Romans: Brothers and sister, in light  of all I have shared with you about God’s mercies, I urge you to offer your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice to God, a sacred offering that brings Him pleasure; this is your reasonable, essential worship. Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete.

One of the most profound passages that formed my christian walk when I was a teenager. If I were to select the most practical and impactful message from St. Paul, Romans 12 verse 1 and 2 would be it. I recall listening to a preacher explains these verses at a retreat 15 years ago. All of us kids would laugh so hard when hearing his analogies on how easily we are influenced by things that do not come from God. This passage gives us the foundation on how to be better people and followers of Jesus.


Perceive the mercy of God

The first thing that a person will go through before becoming a better person is to open his or her eyes to the great mercy of our Almighty Father. He has given us life, oxygen, water, food, shelter, love, friends, relatives, a place to play, share and learn. Church – let’s open our eyes to the reality that without God’s love and mercy, we would not be here. We would not have the intelligence, the strength, the will, the interest to be here in fellowship with our family, friends and strangers. When we realize this fact, our hearts get filled with gratitude to give back to God what he deserves.


Offer Yourself as Living Sacrifice

As a result of this realization, St. Paul changes the condition of our response. Joel, Ciara, Luis, Reverend Roland, Sue, Reverend Luis’ family – God does not need our favors, He does not need part of our money, He does not want our promises. He wants and deserves all our Lives, all of our money, all of our time. And not when we die, he wants them now. People in the past would offer a gift to God by killing and burning a cattle or chicken. St. Paul says the real sacrifice is not something that we have, it is everything that we are. This is what we are created for – to offer our lives every day, when we get a paycheck, when we eat alone, when we play with others, when we make love, when we have conflicts, when are anxious, when we are tired, when we are happy – Everything is presented to God. Everything!


Don’t be mold by this world, Renew your mind

St. Paul teaches that a true sacrifice to God cannot be one molded by this world. The pre-requisite to be an acceptable sacrifice is to renew our minds so that it reflects what is acceptable to God. The world has many ways in which it can mold us. Our history shows us how we have often been molded by the wrong ideas, discriminating women, blacks, indians, gays, jews and palestinians. In our country, I have often heard fellow Panamanians speaking negatively about the colombians and venezuelans. I went to a chinese school here in Panama, and I could even see discrimination amongst the wealthy chinese against the poorer ones. In other countries like in Europe, there is strong discrimination against muslims. We easily create a sense of superiority that is not acceptable to God and from the Christian perspective it does not make sense.


Discrimination is only one of many ways in which we can be molded. Success can also mold us badly. I worked in the US as a consultant for several years. In the group where I worked, all of us thought we were the best thing a company could hire. We thought of ourselves as the smartest, better educated, most astute management advisors around. During this time, when I remembered this passage, I could hear in my mind St. Paul saying to me: Renew Your Mind. Sex and pleasure can also mold us away from the godly shape. How many times have I been that someone that all he thinks is his next vacation and trip? Is that the objective of life? St. Paul says: Renew Your Mind.


Do God’s Will

Notice he says, Renew Your Mind. Do not settle with a list of things to do and not to do. What is ungodly and tempt you today will probably not tempt you tomorrow. In order to become an acceptable offering to God we need to practice that mental exercise of reflection, meditation and Scripture reading. Our minds need more than education, our minds also need orientation. And that orientation happens when we are molded by the Word of God as embodied by Jesus. When we follow this process then our lives start living the way God wants us. What God wants is often not so easily deduced. It requires seeking for direction, wisdom, and virtue.


As Christians we find much of that orientation in Jesus’ teaching, from reason, from nature, from science, from wise people. St. Paul exhorts us to make that a priority. The world will want to establish our priorities. But as we realize what God did for us and what He does for us every day, we are inspired to offer something to God. That something God wants is not a birthday gift, but rather He wants our Life. And to be an acceptable sacrifice to God we need to renew our minds. When we do this, we live in God’s will, fulfill the objective for which we were created, and encounter Joy.


Por lo tanto, amados hermanos, les ruego que entreguen su cuerpo a Dios por todo lo que él ha hecho a favor de ustedes. Que sea un sacrificio vivo y santo, la clase de sacrificio que a él le agrada. Esa es la verdadera forma de adorarlo. No imiten las conductas ni las costumbres de este mundo, más bien dejen que Dios los transforme en personas nuevas al cambiarles la manera de pensar. Entonces aprenderán a conocer la voluntad de Dios para ustedes, la cual es buena, agradable y perfecta.


– Iglesia La Candelaria

– Gran significado de este pasaje en mi vida: me enseñó a que el mundo intentará apartar mi forma de pensar de la manera que Dios piensa

– San Pablo exhorta a que nos percatemos de lo mucho que Dios nos da y que en retorno seamos un sacrificio, pero no como los antiguos, sino presentando una vida completa

– ¿Cómo nos presentamos como un sacrificio aceptable para Dios? Renovamos nuestro pensamiento – esta es la fórmula cristiana para ser una buena persona. Nosotros creemos en la información y en la educación. Pero más importante que estos son la dirección y orientación que toma nuestra vida.

– ¿Por qué renovamos nuestro pensamiento? Porque el mundo lo trastoca con ideas erróneas y lo hace con cosas buenas y malas.

    – Sentido de superioridad: discriminación y prestigio

    – Elementos de la vida: placer y trabajo

– Note lo importante que es renovar la mente, y sobretodo, qué no es: no es reemplazar listas de cosas por hacer, o eliminar cosas que son buenas. Se trata de una transformación de la manera de pensar a la manera en que Dios ve las cosas.

    – Los que antes veíamos como seres humanos ridículos e inferiores, ahora son seres con el mismo valor y potencial

    – Lo que antes era vicio adictivo, ahora es historia de una vida pasada

    – Lo que antes nos controlaba, ahora es controlado por nosotros quienes seguimos un ejemplo vívido en la vida de Jesús.

    – Cuando antes nos llenábamos de rencor, ahora perdonamos

    – Cuando antes éramos indiferentes, ahora somos compasivos

– San Pablo termina estos versos describiendo lo que pasa cuando nos presentamos ante Dios como un sacrificio aceptable. ¿Sabe lo que pasa? Hacemos lo que dice el dicho, vivimos haciendo lo que Dios manda cosas buenas empiezan a ocurrir, las relaciones se restauran, nuestras comunidades mejoran, y vivimos satisfechos, plenamente y en abundancia.


Hoy tenemos un ejemplo vivo de lo que es entregarse como un sacrificio vivo y aceptable ante Dios en nuestro hermano Luis Veagra. Es un honor tenerle entre nosotros, como hermano, como líder y como un modelo. Estoy seguro que uno de los mejores regalos que le podríamos hacer a él no es una tarjeta de cumpleaños (aunque eso sería nice), sino hacerle saber de que por su ejemplo nosotros somos personas que vivimos más cerca de Dios.


Celebremos el año 80 de Luis Veagra no solamente como un querido hermano pero también como un ejemplo de alguien que presentó su vida completa como sacrificio ante el Señor. Que la inspiración que su vida nos da tenga un impacto en las nuevas generaciones, Reverendo.


Today we have a living example of what it means to be a living sacrifice, acceptable to God in our brother Luis Veagra. It is an honor to have you in our midst, as a brother, leader and role model. I am sure that one of the best gifts we can give him is not a birthday card (although it would be nice) but to let him know that through his example we are people that live closer to God.

Let’s celebrate Luis 80th year not only as a dear brother but also as an example of someone who presented his entire life as a sacrifice to the Lord. May we find inspiration in your life, Reverend.

¡Gracias por su ejemplo!

Thank you for your example!