that the Good News of Jesus was not just for the Jews, but for the Gentiles (us); all people, of all times.

Three: The Apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus, validated Paul’s writings to be scripture (2 Peter 3:15, 16), and building (New Covenant) on what the Jews considered scripture (our Old Testament).

Question 2: Who received John’s writings of Revelation since he died imprisoned? And, why does he write in so much code?

Answer: It is believed the book (letter) of Revelation was sent to the seven churches and spread from there. And…it was written in code because of the subversive nature of its message. The Roman Empire demanded emperor worship and John’s counter culture message that Jesus, not Caesar was Lord, required some code to get through Roman prison censorship.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Questions submitted on Revelation 3

Question One: In reading about Laodicea, wondering what the "salve" is that Jesus offers?

Answer: The eye salve in Revelation 3:18) comes from the Greek word, kollurion–meaning eye salve or medicine for the eyes. Along with gold and white garments, this is the prescription for what the Church in Laodicea needs. It needs to see its condition clearly. By the way, Laodicea was known for having the best medical facility around and was known for its medicinal salve to treat eye disease. It was made from Phrygian powder and oil.

Question Two: Why do you think he would use the term " key of David " to Philadelphia ?

Answer: The phrase key of David  found in Revelation 3:7 comes from the Greek words, klein en David–meaning an instrument used for unlocking doors or gates. In the New Testament, the word key is always used figuratively. Here referring to the power and authority of God.

Question Three: What is the "7 spirits" or "sevenfold Spirit?

Answer: The Seven Spirits refers to the Spirit of God, also called the Holy Spirit. The number 7 implies completeness or fullness. So, this is a description of the Holy Spirit in all its fullness.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Questions about message, Revelation part 3, January 19, 2013

Question 1: When you were talking about the church in Pergamum, you mentioned something about "where Satan has his throne...and about Antipas, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives." What is he talking about? Where does Satan have his throne? Where does he live.

Answer: This is one of those questions where there is a lot of differing opinion. My best understanding is rooted in the fact that Antipas (this is the only place in scripture he is mentioned) is clearly a faithful witness for God and is killed for not renouncing his faith in God, and possibly for not bowing to the Roman Emperor. So, to me, where Satan resides or his throne reside refers to a place in opposition to God.

Question 2 - What are the four schools of interpretation again?

Answer -
One: Past or Preterist—This school of thought sees Revelation as history of the 1st century.
Under this view, chapters 2 and 3, the message to the 7 churches ,served to encourage those seven churches, during a difficult time of persecution by Rome.

Two: Future or Futurist—This school of interpretation believes that everything AFTER the message to the seven churches will take place in the future. The starting point is the Secret Rapture, during which Jesus comes secretly and snatches his faithful followers to heaven…AND those left behind begin a 7 year period of tribulation until Jesus returns. There are variations to this…and because it’s all in the future, the latest news or disaster, ignites new possibilities or versions.

Three: History or historicist—This school believes that Revelation covers the span of history from the early Christian church to the Second Coming of Jesus…that it focuses on the battle between good and evil—Christ and Satan. Martin Luther and a number of other reformers followed this school of interpretation…that there’s a cosmic battle going on…the bad guys being those who negatively impacted the reformers…primarily the Catholic Church. This is the school of interpretation the Adventist church has followed. Today, very few denominations follow the history school of interpretation.

Four: Spiritual or idealist/symbolic—This school follows a more personal application model. The symbols and metaphors in this book are helpful in making specific application to one individual or another. In this view, each person is free to find their own application of the book.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

For Further Study – Ephesus, the first of the seven churches of Revelation 2, 3

Ephesus (Rev. 2:1-7)

Ephesus, the largest Roman city in the province of Asia, boasted one of the wonders of the ancient world:  the great temple of Artemis. In the temple grounds, you could find a beautiful garden that included a special tree used as a shrine, but also used for asylum for criminals. If criminals came to the tree, they would be freed from capture and punishment. It was like the tree gave them a new life. Artemis also went by the name of Diana and people claimed this goddess of fertility came from heaven. 

The port city of Ephesus drew many immoral and disreputable people. Superstition, magic, and money all contributed to daily life. Christianity started in Ephesus when Jews like Aquila and Priscilla taught Apollos about Jesus being the Messiah (Aquila and Priscilla can be found in Acts 18:24-26.  Paul’s action of re-baptizing believers in Ephesus can be found in Acts 19.  The riot in Ephesus started by the silversmiths can be found in Acts 19:23-34.).

Later, the Apostle Paul came to town and re-baptized the believers in the name of Jesus and placed his hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit. About a dozen were present, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied, much like the disciples had on the Day of Pentecost. God did extraordinary miracles through Paul. Within a few months, due to conflict with the Jews, the Christian believers began to meet in a separate location, but the impact of Christianity in the city was marked, including public burning of magic books. The silversmiths who sold images of the goddess Artemis became so concerned about the noticeable drop in business and the diminishing worship of their goddess that they incited a riot in the city. Sometime later, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter to the believers there. We know it as the Book of Ephesians.

Before John got exiled to the island of Patmos, he served as the pastor in Ephesus. This first message to the seven churches goes to his congregation. 

 Questions for discussion:

1.      Do you see any correlation between the cultural background of the city and the message to the church in Ephesus? 

2.      When John wrote Revelation, Ephesus could be described as a religiously competitive environment. The church members showed vigilance.  They hated the practices of the Nicolaitans. Who in the world were the Nicolaitans? 

 Note: We don’t know, but some have noticed that Nicolaos was one of the early deacons in the church in Antioch (Acts 6:5). Also, Nicolaos comes from the compound Greek words nikao and laos which means the one who conquers the people. 

 This name pops up again in the message to the church at Pergamum, along with the more familiar Bible name Balaam. By the way, Balaam comes from the Hebrew compound words baal and am, and it also means one who destroys the people. Nicolaos and Balaam are equivalents—one in Greek and the other in Hebrew. 

According to Numbers 31:16, Balaam instigated idolatry and fornication among the Israelites.  Possibly the Nicolaitans did the same thing, but we don’t really know. What we do know is that the church in Ephesus didn’t tolerate the practices of the Nicolaitans, in contrast to the church in Pergumum that did (Rev. 2:14-15). 

 The church in Ephesus gets high marks for perseverance and uncompromising fidelity.  The only negative statement made to this model church is that it’s missing just one thing—love! How important is that?!  It sounds somewhat like the message at the beginning of the Bible’s love chapters (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

 The admonition for the church is some R and R; specifically to Remember and Repent!  Remember the first love you had for Christ. Repent because you are doing all the right things but you lack the core motivation of love. Correct actions without Godly motivations simply aren’t enough. 

3.      Can you relate to the church members in Ephesus?  Do you need some R & R—Remember and Repent?

Each church receives a promise to those who are victorious.  This can easily trigger the natural human drive for achievement that leads to boasting about personal accomplishments. Beware of falling into the trap of making a deal with God in which your good works lead you to demand God to pay you for what you’ve earned. John already explained in another one of his books how people become victorious.  Note God’s part and our part.  1 John 5:4-5 (TNIV):  “Everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.   

Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 

This sounds remarkably similar to John 6:28-29 when the people asked Jesus what they needed to do in order to do the works God requires. Jesus told them their “work for God” was to believe in Jesus.  Some may scoff that good works take more personal commitment and arduous labor.  But laying everything on the line for Jesus, making a full commitment to him, and then trusting him no matter what happens takes more than a strong will.  It requires personal investment and trust.  It necessitates a complete surrender of one’s ego to Jesus.  It calls for selfless agape love.  That’s a work humans find to be extremely difficult. 

We will find a promise for each church in Revelation.  The promise is for those who are victorious by means of complete surrender to Jesus, not a good grade evaluated by external behaviors.

The promise for church members in Ephesus is the right to eat from the Tree of Life which is in the Paradise of God (Rev. 2:7).  This Tree of Life for the repentant differs from the tree of emancipation for criminals in the temple of Artemis. It’s as though the promise to the Christians in Ephesus beckons them to return to the first things, like the Garden of Eden, to receive eternal life from God.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


As I am sure you noticed, I was having problems with my blog. I think everything is good to go now. I will be posting this week's questions later today.

Ron Aguilera

Friday, January 11, 2013

Meaning of numbers in the Book of Revelation

What do these number mean in the book of Revelation?

3---God, holiness
7---Perfection (3+4)
12---Kingdom (3x4)
24---Tribes + Apostles (12=12)
144,000---All God’s people

Revelation - Introduction

This past Saturday, January 5th, at the Santa Rosa Adventist church, I started a sermon series on the book of Revelation. As I mentioned, I will be posting questions that were texted to me during the sermon (and after), and answering those questions on this blog.

Disclaimer - I am a pastor, not a theologian, but I am a student of God's Word and the answers are my best understanding from my accumulated knowledge and theologians that have had an impact on my life.

Texted question #1, "During your sermon, you mentioned the importance of hermeneutics. What are some of those principles?"

Answer: Below is a list of widely accepted hermeneutical principles. I believe they are key in understanding the book of Revelation.

1. If a document is in a foreign language, a knowledge of that language is needed, including an understanding of that language’s structure and idioms. 

2. The type of literary form must be recognized—whether prose or poetry, prophecy or history, allegory or parable, etc...

3. A knowledge of the geographical factors that influenced the writer is helpful.

4. Readers must discover what Bible statements meant to the prophet’s contemporaries before focusing on what they should mean today. This will protect students from “seeing” in the Bible only what they are looking for.

5. The historical context, including the precise time of writing, must be understood before correct deductions can be made, especially if the document deals with ethics, interrelationships with contemporary civil powers, and prevailing thought patterns.

Texted Question #2, "Why is the number 7 so important?"

Answer - I will be talking about numbers in Revelation, including the number 7, this coming Saturday, January 12. The short answer is the number 3 in Revelation represents God and the number 4 represents the earth. Adding 3 and 4 together means adding God to this world. When we do that, we have perfection…the number 7! That’s the Gospel, the Good News! That's why the number 7 is considered the perfect number, and a symbol of completeness.

More later this week.

Suggested reading for this week? Revelation, chapter 1