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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Letters To My Son: The Myth of Independence


The Myth of Independence
Dear Misael,
There are many myths that have been passed on without anyone questioning them.  One of them is the myth of independence, well, at least this is what it appears to me after examining the evidence.  There is this idea among young people your age that independence equals freedom.  Once you turn eighteen or twenty-one, you are absolutely free.  I know that what they mean is they are no longer bound by silly laws parents make such as curfew times and other limitations capriciously set by them (at least that’s how they see them).  They dream of the day when they will be able to make all the decisions by themselves.  They want to be independent to choose the friends they want without anyone telling them if they are good ones or not.  They want to choose to go to places without anyone telling them whether they are appropriate or not.  I am sure you don’t believe all of this.  You have heard me say what it means to be independent.  But I want to go a bit further than that. There is a sense in which at a particular age we become mature enough to make decisions and be on our own.  This is part of the process of becoming an adult.  Nevertheless, I think we fail to see that what we call independence is not what it appears to be.  Let me just explain what I mean.  When we are born we are totally dependent upon our parents for everything.  Then as we grow and develop we move to independence but at the same time we become interdependent.  What does this mean?  When we become adults we don’t become totally independent, to do this, we would have to live alone somewhere.  What we mean is that we can make decisions on our own but at the same time we start creating a network of interdependence. 

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Review of "Jesus Manifesto"

Jesus Manifesto written by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola is not really a manifesto that Jesus wrote, obviously.  The subtitle is "Restoring The Supremacy And Sovereignty of Jesus Christ" which is what the whole book is about.  If I could summarize the whole book in a few words it would be that Jesus Christ is (or should be) our life, past, present and future. We are reborn in Him and we live in Him day to day and forever.  The authors' attempt is to bring the preeminence of Christ in everything we do, including the Church. The following quote grasps what the authors try to help us see: "Christianity is a relationship with Jesus Christ. When things go wrong, it's not because we don't understand certain doctrines or fail to follow particular commands.  It's because we have lost our "first love"...or never had it in the first place." (p. 39)
The first chapter is a survey of how Christ is presented in the whole Bible. So He is not just part of the New Testament. They show that today's church is preoccupied with teaching Christians a whole list of do's and do not's but the centrality of the Bible is on teaching Christ.

In chapter 2 they survey the book of Colossians as it shows the preeminence of Christ: "Christ is the all and in all." (Colossians 3:11).   They write:  "Christianity is a relationship wit Jesus the Christ.  When things go wrong, it's not because we don't understand certain doctrines or fail to follow particular commands.  It's because we have lost our "first love"...or never had it in the first place." (p. 39) 

Chapter 3 uses the book of Colossians to write a biography of every Christian, in other words, what positionally we have been declared by God. In chapter 4 they show how we are in Christ's death and resurrection and how it manifests in our daily living. They argue that our calling is not to be like Christ but to live His life already in us.  In other words, we are incarnations of Christ: "The truth is that if we fully understood what it means that the very being of God wants to take residence in us and share our life, we would all be reluctant incarnations." (p. 75) 

In chapter 5 the authors argue that traditional trends that focus on theology or ethics to explain what the Christian life is all about misses the point, or more direct, misses Christ.  Christ is the "real thing."  In chapter 6 they show that Jesus is not a cause nor a program.   Our focus should be on the "face" (in a spiritual sense) of Christ and when we do that, then we can reflect that unto others.  

Chapter 7 is a description of the church as it is the "embodiment and instrument for displaying the kingdom of God." (p. 107) and our time should be spent "figuring out our relationship to Jesus, and what He is doing in the world. Why? So we can join Him in what He's already doing." (p. 108) They also discuss the issue of social justice (and mercy) in relation to Christ.  

In chapter 8, they talk about the forgotten tree of life.  They assert that many christians are focused on learning about right and wrong that they forget to eat from the tree of life, Jesus Christ.  "He is the most exciting person in the universe, bar none.  But we are speaking about the real Christ, not the shallow, anemic, insipid "Jesus" that's so often promoted today." (p. 136)  

Chapter 9 is titled "A House Of Figs" which refers to Bethany.  The authors use Bethany to show that it was the place where Jesus was received and it symbolizes a home for Christ, what "the Lord is looking for in every city across this planet." (p. 146)  I believe the authors stretch this concept a bit too much.  In the last chapter they discuss what they see as a false dichotomy between the Christ in the Gospels and the Christ in the Epistles.  "The gospel that's so often preached today lacks a revelation of Jesus Christ.  The contemporary gospel boils down to a fire insurance policy, a Santa Claus God, or a performance-based religion.  As long as we stay on that plane, we'll never see or comprehend the staggering enormity of our Lord." (p. 170)  The Jesus of the Gospels is the same one from Colossians or from any other book in the Bible.  The Christ of the Gospels is the same one who will one day come in all power and glory.  The book concludes with an afterword which is in a form of a personal letter from the Lord using Colossians 1:9-3:16.

The book is filled with Scripture, especially relating to Christ, something the authors see lacking in many books.  Many of the passages are quoted but the references are footnoted to the back of the book.  I found the book very refreshing.  It helped me see how Christ should be everything to me in everything I do or say or write.  Thus, I am more conscious of this.  It helped me see that my purpose in life is to live the life Christ has given me and to reflect it unto others.  It is not a particular ministry or job.  It is to live for Christ, living as an expression of His life.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

18 Years Ago - My Son Reaches Adulthood

My wife and I are very thankful that today our son turned 18 years old.  He is now a first year college student at American University.  We are very proud of him, for the type of gentleman he has turned up to be.  I am posting entries of my journal in Spanish that I wrote 18 years ago.  I recently read them and I was quite moved.  It is hard to believe that a tiny person born then, is now 18 years old and a young adult.


November 18:

2:15 pm - I was able to see Misael

 "Al ver a Misael  mis ojos se llenarón de lagrimas. Por primera vez pude ver a nuestro pequeño por el cual habíamos estado orando mucho." -Journal

"Después que limpiaron a Misael, la enfermera lo puso en manos de Patty. Allí en manos de ella pude contemplar su rostro y agradecer a Dios en mi corazón por traerlo bien y a salvo.  Le hablaba a Misael y parece ser que reconocía mi voz porque habría sus ojos un poco pero los cerraba por el resplandor de la luz. En mi mente decía: 'Por fin puedes verme, por fin puedo verte.'  Recordé lo que el Salmista dice en el Salmo 139 "No fué encubierto de ti mi cuerpo...mi embrión vierón tus ojos" Aunque yo lo ví por primera vez no fui el primero, sino el Señor."

"Después se llevarón a Misael a otro cuarto para pesarlo, medirlo, etc...allí en la encubadora pude contemplar cada una de sus partes. ¡Que hermosas son! "...y en tu libro estaban escritas todas aquellas cosas que fueron luego formadas, sin faltar una de ellas.' Que obra tan maravillosa del Señor. No hay palabras para expresar lo grande y maravilloso que es el Señor. Estoy muy agradecido contigo Señor."

"Misael pesó 7 libras, 14 onzas y medio, 22 pulgadas."

"El primer día casi no nos dejó dormir, pues despertó muchas veces. El segundo día fue mejor. El tercero, aún mejor, etc. Creo que poco a poco está aprendiendo a distinguir entre la noche y el dia."

Friday, November 12, 2010

Letters To My Son: Virtues


What are some virtues that I find very crucial for you at this period of time? The first one is prudence.  It is interesting that the word prudence comes from the word foresight.  That is what prudence is all about.  It is foreseeing how our choices have consequences and making sure our decisions are right.  There are times when we do the best we can (with the help of God of course) and yet we fail to see the possible result of our actions.  I have often told you that it is important to always think what could happen, good or bad, in a situation before carrying it out.  The book of Proverbs (which might be a good book to read now) talks a lot about prudence (Proverbs 1:4, 8:5). At this time of your life many young people don’t think prudently.  Impulse, desires, entertainment, and fun are the motivation and prudence is forgotten.  Our desires our not bad but as you know they can lead us the wrong way, to the wrong action, to the wrong habits. Please exercise prudence.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Letters To My Son: Words of Advice To A Christian Gentleman In His First Year of College

Before leaving college I told my son I would write to him a letter once a week. I told him I would write it but mail it "snail mail", not send it in any electronic way. This attempt is a challenge especially when I can't think of something I have not told him already but I am striving towards this goal. Hopefully, some day, he will have a book to share with his children when they go to college as well.
I will begin posting pieces of each letter, mostly the concepts that I strive to convey to him.

The Road Less Traveled
Dear Son,
I never thought that the day would come, but here I am writing from your bedroom. And there you are in Washington D.C. excited and getting adjusted to your new life.  I am excited with you, but I also miss you a lot.  Many times I have thought of you being here and almost called your name out loud. It will take some time to get used to not having you around.  This house feels the emptiness you have left upon your departure.  Now to what I’d like to share with you about the road less traveled.  You have taken this road.  It is less traveled for several reasons.  One of them is because you are unique.  The road can symbolically be the path you have taken.  No two paths are alike and thus yours is as unique as everyone else’s around you. But there are also other reasons.  It is a road less traveled because you are a Christian young man.  The words that the Apostle Paul told young adult Timothy are true for you as well, “from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” (2 Timothy 3:15) 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Listen to Him

We live in a society where we hear many voices coming from a variety of places.  With technology, we have even more.  Everywhere we go we are asked to do something.  Just watch the commercials on TV or on-line and you will see this.  They all promise you something: happiness, satisfaction, pleasure, health, peace, money, advancement, a new life, etc... Most of them, if not all, are not truthful.  They are trying to capitalize on you.
Today I read this verse:   "He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” ""(Matthew 17:5 ESV) It just resonated after reading it.  God speaks these words at what we call the transfiguration of Jesus on top of a mountain.  Only two people are present, Peter and John.  God speaks to them. Of all the things He could have said, he says, "listen to him."  Why? Jesus is the very Word (logos) of God (John 1). When He speaks, God speaks.  God didn't say this because Jesus needed to be reaffirmed.  The disciples needed to it.  They needed to understand that Jesus is the Word of Life.  Listening to him and believing his words bring life: "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life." (John 5:24 ESV)
You will hear many voices from friends, preachers, churches, commercials, the internet, but you only need to hear one voice, the voice of Jesus:  "I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, [15] just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. [16] And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. "(John 10:14-16 ESV)
Listen to Him.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Prophet, Martyr, The Death of John The Baptist

Matthew 14:1-12 describes the martyrdom of the last prophet John the Baptist. His coming was foretold in the Old Testament in the book of Malaqui (chapter 3:1;4:5) He would prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. His birth was a miracle in of itself (Luke 1). He grew up dedicated to the Lord and his life was for most of his adulthood, lonely and unusual. But he depended on the Lord. At God's appointed time he revealead himself to his people and preached the message of repentance. Yet, he was only a prophet who was preparing the way of the Lord. Nevertheless, his message was well received and many came to believe in the Messiah. But his ministry was not meant to be long. Not too long after his ministry began, after having baptized Jesus and declaring him the Messiah, he is arrested. He is arrested for speaking the truth of God. He told Herod Antipas that his relationship with Herodias, who was his wife, was against God's will (Herod had divorced his wife for no good reason, against God's standards in the Old Testament). Herod wanted to kill him, but he was afraid of the people. They knew he was a prophet of God and people would revolt. He acted like a"good" politician. Evil as he was, the women around him were just as bad. His wife asked his daughter who was between 12 and 14 years old to dance for him on his birthday. They way she danced was very seductive. It is sad to read this. Sad that a young lady was already corrupted at this age. Herod was so pleased with her dance that he promises her anything she wants. Enters Herodias. She immediately tells her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist. As crass, as it sounds but that's how it happened. An evil woman wants to kill a prophet because she knows she is doing something wrong. She can't have this threat. Herod gives in, John is killed and his head is brought on a platter to Herodias's daughter and she gives it to her mom. Evil. The last prophet of God is dead.


I couldn't help to feel sad for John the Baptist. His life was cut short by an evil man and women. But God knew this would happen. Jesus hears of it and goes away to be alone. He doesn't attack Herod nor does he start a revolt. He knows God's purposes. Evil men will not stop God's plans. Jesus knows that his life will also end not too long after John's. Jesus will not be defeated by death, he will rise and by his death many will receive God's gift of salvation. John the Baptist is not dead either. He is very welll alive in Paradise. He is enjoying fellowship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus said that there hasn't been anyone as great as John the Baptist (Matthew 11). For a good reason.

This made me think about several things. Ministry. Our ministry may not last long. Many prophets in the Old Testament were called for a specific time and purpose. Once they accomplished what God called them to do, they were done. Many suffered much to the point of death. It also made think about the consequences for speaking for God. Not everyone will receive God's truth. Those who reject God's truth will fight back to the point of getting violent. Finally, it made think how evil can get a hold of people even as young as 12 years old. Evil does not respect age.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Human Affections vs. Divine Affections

This is an old video. I don't know why I am posting it, but maybe because I just signed up with Vimeo.

Human Affections vs. Divine Affections from Edgar Galdamez on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Fading Memories

Fading Memories

yesterday
I saw you
today
I try
to 
remember
what 
you
look
like
close 
my eyes
I
try
to
imagine
what
you
look
like
I
find
no
Image 
of 
what
you
look
like
the
void
inside
I
know
you
are
there
some
where
beneath
the 
fading
memories
but
what
do 
you
look
like?

©eig 10/2/10

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I Don't Get It!

I just finished reading parts of a blog titled "I don't get it" about large churches.  The author doesn't get it why we need them.  I read a bit of it but didn't finish it because I knew what he would say.  But God still uses us, his Church in spite of our short comings, especially in how we "do" church.

I have been looking at jobs in churches, and I just don't get it either. Why do churches look for "professionals" to do God's work?  Their qualifications go page after page. Scripture has simple qualifications for pastors (I Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9). I just know also that none of the Apostles with the exception of Paul would have qualified under the "professional requirements", though his record before becoming a Christian would probably have disqualified him too. Jesus would not have qualified for any job either. I don't think I am on par with Jesus or his disciples. Nor do I think myself better than any of the pastors of  churches with large numbers.  But I don't think I am inferior, though at times I sure feel this way.  I wonder whether I have the same faith. The words of the apostle Peter come to mind in 2nd Peter 1:1 where he says we have the "same faith" as all the apostles.  Thank God! It makes me feel better.

I admit that I have applied to some of these churches, most of them under 1000. But I know I probably won't be considered for any of them. Why did I do it? I guess it's to test whether there is a church out there that is open to God's leading. I know I sound presumptuous with this last sentence. I can't believe either that everyone "hired" by these churches are actually what God wants. I am not saying they are not either. I know God still uses us in spite of us. His work will continue in his church. I'm just trying to find out if maybe I have a part in any of them. The experiment will be over soon I'm afraid.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Old Age



She is in the hospital. She is 82 years old.  Her son sits on a chair and observes.  An alarm from the IV machine keeps beeping. It’s an annoying sound.  Her son talks to her and asks her if she has eaten to which she answers affirmatively. They both stop talking. Soon she is sleeping again. The trembling and the shaking continues. At times, she lifts her hands makes pointing motions as if she is talking to someone. But she is not.  The son wonders what is happening inside her mind. Where is her mind going? Is she dreaming those times when she was young, times that he knows not for he is too young to have remembered her.  Is she in the meat market place talking to a customer? Is she dancing the night away? Does she dream all her nine children together with her, laughing and enjoying the time together? Her son can only wonder. The old woman who brought him to this world lays there. “Is it really her?” he thinks to himself. Old age. Wrinkled. Weak. Incoherent. Alone. Sadness feels his heart and wonders what his future will hold. “Is this what I can expect?” he asks to himself. “Is this how we end?”  he murmurs. An epiphany has occurred. Once upon a time, he was also young and thoughtless. He didn’t think about old age. Growing in reverse did not seem possible then, but now it makes sense. We enter the world as a child. We end our journey in this world as an old child. But the difference is evident. As a child we are loved and cherished by our loved ones. As an old person we are neglected by our loved ones and cared by strangers. Love them now. 
Love them now. Sooner than you think, you will take her place.

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity by George MacDonald- Selected Quotes

This week while I was flying to DC, I read some of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons. I read two of them and I thought these quotes were very deep.

"The Cause of Spiritual Stupidity" - "Unspoken Sermons" George MacDonald

If a man forget a thing, God will see to that: man is not lord of his memory or his intellect. But man is lord of his will, his action; and is then verily to blame when, remembering a duty, he does not do it, but puts it off, and so forgets it.

Distrust is atheism, and the barrier to all growth. Lord, we do not understand thee, because because we do not trust thy Father—whole-hearted to us, as never yet was mother to her first-born! Full of care, as if he had none, we think this and that escapes his notice, for this and that he does not think! While we who are evil would die to give our children bread to eat, we are not certain the only Good will give us anything of what we desire! The things of thy world so crowd our hearts, that there is no room in them for the things of thy heart, which would raise ours above all fear, and make us merry children in our Father's house!

When I trouble myself over a trifle, even a trifle confessed—the loss of some little article, say—spurring my memory, and hunting the house, not from immediate need, but from dislike of loss; when a book has been borrowed of me and not returned, and I have forgotten the borrower, and fret over the missing volume, while there are thousands on my shelves from which the moments thus lost might gather treasure holding relation with neither moth, nor rust, nor thief; am I not like the disciples?

I forget that it is live things God cares about—live truths, not things set down in a book, or in a memory, or embalmed in the joy of knowledge, but things lifting up the heart, things active in an active will.

If you let thought for the morrow, or the next year, or the next month, distress you; if you let the chatter of what is called the public, peering purblind into the sanctuary of motive, annoy you; if you seek or greatly heed the judgment of men, capable or incapable, you set open your windows to the mosquitoes of care, to drown with their buzzing the voice of the Eternal!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MAN'S DIFFICULTY CONCERNING PRAYER

This week while I was flying to DC, I read some of George MacDonald's Unspoken Sermons. I read two of them and I thought these quotes were very deep.


MAN'S DIFFICULTY CONCERNING PRAYER.

'—and not to faint.'—ST. LUKE xviii. 1.

"There are some who would argue for prayer, not on the ground of any possible answer to be looked for, but because of the  good to be gained in the spiritual attitude of the mind in praying...Theirs is a better way than that of those who, believing there is a God, but not believing that he will give any answer to their prayers, yet pray to him; that is more foolish and more immoral than  praying to the No-god. Whatever the God be to whom they pray, their prayer is a mockery of him, of themselves, of the truth."

"There are moods of such satisfaction in God that a man may feel as if nothing were left to pray for, as if he had but to wait with patience for what the Lord would work; there are moods of such hungering desire, that petition is crushed into an inarticulate crying; and there is a communion with God that asks for nothing, yet asks for everything. This last is the very essence of prayer, though not petition. It is possible for a man, not indeed to believe in God, but to believe that there is a God, and yet not desire to enter into communion with him; but he that prays and does not faint will come to recognize that to talk with God is more than to have all prayers granted—that it is the end of all prayer, granted or refused. And he who seeks the Father more than anything he can give, is likely to have what he asks, for he is not likely to ask amiss"

To give us the spiritual gift we desire, God may have to begin far back in our spirit, in regions unknown to us, and do much work that we can be aware of only in the results; for our consciousness is to the extent of our being but as the flame of the volcano to the world-gulf whence it issues: in the gulf of our unknown being God works behind our consciousness. With his holy influence, with his own presence, the one thing for which most earnestly we cry, he may be approaching our consciousness from behind, coming forward through regions of our darkness into our light, long before we begin to be aware that he is answering our request—has answered it, and is visiting his child.

THE WORD OF JESUS ON PRAYER.

'They ought always to pray.'—ST. LUKE xviii. I.

"If you knew God, you would leave that to him. He is not mocked, and he will not mock. But he knows you better than you know yourself, and would keep you from fooling yourself. He will not deal with you as the child of a day, but as the child of eternal ages. You shall be satisfied, if you will but let him have his way with the creature he has made. The question is between your will and the will of God. He is not one of those who give readiest what they prize least. He does not care to give anything but his best, or that which will prepare for it. Not many years may pass before you confess, 'Thou art a God who hears prayer, and gives a better answer.' You may come to see that the desire of your deepest heart would have been frustrated by having what seemed its embodiment then."

" 'But if God is so good as you represent him, and if he knows all that we need, and better far than we do ourselves, why should it be necessary to ask him for anything?'

"I answer, What if he knows prayer to be the thing we need first and most? What if the main object in God's idea of prayer be the supplying of our great, our endless need—the need of himself?"

"Communion with God is the one need of the soul beyond all other need; prayer is the beginning of that communion, and some need is the motive of that prayer."

"The true child will not fear, but lay bare his wishes to the perfect Father. The Father may will otherwise, but his grace  will be enough for the child."

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thoughts on Jonah Chapter 4



In chapter 3 we saw that God has held his judgment against Niniveh and saved them. Jonah was the unhappy means of communication.  Why was he so reluctant to go on this mission? The answer is found at the beginning of this chapter.  This was exceedingly “evil” (the same word in Hebrew-ra’ah- is used as in chapter 3:10) to Jonah. Why? He knew God’s character.  He knew God is “gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (ESV) Most people would be glad to have a God like this, but at this point in his life, Jonah does not agree. Jonah goes even further. He gets so depressed about it that he asks God to kill him. I have to say that as I read these verses they are a bit comical. Jonah is acting like a child. But I understand him.  You might say you would never do this, but I can assure you that you would do the same thing as him. God does not strike Jonah dead for behaving this way. He just asks, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Notice God doesn’t use psycho babble either. He points to right and wrong. Is it right? Of course it is not right. Jonah new it but he could not admit it.

Jonah decides to go relax somewhere away. There, God “appoints” a plant to cover him from the sun (to take away his discomfort-ra’ah-evil). God takes care of him. But He has a plan as well.  Jonah becomes quite happy. In fact, he goes from “exceedingly” unhappy to “exceedingly happy.” It is interesting that a plant makes him change his state of mind. Oh, how human we are. We care so much about our physical condition but not so much for our spiritual condition and of those around us.  We want to take care of ourselves without taking care of others. 

God not only takes away the plant but adds some heat to Jonah.  Some hot wind and sun made Jonah faint and got him to ask God again to kill him. God asks him again if he does well asking this only because of the plant. And this time he answer yes.  “Jonah, really? You do well? You ask this all because of a plant that has withered and died. A plant that gave you benefits without you doing anything.” God doesn’t tell him it was all His doing. But I get the feeling Jonah knew.
Now comes the lesson for Jonah. “You care about a plant been destroyed but don’t care about 120,000 people been destroyed? Plants and lives are not on equal plain Jonah. You know this.” Jonah’s ethics were wrong.
Silence.

Did Jonah get the message? We don’t know, but I assume he did. But it has no response so that we can answer it when we find ourselves in similar situations.  And we will.

Here are the lessons from Jonah:
1. Obey God or else be ready to pay the price (God will pursue you!).
2. God uses imperfect, temperamental people like Jonah (and me). He can use you.
3. God is compassionate, graceful, loving and slow to anger and wishes to save everyone. So should we.
4. God cares about us even when we are not obedient to Him. He will teach us what we need to learn.

Jonah was referred to by Jesus in Matthew 12:40. Jesus was the opposite of Jonah.
Jonah was disobedient = Jesus was obedient
Jonah was a reluctant messenger = Jesus was a willing messenger
Jonah was not compassionate = Jesus was compassionate
Jonah was didn’t sacrifice anything to save anyone = Jesus sacrificed everything to save us
Jonah spent three days and three nights in a fish = Jesus spent three days and three nights in the grave 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Review of Mere Churchianity by Michael Spencer


I became familiar with Michael Spencer’s writing over a year ago found in his blog at Internet Monk. I read an article titled The Coming Evangelical Collapse and found similar thoughts I that I myself have been thinking for a while. Unfortunately, Michael became sick with cancer and died before he could see his book released.  I have read his book and now offer some of my thoughts about it.  This isn’t a thorough review, I offer some observations and ask some questions. I find his writing very thoughtful and unique. He does not regurgitate someone else’s thoughts. He writes what he learned as a Christian pilgrim and offers challenging views on the church.
Michael’s topic is what he calls “Mere Churchianity.”  This title of course mirrors the title of C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity.” But for Michael “churchianity” is “the church-dependent religion.” (186) It is the church as an institution in its various forms and Denominations. This type of “churchianity,” according to Michael, is not what is found in Scripture.  This type of church has left Jesus.  He writes for those who have left or are about to leave the church (or churchianity) offering advice and helping them move to the “Jesus-Shaped spirituality”. These people still believe something (17). They are “God seekers” (18).
One of the big presuppositions of the book is that those leaving the church are seeking some sort of spirituality (18, 63) and Michael offers his thoughts as to why they do this. I do agree that many (Christians?) are leaving the organized church. I do think that some are genuinely seeking the path of Jesus or the Jesus-shaped spirituality. But I can’t agree that most of them are doing this for this reason.  I would have liked to see some actual testimonies as appendices in the book of those who Michael knew that had left or were about to leave the church. This would have added more credibility to this assertion.  I won’t deny that Michael knew of these people first-hand, but I am not fully convinced about it even though I understand and agree that this may be the best these people can do. I also have found myself going from church to church and what I have observed has left me wondering if this is the church that Christ had in mind. What I have observed is the church as an institution but not as an organic movement representing Jesus.  Programs, activities, Bible studies, conferences and positions run the church and not Jesus. The script is there and everyone is expected to follow it. It is very hard to find “Jesus-Shaped spirituality.”
According to Michael, the church has little to do with Jesus and more with being successful and relevant (25). It is like a pecan pie but without the pecans.  The church does not resemble the community Jesus intended for his people. What we need to have according to Michael is “a movement of culture-resisting, church suspicious rebels and Jesus followers who have taken the same view of religion that Jesus took in his denouncements of religious phoniness.” (44) I agree.
For Michael, the solution to the church’s incongruities (with what is and what ought to be) is to get back to Jesus.  We need to go back to the Jesus we find in the New Testament. We need to model our life after his. “The genuine Jesus-follower walks a narrow path with a unique and exclusive Jesus,” (78) according to Spencer. The Jesus follower is concerned about the Kingdom of God, those who are excluded, making disciples the way Jesus did, and sharing the message of Jesus as the only Mediator (ch. 8). The church also needs to get back to reading the Bible. Most churches spoon-feed their parishioners by giving them selected verses but do not encourage personal Bible reading. The Holy Spirit will guide believers as they read the Bible (ch. 10). The church also needs to be real and stop using adjectives such as “victorious” and “successful.”  We need to start realizing our own failures and struggles and stop pretending to be “good Christians” (ch. 11). We are all for hearing from those who have been redeemed by Christ but we don’t want to hear about their struggles as they live the Christian life.  We avoid this at all cost. But for Michael, “The fact is, we’re screwed up.” (141)
Michael writes: “The life of faith is warfare.  I fight. Jesus will finish the work. I will groan and do battle, climbing the mountain of holiness bearing wounds and battle scars.  But I will climb it, since Christ is in me.  The gospel assures victory, eventually.” (148)
The Jesus-shaped spirituality calls us to be honest before God and live an “unscripted” life (107). The community Jesus had in mind, is a community that allows for a “sacred spirituality,” that is done in solitude (181) and not dependent upon the church. But we also foster the relationships we have in the community of believers.  For Michael, this community does not necessarily mean “churchianity” or the organized church. This can happen outside the organized church among the body of believers.  I agree with Michael here as well. But I hardly see any sense of community in the church.  In my opinion, the institution has replaced community. There’s more time for solitude but I doubt we are spending time with God.
According to Michael, a mass exodus of people will leave church (189) due to disillusionment for being misled.  They will no longer be willing to follow the church’s script and instead be true to themselves. They will leave consumer Christianity.  They will move on to a more personal faith, a “designer approach to faith.” (190) Michael offers advice for them: a Jesus-shaped spirituality that is both personal and communal, mentored, saturated with Scripture, growing in the context of service and the gospel and found in relationships (ch. 17).
As I read the book, I found that I agreed with most of what Michael writes.  I have had many of the same observations about Christianity and the church.  I foresee a similar fate to what he observed.  But contrary to Michael, I don’t see many of those leaving the church embracing any spirituality. I am more pessimistic.  I believe God will have to intervene to bring us back to himself.  He may have to be drastic. 
Michael’s view on those leaving the church made me a bit uneasy.  I can see and understand why they do it, but I can also see the danger of leaving. I hope no one thinks he is encouraging anyone to leave the church.  It’s not as easy as it seems. Many will not seek any spirituality and will be sucked into the culture. But for those who understand what Jesus intended for the church to be, who have struggled in it, who sought to change it but have failed, it may be the best option. They will still follow Jesus in solitude and in community with those who have taken the same path but never alone and with much humility.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Parallels between The Church and Government



I grew up in a Conservative Baptist church.  I went to a Baptist college and Seminary. I studied Baptist History. I know that as Baptists we are to have a separation between The Church and Government.  They don't mix.  They follow different paths.  Separation between Church and State has also had a long history. Yet, the more I have learned about Government (I use the capital G to refer to our Federal Government) the more parallels I see between it and The Church (I use this term to refer to all those who are Christians or the "call out" by God to be his children as the New Testament describes them).  I could focus on only negative aspects and I could write a lot. I could focus on only the positive aspects and still write a lot. I am going to attempt to be fair-minded.  But why do this? Is it necessary? I do this to put those nagging thoughts away that constantly pop up.  It is not necessary but perhaps is helpful for me.  Maybe it is just catharsis for me. Maybe they will help others. Maybe it is a way to see Government and The Church from a different perspective. Ok. Here it goes.

1. Both Government and The Church have their beginning in God. 
Most of us won't deny that The Church is God's idea and not a human invention.  The Church as defined in the New Testament are those who have been redeemed, saved from their sins and called out of the world to live for God.  This community was established by Jesus himself ("I will build my church").  Government, according to the Bible is "ordained" by God.  Here there are some disagreements I’m sure.  Some would hold that not all governments are established by God. All are established to keep order.  I can live with that.  But I will limit this to our government here in the United States.  Our Government is clearly established in the presupposition that we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights (The Declaration of Independence).  So there! The connection is made whether we believe that our Government is "established" by God in the proper sense of the word or not.
The application here is that both the Government and The Church must understand that they don't have any authority except that which is given by God. They are not intrinsically self-existent or have any power unless it is given to them. Yet we see the abuse of power in Government and The Church.  Yes, I know I said the Church.  If I could sit down with you I can give you my personal narrative of how The Church does abuse its power, I would.  It would take hours.

2. Both Government and The Church have a purpose for its existence.
The Government’s purpose is to protect and establish rule of law so that its citizens can live peacefully.  The Church exists to glorify God by proclaiming the Gospel to all nations and make disciples of them.  The application here is that the Government and the Church are not an end in itself.  They exist for a purpose and when they cease to carry the purpose for which they have been called, they lose the authority for which they have been called. I do believe that both the Government and The Church are losing (if not already) their way as to their purpose of their existence. Is the Government focusing on protecting its members’ freedom and well-being? Read the news.  Is The Church making disciples of all nations? Visit one close to you and see for yourself where their emphasis is.

3. Both Government and The Church have officials that are called to serve the community.
  This cannot be denied. Ministers, pastors, deacons, etc... and Government officials are elected (many churches have "elections" by voting and also have appointments made by boards) and some are appointed to serve (the discussion as to ministers being called by God is not necessary since validation is still required by the Church or by a Board of leaders). Who do both serve? They serve its constituents.  The Government provides protection and resources for the people.  The Church (i.e. the officials) serves its members by caring for them and reaching out to the rest of the community.  Today, we see how Government has forgotten its call to serve. To listen to the people. To help the people.  They are doing their own thing. The Church has forgotten that they are called not only to serve each other's needs but its community needs as well. How many churches are blind to their surroundings and don't acknowledge those that live around them.  Many of them exist in neighbourhoods that have completely changed ethnically but are not been reached by the Church.

4. Both Government and The Church have Sacred Documents that serve as their road map.
Our Government has the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution as its "sacred" documents.  These documents are the road map for the Nation. The Constitution is the document that serves as the foundation of Government. It outlines its powers and responsibilities.  It is to be carefully read and interpreted. Some believe that it needs to be interpreted in its original intent and it is not meant to be a document that can be changed. Christians have the Bible. It is our road map.  The Bible needs to be interpreted properly as well. Some of us believe it is to be interpreted according to its original meaning and intent and applied carefully.  We believe it is inerrant (a whole topic all by itself). We see how both Government and The Church have changed the meaning of their documents.  Proof? Study up the history of the Separation of Church and State in our government and see how far we have gone from the original intent of the Constitution.  The Church? The meaning of what the Bible says about certain issues have totally being altered. But even Conservative churches are making the Bible say things that it doesn't say (especially those that are very legalistic.  They have rules derived from the Bible to avoid its members from becoming "worldly"). I know I haven't given many specific examples, but do I need to?
There's much more I could say. But the point is made and I feel better. Well, not really. But I've shared it.

P.S. I am currently finishing up a book called "Mere Churchianity" and have found that Michael Spencer who recently passed away had some of the same thoughts I have had for quite some time now. I don't agree with everything of course, but I will write a review later.         

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reflections on the book of Jonah - chapter 3

In this chapter Jonah gets a second chance.  It starts very matter factly.  It is as if nothing has happened.  God speaks to Jonah and tells him to go to Niniveh and he will tell him what to do next.  Jonah does it without hesitation.  God has just given him a second chance.  Why? God does not tell us.  He wants to. Period. Does God need to give us explanation for everything He does? No.  He didn't give the answers to Job. He doesn't here either.  Does God always give second chances? when I was reading Surprised by Grace the author says God doesn't always give second chances. He gives examples such as Ananias and Saphira in the book of Acts.  It is true if we see second chances as part of events, big events in our lives.  But I believe we get second chances every day.  Lamentations 3 says that it is because of God's mercy that we are not consumed. They are new every morning.  Every day we get to start anew and have a choice to live for God or live for ourselves.  God's mercy makes this possible. It is not because of us that we get second chances, it is because God has compassion on us and remembers that we are just dust. He is a compassionate Father (Psalm 103).  He cares for all of us even when we do wrong.




This is the case here.  Jonah gets a second chance as a rebellious child that he is but also Nineveh gets a second chance.  Jonah begins to speak the message. He had to walk three days worth saying, "In forty days God will bring you down." Nothing is said as to what they needed to do. I wonder if he was just selecting what to say or if he said more than that.  I imagine that he was just walking and saying it without much passion.  Some see him passionately speaking out but I doubt it.  He knew that God was giving them a second chance and he did not want them to have it. After all, he knew that the king was a vicious man who had killed so many in battle, even children.  He had killed people and skinned them. He had no reason to like them.  Do we not feel the same way about some people we know?

What happened next probably blew Jonah's top off (as we shall see later).  People believed the message, believed in God and repented (the putting on of ashes, torn clothing symbolizes this) of their evil ways. Even the king heard the message and believed and repented of his evil ways. He even proclaimed a day of fasting and calling out to God that perhaps would move Him to not destroy them.  God hears them. God chances his mind (repents). He saves them. Not often do we have a whole city turning to God but it happened here.

It strikes me how God uses imperfect people.  He used Jonah even with his disobedience and bad attitude (bad personality).  He can use me. He can use you. He gives us his mercy every day to start anew. Today!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Disagreeing with Jesus



I don’t often disagree with Jesus. This was the case the other day when I was reading Matthew 6:25-34.  I have read this passage many times. I have heard sermons about it many times. I have read commentaries about it.  But recently God has been pointing out some things I have never seen before.  I couldn’t believe that I was disagreeing with Jesus when I came to this passage. 

In this chapter Jesus is teaching his disciples how to pray.  He also points out the danger of storing treasures on earth by hoarding material things and the evil of loving money.  Then he tells them,
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?” (NIV)

So I said to Jesus, “I don’t worry about what I have eat. I have plenty of food. I don’t worry about what I have to drink. I have plenty of water. I have that.  I don’t worry about what I will wear. I have plenty of clothes.”
I felt good. I can trust Jesus on this. But I went on, “I need…this Lord and this! And you didn’t promise that here so I can worry about it, right?”

As I read on I realized he meant more than just the basic necessities. We shouldn’t worry about anything from which our subsistence depends. He says,
“For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (NIV)

“Yes, Jesus I know you know them but you are taking too long to answer them.”

And he says, “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (NIV)

“Ok, Lord so I should just look for those things that honor you, seek the spiritual things? And then you will give me those things as well. That’s easy for you to say because you are not in my shoes. We live in different times. You didn't need much then. It's a complex world.”

“So what you are saying is that I should just not worry period and trust you?”

I knew the answer!

Thoughts on the book of Jonah - Chapter 2


Continuing the thoughts on the life of Jonah.  At the end of chapter 1, God “appoints” a fish to swallow Jonah as he is thrown in the ocean.  The purpose was not to kill Jonah but to protect him.  As Tchivdjian in the book  Surprised by Grace states “The fish’s belly was not Jonah’s prison or death chamber, but only a temporary hospital for his soul and protection for his body from the ocean depths. It’s good for Jonah to be here. God ensures that his unworthy servant is made fully aware of this undeserved deliverance.”

Jonah spends three days and three nights in the belly of the fish. In Jewish custom three days and three days do not necessarily mean three full days.  This event is quoted by Jesus and it foreshadows his death and resurrection (Matthew 12:40).  God in his Sovereignty not only appoints a fish to protect Jonah but also to teach us something that was yet to come.  He wants to teach us about Jesus. Jesus would come. He would die and be buried for three days and three nights but on the third day, he would rise.  Jonah was a shadow of what was to come.

What is Jonah's  response? Jonah prayed! I try to picture what it was like to be inside the fish.  Dark. Smelly. The movement of the internal parts of the fish must have been scary. The slime all over his body. What else to do? Pray. What is our reaction when something bad is happening in our lives? When we fear death? When we go through difficult circumstances? Jonah prayed! We can pray!
What is he thinking? He is thinking he is going to die.  He is in the place of the dead (Sheol).  But God has heard him (he mentions this twice). He believes that God will save him (or perhaps has already saved him from the ocean).  He understands that what is happening is God’s doing (“you cast me into the deep”). The words “your” repeat over and over in this prayer.  He is grateful to God. He believes that salvation is of God. When we pray do we believe God will answer us? Are we grateful to God? Do we believe that only God can save us?

God speaks to the fish and it vomits Jonah out. This amazes me. God speaks to a fish. God is an incredible God. The act of vomiting also shows God’s displeasure towards Jonah. But he has shown grace by saving him.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Thoughts on the book of Jonah Ch. 1


I have been reading a book called Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. I came across it reading a review. It has led me to read, think and dialogue within me (and even with God) the book of Jonah. I will not be reviewing the author’s book, there are many out there. But I will present some of my thoughts and some point of views contrary to what I am reading in the book Surprised by Grace.
It is interesting that Jonah means dove. A dove according to the ESV is a symbol for “Israel as silly and senseless.” Much like Jonah. Son of Amittai means “son of my faithfulness.” It is as if God was already telling Johan how He saw him.

The book opens very briskly. God speaks to Jonah to go to Niniveh and tell them about their evil. Niniveh was the capital Assyria and was North of what is now Baghdad. We know that God is a compassionate God but we also know He is just. Why Jonah refuses to go and immediately decides to run away from God’s presence is something we are not told. I find the tenor of these verses comical. I can picture this in my mind. God says go to Niniveh and Jonah goes the opposite way to Tarshish. He runs as fast as he can and gets on a ship. Comical because who is he fooling? He knows he can’t run away from God. It is very childlike, or maybe he is just acting like a dove, silly and senseless. What does God do? He could have taken care of him. He could have punished him; instead he will teach him a few lessons and make him see his foolishness. Very much the way God deals with us when we act silly and senseless. We think we can run away from Him, that we can hide from Him.

Jonah gets in the ship. But God raises a great wind (God is sovereign, Lord of heaven and earth) that causes the ship to almost break up. The mariners are not believers in Yahweh (God) but at this point they all start praying for their lives. In their desperation they turn to chance and superstition. They roll the dice to figure out whose fault it is what they are facing. And you guess it. It falls on Jonah. While they do this Jonah is sleeping like a baby. They wake him up and begin to question. Jonah admits he is a prophet of God who is running away from Him. He realizes it is his fault. I believe Jonah is a believer in Yahweh. He is not a pagan. He has been a successful prophet (2 Kings 14:23-28). But he has rebelled against God. He doesn’t agree with what God wants to do. I think he knew that if he spoke the Word of the Lord in Niniveh, people would turn to Him. He was full of prejudice. He should have understood God’s grace. But we are like him as well. We think we know better than God. We think we know who deserves to be a Christian and who doesn’t.
They ask Jonah what they ought to do. He tells them to cast him in the ocean. I don’t know what he is thinking. But I think he wants to die. The men don’t do that immediately. They try to get away from the tempest without resorting to throwing this man in the ocean. Then they pray to Yahweh. It is my belief that these men have become believers of Yahweh at this point. They ask forgiveness for “killing” this man who they will throw into the ocean. They offer sacrifices to God. As soon as they do this, the tempest stops.

It is interesting to me how God uses those who are called his “servants” or followers even when they are foolish. He uses Jonah in his rebellious state to proclaim His name to the sailors. He uses us even when we are rebellious. God also uses those who are not believers to show us mercy and compassion. The sailors cared for Jonah and tried to save him. But Jonah didn’t care about them or about Niniveh.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Fleeting Time

I wrote this poem when my son was a freshman. It's been almost four years and he is almost out of High School.

Fleeting Time

Time flees
I'd like to see
Stop for me
I look at you
What you do
You've grown so too
Hold it there!
My little boy is gone
I don't know where!
Please time, stop fleeting
Let me enjoy
My boy is growing
Too fast, too fast
My heart is beating!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Following Jesus in an Age of Super Stars

The title of this post is misleading. When I mean Super Stars I don't mean the Hollywood crowd. I mean the Christian stars. Bear with me as I explain. When I was a new Christian I was immediately taken under my youth pastor's wings. I admired him a lot. Naturally, I began to imitate him, so much that I even sounded like him when I taught or preached. Those that know me can attest to this. This wasn't bad necessarily because I was young in my walk with God. I was a growing Christian. It was like a child that imitates his mom or dad. We imitate others we admire. It is natural. But as you grow up, you learn to be your own person. In fact, when you are mature, you are expected to be your own person. It is an anomaly to see people who are full grown adults imitating others to the point that you can't see who they really are. So now to the point I want to make.
We are Christians. In fact, the name comes from the book of Acts. It is there where the believers in Jesus were called Christians (Acts 11:26). It was a label applied to them because they followed Christ. So it is obvious that Christians follow Christ or Jesus Christ. But it is interesting to note that many Christians are still following or imitating the Super Stars of Christianity. I will restrain myself to mentioning names but there are many that follow the teachings of a particular person to the point that they speak like them and think like them. I remember our pastor who used to say that there were members of a particular church that used to say, "My pastor is Dr.____" They said with so much pride. There are many nowadays that have forgotten that we don't follow a man or a woman, we follow Jesus. You don't think this is true? Do a search on a particular preacher or teacher and see what people say (of course, they will have critics as well, but that is not the point of this blog). Observe what people say about the pastor of the church you attend. Go to a Christian Bookstore and see who are the Super Stars. Just take a look at Study Bibles with their names. I know, it is natural you say. Yes, but for how long? We must value those are gifted in teaching but we must understand that our role as Christians is to show ourselves approved as God's workman who accurately handles the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15). We must be like the Bereans (Acts 17:1) and examine everything we are taught by others. We compare what they say with what Scripture says. You will be surprised to find that not everything they say is clearly taught in Scripture. If not, then we know we must follow what the Scriptures say. I am often perplexed why people write the words (i.e. notes) a preacher says about Scripture as opposed to what their explanation of Scripture that is given.
Then there is the issue of imitation. The only one we imitate is Jesus. Beside Jesus, I only find one person in the Bible who said to imitate him, Paul the apostle, but he was clear as to who He was imitating (I Corinthians 11:1). We only imitate others to the degree they imitate Jesus. When we do something, we must follow what Jesus told us to do or God or the Holy Spirit tells us to do: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12) ESV
Be careful who you follow and who you call your teacher or master: "Neither be ye called masters; for one is you master, Christ." (Matthew 23:10). It is Jesus who calls you to follow him (Luke 18:22, Matthew 16:24, Mark 1:17)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Apostle Paul's Life Mission

For a while I have thinking about Paul the Apostle. I don't want to talk about how he came to be a follower of Jesus. You can read it here. It is an amazing story. Humanly, he could not do this on his own. He was a religious fanatic bound by Jewish tradition. When he experienced his

transformation he became a Jesus follower. In fact, Jesus appeared to him. You can dismiss this as craziness or an impossibility but you would have to present your own diagnosis. You will have to read all of his writings to make a determination. I am of the belief that his experience was genuine and I accept his testimony. What really has impressed me lately is his

singular focus and life mission. He was a man who had success being religious, if we apply the normal rules of "success". But everything changed after the Damascus experience. His focus was preaching the message of repentance through Jesus. He had no other ambition. He

travelled from place to place teaching The Way of Jesus. Those that believed the message like he had became the nucleus of the churches established in Asia Minor. He experienced many trials like hunger,beatings, threats, shipwrecks, dangers, incarcerations and eventually

it cost him his life. Tradition says he was beheaded under the Roman Emperor Nero. Here is what Paul's mission was: "However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me-the task of testifying to the Gospel

of God's grace." His mission and focus was clear. In spite of the fact that what awaited him in the future was incarcerations and affliction, Paul was determined in his life mission. Nothing else mattered to him, not even his life (Acts 20:24).

Elsewhere Paul also said, "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ" (Philippians 3:7-8).


This has made me think about what I value, what my focus in life should be. I have to say that I have not arrived at this. I have many distractions that take my time, some are necessary, some are not. But as I have aged my focus continues to sharpen. I hope and pray to

arrive at it like the Apostle Paul.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Reflection From Our Mission Trip to Mexico


I just came back from our mission trip in Mexico. The youth of our church went for seven days to Nogales México and I went along as one of the leaders. My job was to be an interpreter for those who didn't speak the language but for me it was more than that. This is not the first time I go to México on a mission trip. I have been to several of them and they always teach me something new and make me reflect on my own life path. I always learn to be grateful. Seeing how people live, without water, without bathrooms, without paved streets and with out many other luxuries makes me be grateful. I grew up in this same way up until I was about 10 years old. I lived liked them. Just before I came to America, we moved to my grandma's home and experienced for the first time what it was to have a nice home with showers and bathrooms. But after been here in America for most of my life, I have forgotten what it was like. Going to México reminded me that I need to be grateful. And I am. I also connected with many of the people from Mexico and learned about their lives. I went to visit at least two homes. I always ask questions to learn about them. It gives me a a different perspective as I learn from what they have experienced. Eduardo and Leo where the ones I talked to the most. They shared part of their life stories. I tried to encourage them by listening and showing empathy. I went to Eduardo's house and learned more about him and his family while we worked digging and leveling an area in a neighbors home. I spent time talking to Leo and while we went running on one morning, we talked about life and his relationship with God. There were also several conversations with the children. They amazed me. So many of them were able to share things about their simple life. But more than anything, their love for God moved me. When I found out the church we were helping had mostly children, I was somewhat disappointed. I wanted to have a "normal" church with adults. But it didn't take long to show me I was wrong to think this way. After hearing them the first day, everything changed. These children had more faith than I've ever seen in adults. It reminded me of what Jesus said about them. He told his disciples in Matthew 19:14 "“Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (ESV) In Matthew 18:3 he also said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." (ESV) He also prayed in Matthew 11:25 "“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children." (ESV) This was so true in Mexico. These children will be the future of the church in Mexico, I can see them going all over the world as missionaries. I believe in them. Jesus believed in them.

I also got a glimpse of the church in community. About forty of us, mostly High School students, ate together, worked together, prayed together, sang together, shared the Lord's Supper together, played together, laughed together. I didn't hear complaints. I didn't see any disagreements. I saw community. It reminded me of what the churched was like in the New Testament. Acts 2:42-44: "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common." (ESV) High Schoolers showed me a glimpse of what Christian community should be. I miss it!