I’m scared. Have I become too cynical? Or am I just tired of a just-feel-good Christianity? Then again, maybe I just want my own kind of just-feel-good Christianity. I don’t know anymore.
I have to say I haven’t enjoyed worship music at Family Worship (fancy name for vespers) for a while now. Is it the worship leaders? Is it my own cynicism about them?
Again, I don’t really know.
Is it the music? Is it the idea permeating our church that we know how things are supposed to be? Or that there is not much to be learned from others? More and more I see how some ministry leaders expect support for their events while neglecting what other people do? We can and should learn from each other. We don't have a monopoly on God and His Spirit.
Pray for me to get rid of any trace of anger that blinds so I can discern God’s will.
un tiempo para guardar, y un tiempo para desechar;
un tiempo para rasgar, y un tiempo para coser;
—eclesiastés 3:6b, 7a
Quedan unas pocas horas antes de que el año se acabe y no siento que yo haya terminado con él. Es extraño sentirse así, el no saber como sentirte en una situación. Aunque parece que es momento de filosofar, no me siento en el ánimo para hacerlo. La atmósfera es perfecta para hacerlo: estoy sentado al lado de mi hermana en un Starbucks en Mexicali, Baja California, la ciudad que amo y que no sé porque lo hago; hay un frappuccino mocha grande frente a mí; Spotify toca Coldplay; y escribo en mi MacBook de tres años y medio. ¿Esto suena extremadamente hipster? Me acaban de dar escalofríos.
Dos mil trece fue testigo de un tiempo inusual en mi vida. Quiero pensar que, aunque este no haya sido mi mejor año, pasé menos tiempo cometiendo errores y más tiempo enmendado situaciones. Al menos este último semestre. De cualquier manera, para aquellos que se tomarán el tiempo de leer esto, listaré algunas cosas de las cuales estoy agradecido y algunos propósitos para este año nuevo en lugar de una voluminosa reflexión que solo a mi me importa.
Probablemente este año leí más que nunca. Aprendí algunas cosas acerca de la oración, y tuve algunos momentos buenos en comunicación con Dios sintiendo su Espíritu trabajando en mí. Mediante la ayuda de buenos profesores, he crecido en mi conocimiento musical, y gracias a mi mentor en clarinete, he aprendido a amar el instrumento. El apoyo que he recibido de mi familia y amigos cercanos me ha ayudado a continuar mientras batallo para balancear mi vida. Y finalmente pero no menos importante, Dios ha sido mi אבן העזר (Eben-Ezer) incluso cuando he abusado de Su amor, y ese es el mayor regalo.
El año nuevo no traerá buenas cosas. Los años no hacen eso, y aunque sabemos esto muy bien, seguimos esperando que traigan algo mejor sin que cambiemos un poquito. Hay muchas cosas que quiero realizar este año: ser un mejor clarinetista; ampliar mi conocimiento del repertorio orquestal; ser un mejor hijo, hermano, y amigo; perder algo de peso tal vez. Mi último propósito resume todo y será mi enfoque: ser más amoroso. Quiero parecerme más a Jesús y ver el valor que él ve en cada persona. Si puedo cumplir alguna meta este año nuevo, que sea eso.
Ya filosofé, pero ahora que mi café y mi tiempo se acabó, pararé.
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
—ecclesiastes 3:6b, 7a
We only have a few hours left before the year is over and I'm not sure I am done with it. It is a strange feeling, not really knowing how to feel about something. Although it seems I’m about to start philosophizing, I don’t feel in the mood to do that. The setting is perfect, though: I’m sitting beside my sister at a Starbucks in Mexicali, Baja California, the city I love and am not sure why; there’s a grande mocha frappuccino in front of me; Spotify is playing Coldplay; and I am writing on my three-and-a-half-year-old MacBook. Does that sound extremely hipster? I just got the shivers.
Two thousand thirteen witnessed an unusual time in my life. I’m inclined to think that, although this might not have been my best year, I spent less time making mistakes and more time trying to mend things. At least this last semester. But anyway, for those who will take the time to read this, I will list a few things that I am thankful for and a few resolutions for the new year in lieu of a humongous reflection that only I care about.
This year I probably read more than ever. I learned a few things about prayer, and there were some good moments talking to God and feeling His Spirit work in me. Through the help of some great teachers, I have grown in my knowledge of music, and thanks to my clarinet mentor, I have learnt to love the clarinet. The support I have received from my family and close friends has helped me continue as I struggle trying to balance my life. And last but not least at all, God has been my אבן העזר (Eben-Ezer) even when I have abused His love, and that’s the greatest gift of all.
The new year won’t bring great things. Years don’t do that, and though we know this by heart, we keep hoping they will bring something better without us changing a bit. There are so many things I want to accomplish this new year: be a better clarinetist; expand my knowledge of orchestral repertoire; be a better son, brother, and friend; perhaps losing some weight. My last resolution kind of summarizes everything and will be my focus: being more loving. I want to be more like Jesus and see the worth He sees in every single person. If I am able to accomplish something this new year, may that be it.
Philosophize I did, and as my coffee and time ran out my writing I stop.
It seems every time I write here is to reflect on how poorly I am doing about communicating with God. I should be ashamed, and I am, but I simply keep coming back to the same place. Perhaps this blog helps me to see how my relationship with God is developing.
But anyway, let's talk about John. As a way to go back to a good relationship with Christ, I have decided to read John (it's the typical recommendation). Some of my favorite passages in the Bible are found in John's account, so going through them again is always a pleasure.
This week someone posted on Facebook an interesting comment regarding the way our church is trying to help believers and non-believers come to a closer relationship with Jesus or to simply meet Him for the first time. This topic interests me as I try to be a good follower of Christ so others can see what Jesus is really all about. But, do I even understand what He is all about?
This question brings me to the third chapter of John. Nicodemus has come looking for Jesus at night so nobody can see where He is going. He is a religious leader and he wants to talk to Jesus? No way! He says, "Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him" (verse 2). I believe that by "we" he meant "I." Nicodemus recognizes Jesus' authority. This is the first thing we notice when we come to Jesus. His love is such that we cannot understand. It must come from somewhere far away.
Jesus answers, "Very truly I tell you, no one can see the Kingdom of God unless they are born again" (verse 3).
And we stop right here. We sometimes mock Nicodemus for being one of the great leaders and not understanding this concept. I am obliged to confess I'm not sure I always understand what it means to be born again. I believe sometimes I do, and sometimes I just don't.
What do you think? Do we really understand what this is about?
Jesus answered, "Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit" (verses 5-8).
Christians have as many problems as non-believers. If you don't believe so, ask one of my friends. Life is hard for everyone, citing Coldplay "nobody said it was easy." Do becoming Christian gives you an easier life? Throughout my short life (19 years) I found the answer is a simple and cold "no,"
So, why should I believe in God, let alone praise Him? The answer is again simple: God is love. I don't know about you, but when I am going through hard moments I like to be loved. Feeling loved helps in a way that nothing else can. And you know who loves best? That's right. God.
If it's worth something, I advice you to praise God when you are hurting or when you are doubting. Because through worship we remember who God is, and He is good, and He is compassionate, and He is merciful, and He is just, and He is Love.
"Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever." Psalm 136:1
Two weeks ago I started to neglect my relationship with Jesus. I'm ashamed to accept it, though it seems I didn't feel that way while I consciously decided to occupy my time in other activities. While I didn't consider these activities (or readings to be specific) to be more relevant than Jesus himself, I did think, Jesus will understand . . . School is starting soon and I need to read as much as I can before I got no time for that.
Before going to bed I kept reading although I heard this subtle (or not) telling me to read the Bible. I didn't. Once in bed, I wanted to pray, but I felt hypocritical. I experienced embarrassment, but I did not change anything. The rest of the week went by in a similar manner.
When Sabbath came last week (and the week before that) I did not feel close to Him, and I didn't enjoy the rest as I had before. My rest was not in Him. My pillow was as transcendental as the veggie patties or cereal I ate for breakfast.
Sabbath (and the rest of the week) has no meaning without Him. 'Cause He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
I invite you to pray for me and for anyone you know is going through a spiritual difficulty. I'll be praying for you.
What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus.
Have you ever thought of accepting Jesus but you want to be a better person before you commit to Him? Even though I had been baptized when I was nine, several times I've wanted to be religiously pure without actually going to Jesus. We can get baptized with water and not be born of the Spirit.
Currently, I am reading 12 Things to Try While You're Still Mortal by Roy Ice. In chapter four I caught a good presentation on this subject.
We think we have to wait until we're over our sins before we can present ourselves to God. So we give in to the latest trend sweeping the nation and begin the painful process of denying ourselves things that we are told God despises.
But it has never fully worked for you, has it?“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation” (Matt. 12:43-45 NIV).
Notice that Jesus clarifies the man's house is swept clean and put in order. His life is healthy. He gave up all of those bad habits. He's not the slob he used to be. There are no skeletons in his closet. You can't find a pile of dust hidden under the rug. He has become the church's role model of what joining "us" can do for a mess like you.
. . .
Now he's taken his testimony on the road to a church near you. Many of your friends are convinced that if they do what he did, they'll get what he's got. And they are absolutely correct . . . but Jesus warned about the vulnerability of this condition.
Jesus . . . points out that the man was possessed before, but he's not possessed now.
. . . Getting to heaven is not based on maintaining good behavior. It's about keeping good company—the Holy Spirit. You can be stronger than your cravings, but you will never be stronger than Satan. If you try to be religious first and spiritual second, you'll never succeed at being both. Satan will keep you so discouraged by your lack of perfection that you'll never come to God. You're trying to enter heaven by carving your own doggy door through two hundred-feet-thick walls. Don't forget. You have a free ticket if you want it.
God doesn't need you to be perfect. He needs you to be present. He needs you to be connected to him at all times. How else can he protect you from a devil that hates you?
It is important to rid ourselves of the false idea that we need to be this perfect person God "wants." We gain righteousness through Christ, not through any set of accomplishments.
Don't forget. You have a free ticket if you want it.
After reading Searching for a God to Love by Chris Blake (my college writing professor), I decided to finally read C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. A few years ago, I had read the first three chapters but did not go beyond that. I've found this book to have great insights into how we fall into Satan's trap. He has designed many types of baits and, when no real connection with God has been established, we become easy prey.
One of the issues C. S. Lewis talks about is looking for a church that "fits" you. My intention is not to enter into a discussion on this topic, but to show an interesting view on the subject that, I believe, deserves to be considered before making conclusions.
My dear Wormwood,
. . . Surely you know that if a man can't be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that 'suits' him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.
The reasons are obvious. In the first place the parochial organisation should always be attacked, because, being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires. The congregational principle, on the other hand, makes each church into a kind of club, and finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction. In the second place, the search for a 'suitable' church makes the man a critic where the Enemy want him to be a pupil.
Your affectionate uncle,
Hace aproximadamente un mes, tuve uno de esos días en los que nada sale bien. Tareas, trabajos y proyectos, entre otras cosas, creaban una peso que no podía cargar. Sentirme inseguro acerca de mis capacidades solamente empeoraba las cosas. No era solo un día malo; toda la semana había transcurrido de una manera poco deseable.
Al llegar a mi cuarto, decidí abrir la Biblia y buscar un pasaje que me pudiera dar ánimos, que pudiera saciar mi hambre. El salmo 23 estaba impreso en la primera página que vi, así que comencé a leerlo.
Leí el primer versículo tres veces y cerré mi Biblia. Era todo lo que necesitaba. En ese momento sentí alivio y consolación. ¡No tenía que preocuparme!
Dios me decía: "Yo proveeré y cuidaré de ti".
Jehová es mi pastor; nada me faltará.
En lugares de delicados pastos me hará descansar;
Junto a aguas de reposo me pastoreará.
Confortará mi alma;
Me guiará por sendas de justicia por amor de su nombre.
Aunque ande en valle de sombra de muerte,
No temeré mal alguno, porque tú estarás conmigo;
Tu vara y tu cayado me infundirán aliento.
Aderezas mesa delante de mí en presencia de mis angustiadores;
Unges mi cabeza con aceite; mi copa está rebosando.
Ciertamente el bien y la misericordia me seguirán todos los días de mi vida,
Y en la casa de Jehová moraré por largos días.