A Cumplir la Promesa

Victor Chininin Buele

Esta mañana por medio de la tecnología escuché al sacerdote dar su homilía en la misa que se efectuó en el parque de Catamayo como que yo estuviera allí.  El sacerdote preguntó a las personas que se habían congregado antes de comenzar la caminata de 30 y pico de kilómetros a Loja: ¿De qué nos sirve caminar más de 30 kilómetros si no queremos dejar el pecado? Me pareció una pregunta muy importante y acertada.

Pero después el sacerdote empezó a describir a Jesucristo como un ser muy exigente. Y eso me trajo recuerdos de aquellos maestros en la escuela o en el colegio a quienes nosotros llamabamos exigentes. Y pensé: “Así no es Jesucristo”. Me hice esta pregunta: ¿Qué aprendemos de nuestro ser colectivo como lojanos y como seres humanos al ver dos cosas: (1) que muchisíma gente (yo vi 50 mil en algún periódico) vaya a cumplir la promesa realizada a Mamita Virgen y (2) que pensemos que Jesucristo es exigente?

La Promesa

¿Por qué los lojanos hacemos promesas a la Mamita Virgen? Cuando estamos en aquellos instantes en los cuales ya no hay escapatoria–la muerte está cerca, el examen empieza en dos minutos, la farsa que hemos creado se empieza a desplomar, el trabajo se pierde, los hijos se pierden, la casa se cae, la plata se acaba, la mujer me deja–en esos momentos empezamos a hacer las promesas.

Mamita Virgen, si me das <inserte su petición aquí>, yo <inserte su promesa aquí>.

Y es lo mismo que decimos con nuestra frase popular “Dios le pague”. Nosotros estamos diciendo de que para hacer algo, Dios necesita ponerse en deuda nuestra.  Para que Dios actúe nosotros debemos hacer algo. Caminaré 35 km o 72 km (dependiendo de donde se empiece el recorrido) hasta de rodillas si me das <inserte su promesa aquí> o si no permites que me pase <inserte su temor aquí>. Estamos diciendo que no entendemos el concepto de la gracia.  La gracia es algo desconocido para nosotros.  No tiene lugar en nuestro vocabulario.  No tiene lugar en nuestra vida. ¿Ve lo que le digo? En vez de decir gracias decimos “Dios le pague”, es decir, estamos diciendo que lo que se ha hecho por nosotros amerita que Dios de un pago a la otra persona por haberlo hecho. Dios se vuelve pequeño y nosotros nos volvemos grandotes.

La esencia de la promesa es nuestra necesidad innata de tener control sobre nuestras vidas. Cuando todo se cae y perdemos el control, corremos a algo que nos pueda dar alguna sensación de control. Ya todo se va a mejorar porque hice la promesa y la Churonita es bien milagrosa. Me lo va a hacer porque yo voy a caminar, o voy a dejar de fumar, o voy a dejar de tomar, o voy a dejar de acostarme con esa persona que no es mi cónyuge.  Me lo va a hacer porque soy buena persona.

Cuando hacemos la promesa decimos fuerte y claramente que (1) Dios no es Dios, (2) nosotros somos Dios, (3) tenemos el control de nuestras circunstancias si hacemos el bien.

Oramos, “Dios te salve, María, llena eres de gracia” y no sabemos lo que decimos. Y lo decimos con fe. Eso es indudable.

Jesucristo es exigente

Se nos olvida porque como es simplemente el bebito en el brazo de la Churonita que Jesús es el Rey de Reyes y Señor de Señores, Dios encarnado, segunda persona de la Trinidad, Todopoderoso y compasivo, lleno de gracia. El mensaje implícito en el señorío de la Señora de El Cisne, coronada y adornada en majestad ante nuestros ojos, es que Jesucristo es menor.  Seamos honestos, en nuestra fe popular, ¿cuántas veces en realidad pensamos en Jesucristo?

Cuando el sacerdote dijo que Jesucristo era exigente y que demandaba todo nuestro corazón, me recordó eso de mis tiempos cuando no podía contener mis necesidades biológicas en la escuela y me metía en graves problemas por eso.  Recordé el miedo, el temor. No podía controlar esas necesidades y me ganaban. Temía a la exigencia de las personas que me iban a reprender por ello, pero nadie me ayudaba a cambiar.

Cuando vemos a Jesucristo de esa manera cerramos la posibilidad de ver el camino al cambio verdadero, al cambio duradero. Cerramos la puerta a la gracia.

Oramos, “Bendito es el fruto de tu vientre, Jesús” y no sabemos lo que decimos.

La Promesa del Evangelio

Lucas 1:72-73: “Para mostrar misericordia a nuestros padres, y para recordar Su santo pacto, el juramento que hizo a nuestro padre Abraham”.

Hechos 2:33: “Así que, exaltado a la diestra de Dios, y habiendo recibido del Padre la promesa del Espíritu Santo, ha derramado esto que ustedes ven y oyen”.

Romanos 4:20-21: “Sin embargo, respecto a la promesa de Dios, Abraham no titubeó con incredulidad, sino que se fortaleció en fe, dando gloria a Dios, estando plenamente convencido de que lo que Dios había prometido, poderoso era también para cumplirlo”.

¡Resulta que es al revés!

La gracia es lo contrario de lo que pensamos.  No merecemos semejante promesa de Dios pero es un regalo inmerecido, de pura generosidad, misericordia y gracia. La promesa de Dios no falla, Zacarías profetiza en Lucas 1 de que la razón por la cual su hijo Juan vendría al mundo era parte del cumplimiento de la promesa del Padre de enviar a Jesucristo al mundo para terminar de una vez para siempre con nuestros pecados y darnos salvación, darnos descanso, darnos paz. Dios no olvida su promesa. Y su promesa is infallable.  Se ha cumplido y se cumplirá.

Esta promesa no depende en lo que nosotros hagamos o no hagamos, lo que querramos hacer o lo que no querramos hacer sino que depende en la exaltación del Hijo de Dios, resucitado y sentado a la derecha del Padre  en este momento.  Esta promesa se puede recibir hoy por medio del Gran Consolador, el Espíritu Santo que da vida nueva al muerto. Y en nuestros pecados, todos estamos muertos.

Pablo en Romanos nos muestra la fe de Abraham que no titubeó en confiar en la promesa de Dios, quien es poderoso y capaz de cumplirla. Nadie es más grande que Él.  Nadie más puede cumplir todas sus promesas sin fallar.

Nuestras promesas fallan.  Algún día no podrán caminar de Catamayo a Loja, y ¿qué pasará? Algún día se olvidarán de hacer lo que dijeron que iban a hacer. Algún día la tentación les ganará. ¿Y qué pasará entonces? ¿La furia de un ser exigente? ¿Su venganza?

Vamos

Vamos al Padre. Vamos a Jesucristo, nuestro Salvador verdadero. Solamente en Él podemos descansar. La fe en Jesucristo no requiere caminar 30 km para que alguien sane. O seguir caminando por toda una vida para que siga sano. Necesitamos la profundidad del amor y la sabiduría de Dios en nuestras vidas. Necesitamos aquel milagro en nuestra vida–de que el Señor cambie nuestros corazones y nos de vida eterna para que en lugar de salir a cumplir la promesa y agotarnos tratando de cumplirla por siempre, salgamos en fe a proclamar las excelencias de Aquél que nos dio descanso verdadero, paz duradera, amor mejor que incondicional y satisfacción eterna.

Jesucristo cumplió todo a cabalidad para que pueda darnos por gracia su mano con agujeros de aquellos clavos de nuestra cruz.  Y la libertad que nos da no viene con cadenas o con el requerimiento exigente de hacer y hacer y hacer y hacer para demostrar que somos buenos. Viene con la humildad de reconocer la profundidad de nuestro pecado y de la maldad de nuestro ser alejado de Jesucristo. Puede tener paz verdadera sin tener que ir a cumplir la promesa.  La promesa se ha cumplido.  Cristo vino al mundo a salvarlo.

“Porque no nos predicamos a nosotros mismos, sino a Cristo Jesús como Señor, y a nosotros como siervos de ustedes por amor de Jesús. Pues Dios, que dijo: “De las tinieblas resplandecerá la luz,” es el que ha resplandecido en nuestros corazones, para iluminación del conocimiento de la gloria de Dios en el rostro de Cristo.  Pero tenemos este tesoro en vasos de barro, para que la extraordinaria grandeza del poder sea de Dios y no de nosotros. Afligidos en todo, pero no agobiados; perplejos, pero no desesperados; perseguidos, pero no abandonados; derribados, pero no destruidos” (2 Corintios 4:5-9).

Es diferente. Lo contrario de lo que nuestra creencia popular determina.

Que Dios hoy haga la luz en su corazón y respandezca en usted mostrándole el conocimiento de la gloria de Dios en el rostro de Cristo.  Que este milagro verdadero se de en su vida hoy.

Para que nos quede claro

¿Qué es el evangelio? Jesús es Dios.  Jesús se volvió hombre, nacido de una virgen. Jesús es el hijo de Dios sin pecado, quien no necesita un salvador como nosotros o como su madre María (Ella misma dijo: Dios mi salvador).  Nosotros necesitamos salvación.  Jesús no. Jesucristo es el camino, no un camino. Él es el cordero de Dios que quita el pecado del mundo, no solamente una manera de ser salvo sino la única manera de ser salvo. Y la fuente de esta salvación no son nuestras obras ni nuestras promesas sino Dios.  Jesucristo es el Cordero de Dios. Él se sacrificó en nuestro lugar–nosotros pecamos, Él no; Él fue crucificado, nosotros no. Él murió en esa cruz en el Calvario y resucitó de entre los muertos en el tercer día. Y nos llama como el victorioso Jesús que reina a la derecha del Padre a arrepentirnos de nuestros pecados, a darles la espalda a nuestros pecados.  La pregunta del sacerdote era correcta–¿de qué sirve caminar tanto si queremos seguir viviendo en el pecado? Y cuando nos arrepentimos debemos seguir viviendo en el arrepentimiento porque, querido amigo, toda la vida es una vida de arrepentimiento pero confiando ya en la obra culminada por Cristo.  No le podemos añadir nada.  Ya no hay nada más que hacer.  Jesucristo conquistó.

Hasta la próxima, querido peregrino.  Espero que caminemos juntos a la Nueva Jerusalén. No se quede atrás. Vamos.

The Gospel Repackaged

Victor Chininin Buele

I’m sitting in class.  I am being shown something called The Reponsibility Process™ by Christopher Avery.  I love it when I’m sitting in a secular context and something that makes sense is simply the gospel repackaged. I hate it when I’m sitting in a secular context and something that makes sense has been adjusted to hide the true gospel implications that it implicitly has.  All good movies have a moment where substitutionary atonement wins the day–the exchange of love where one lays down his life for the other–the exchange of the sinless one for the sinful one–true sacrifice.  You may see it as Anna stepping in front of Elsa right before the death blow, but the gospel is all around us. It is self-testifying. We know it. And when it’s convenient to us, we repackage it so that it’s marketable.  After all, we like some of the implications of the gospel.  We absolutely resist others.

This responsibility process shows the wrong stages of denial, lay blame, justify, shame, obligation, and quit.  It calls us to accept responsibility. “The Responsibility Process, derived from field studies, shows how all people mentally process thoughts about avoiding or taking responsibility.” The exhortation is to go about our work “unlocking and mastering responsibility, through daily practice[s]:

  1. INTENTION – Intending to respond from Responsibility when things go wrong.
  2. AWARENESS – Catching yourself in the mental states of Denial, Lay Blame, Justify, Shame, Obligation, and Quit.
  3. CONFRONT – Facing yourself to see what is true that you can learn, correct, or improve.”

This is just a repackaging of the good old gospel without pointing us to The Responsible One. It quacks like a duck, but because substitutionary atonement has been removed, it leaves us wanting.  How do I get to responsibility? I can only will myself into responsibility for a short while, but the motivation will die as our fallen nature breaks through. That’s why this remains in the realm of self-help–it’s behavior modification, not heart transformation.

The descriptive nature of the process is really accurate.  Our fallen, sinful nature is constantly plagued with the temptations to denial–to ignore that we have sinned, to lay blame–to shift the spotlight towards the other party and not to our own sin, to justify–to explain away our sin and to minimize it, to dwell in shame–to not step forward in confidence of living without condemnation, to act out of obligation–to live as if salvation could be achieved by my own efforts, and to quit–to just shut down everything and pretend as if Christ doesn’t exist.

That’s all true of our experience.  We deal with it in diverse ways.  It bears down on us.

BUT GOD being rich in mercy and knowing that we cannot just will ourselves into being responsible actually forgave us so that we can forgive others.  Jesus took the ultimate responsibility for all of our sins–past, present, and future, once and for all.  There is no more penalty IF we accept His lordship over us and are united in faith with those who have listened to the gospel of truth.  We can overcome denial when we can point to that brutal, bloody cross where The Responsible One died for my sins.  We can overcome blame when we truly see the nature of the blameworthiness of our sin and we see the perfect Son of Man take all of our blame with its very real consequences. We can overcome self-justification when we behold the One who was justified and innocently took on the brutality of the abuse he received unto death and we see the death of our excuses.  We can overcome shame when we no longer lived as condemned people who are easy pray of accusers who tell us that we will never overcome our sin.  We can overcome both a sense of obligation and the desire to quit when we realize that we are utterly incapable of effecting eternal change and most of all, we are incapable of saving ourselves.

So, it is right: we need to take responsibility, but we can only take true responsibility for our sin and for our work when we look to The Responsible One and behold Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, as the servant of servants who stooped down way lower than I am wiling to stoop down for others, and as the willing sacrifice who took on the full responsibility for all my sin.

So, we do have daily practices that we are exhorted to follow: We respond from Responsibility when things go wrong by pointing others to the gospel. No gospel = no true responsibility.  It’s that simple.  We cannot understand real responsibility unless we see Jesus Christ.  We must catch ourselves when we are experiencing denial, laying blame, justifying, shaming and being ashamed, feeling obligated or like quitting.  It’s called dying to ourselves, taking up our crosses, mortifying our flesh, and we do that only with true hope–no gospel = no true hope.  Without The Responsible One we cannot really be have a definitive solution for our sin. Awareness of our sin is not enough.  We must own up to it, be reconciled to God and to our neighbor, and move forward with the conviction to not fall again.  Only humble hearts can get up when the inevitable fall happens after that, look to the Savior, and run to Him.  What’s true confrontation? “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:5–6 ESV). That’s how we see what is true so that we can learn, correct, or improve: Behold the face of Jesus Christ.  Will you do that today?

Testamento 2018

Victor Chininin Buele

No he dejado que esta familia tenga tiempo para escribir por aquí. No he dejado tiempo para que esta familia pueda hacer muchas cosas en las que siempre han confiado para encontrar recreo en el medio de la adversidad.

Y aquí me encuentro, a punto ya de expirar. Es hora de recibir mi ola anual de adoración. Una ola de escritos a nivel nacional e internacional. Soy muy famoso y me dan crédito por todo. Yo doy y yo quito cosas. Les he dado una imagen real de Caperucita Roja y su lobo disfrazado de abuelita con el licenciado cuántico y su pandilla. Les dejo un Vice al que no lo podrán botar jamás porque no podrán  gritar su apellido en las huelgas. Les he dado una película peor que sólo para adultos con rating TV-MA con el Donald J. por el norte.

Y de eso escribirán mucho. A mi querida Loja le dejo los mismos de siempre, peleando para ser dizque alcalde y dañar e ignorar lo que el otro hizo y dejar que lo que no hizo sea el foco de la atención pública. Castillos de cristal o baches con agua podrida para Ciudad Victoria. Viaductos y Zona Rosa o escombrera en Sierra Nevada. Les dejo con intriga para el 2019 o quizás le escuchen al Einstein que era tan pilas—que la locura es hacer lo mismo una y otra vez pero esperando resultados diferentes.

Dejo precios altos y recortes salariales. Dejo enfermedades pero también les dejo memes para que no se olviden que en este lugar no se gana, pero al menos se goza.

El Chininín no se calla. Ha venido de una visita al hospital. Uno de los hermanos de su amigo tuvo un ataque cardiaco y un accidente automovilístico debido a aquel. Está, como yo, a punto de fallecer. Yo quiero que también lo ponga en el testamento de las cosas que le dejo. Me dice que el hijo mayor de otra familia que son amigos suyos tuvo una muerte muy trágica esta semana pasada. Y yo quiero también que lo ponga en el testamento de las cosas que le dejo. Pero me dice que no soy yo quien está detrás de todo.  Hasta le dejé el privilegio de celebrar la boda de uno de sus grandes amigos de siempre pero ni por eso me quiere elogiar. Y eso que dicen que sabe escribir bonito.

Esto me causa gran pena porque en esta agonía mi consuelo es ser adorado por todos que aunque me quemen esta fatídica noche por un ratito me querrán. Mis viudas me llorarán. Mis borrachines cantarán clariririritito (porque aún no les suben el Cantaclaro, pero esperen nomás).  Y él no me deja. Incluso me dice que la juventud se hará quedar todas las moneditas que pidieron dizque para mi.  ¿Y mi viuda…?

Le recuerdo a este individuo muchas de las cosas que quería hacer y no pudo como evidencias de mi gran poder. Sus proyectos que no se concretaron. Pero no me deja.

Me dice que no necesita quemarme aunque ganas no le faltan porque él confía en la mano bondadosa de lo que yo le digo es un personaje ficticio de su ambiciosa imaginación—este Dios supuestamente vivo y viviente que no fallece como yo. Que supuestamente es quien da y quita, quien obra todas las cosas para el bien de su pueblo, para el bien de quienes lo aman.

Le digo que me deje aquí en la cama en esta hora final de mi sosiego. Que me deje en paz. Que no me hable de su cuento de hadas que dizque se llama el evangelio.

Pero al ver que las luces ya se apagan empiezo a preguntarme si es en verdad la única historia, la única explicación para todo—si me permiten repetir lo que me dice—que Jesús en verdad se volvió un ser humano que conoce el aguijón y el dolor de la muerte. Que Jesús es el único que es Rey Soberano sobre todas las cosas. Que Él es quien ha permitido al cuántico traidor y al de cabello anaranjado sentarse un ratito en la silla de administración de la creación de Dios. Que Él es quien quita toda la basura de nuestras vidas para que podamos ver con claridad que cuando se nos acaban los engaños, la bebida, las pastillas, los amantes, la farra, el trabajo, o lo que sea que hemos puesto en lugar de Dios, Él nos levanta de la aflicción con la esperanza eterna de la creación restaurada. Donde la abuelita correrá.  Donde la libertad abundará. Donde el dinero no engañará con su aroma falso de felicidad. Donde las lágrimas de dolor ya no existirán. Donde los precios serán todos GRACIA SOBERANA de un Dios abundantemente generoso. Me dice con esa sonrisa tonta que Dios está en un gran plan de regeneración de su creación.  Que hay esperanza verdadera en la resurrección de Jesucristo.  ¿Pueden imaginarse eso, que un muerto vive, sentado a la diestra de un Padre supuestamente generoso que (como me dice) se deleita en dar a sus hijos buenos regalos aunque se hayan portado mal, aunque hayan fallado de manera desastrosa? Incluso usa esa palabra pecado.  Que yo he pecado.

Y todo gracias a Aquél que vino a morir en el Calvario en una cruz. Me pregunto si es posible que todo este peso que llevo sobre mi espalda, toda mi ansiedad y toda mi preocupación pueden en verdad, como este Chininín tan patéticamente me sigue diciendo, ser dejados al pie de esa cruz. ¡Como si fuera algún milagro!

Chao, mis queridos.
-El Susodicho 2018

 

Nota del Chininín:

Es un milagro es en verdad. ¡Hágase la luz!

Feliz Año 2019. Que Dios les bendiga abundantemente. Que sus hogares tengan amor y paz, comida y gasolina abundantes, que su trabajo sea fructífero, que sus hijos e hijas tengan padres que los amen sin condición, que todas las circunstancias ya que parezcan ser buenas o malas les lleven al trono de la gracia donde Jesús dice: “Venid a mí, todos los que estáis cansados y cargados, y yo os haré descansar.  Tomad mi yugo sobre vosotros y aprended de mí, que soy manso y humilde de corazón, y hallareis descanso para vuestras almas. Porque mi yugo es fácilmi carga ligera” (Mateo 11)

Vamos. Y bienvenidos a Jesucristo.

Donald J. and “One” Corinthians

Victor Chininin Buele

“All you need is love!” As I was praying this morning, an upcoming wedding came to mind, and I was remembering how an exercise often done at weddings is to take the word “love” in a critical New Testament passage and replace it.  Let me explain what I mean:

Original:
Love
is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 ESV)

Then, the well-intentioned preacher would ask you to do this:
Victor is patient and kind; Victor does not envy or boast; Victor is not arrogant or rude. Victor does not insist on his own way; Victor is not irritable or resentful; Victor does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Victor bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)

And then you get to stand or sit there certainly sorry you did this because you know it’s not true.  You just lost it at the cake lady or the photographer or the guy with the gigantic iPad taking a picture as your wife walked down the aisle and messed up your beautiful picture that was going to make or break the marriage… But you smile because the show must go on!

So, then the well-intentioned preacher tells you to do this:
Jesus is patient and kind; Jesus does not envy or boast; Jesus is not arrogant or rude. Jesus does not insist on his own way; Jesus is not irritable or resentful; Jesus does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Jesus bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4–7 Amended ESV)

And because Jesus is the perfect one who actually is all these things you can have hope that He will hold you fast, that He will carry you, that He will do the work necessary to present you blameless at the last day.  There is nobody more invested in you being as He is than Jesus is.  He loved you to the uttermost.  He died for you to cover for every evil thing you have ever and will ever do, think, or half-ass your way through.  He died in love, so that you can love.  Truly love.

As I was listening to President Trump last night go on his usual rant, this time up in Montana, one particular section of this passage came to mind: “Donald J. is not irritable or resentful.” He went on and on, fed by his grudge with Senator Tester, on why Admiral Jackson wasn’t ultimately appointed Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  And as I walked through the passage again, I want to make one very critical point.

Yes, obviously, President Trump can arise some very primary emotions in you. He is very far from being patient.  I don’t need to produce examples for that.  He is definitely not kind given that the insults list continues to grow (admit it, they are third-grade-playground sticky… they stick). Knowing how bad I am with envy, I am sure he can’t be worse than me at that, but envy is probably there, probably was there in that moment when President Obama made fun of him at the White House Correspondents Dinner that one time and made him long to take over the Oval Office. Who knows!  President Trump loves to boast.  Always has.  I hope it’s not an always will.  The gospel is that powerful.  I hope he can hear the gospel one day.  Contrary to what all the talking heads may say, the greatest need President Trump has is to hear and believe the gospel of Jesus Christ and be made new by the Holy Spirit.  Seeing the other day the freed brother pastor pray for the Spirit of God to guide President Trump, I couldn’t agree more with such a request. The Holy Spirit must come and regenerate and transform and give life to our nation’s president.  We should always pray for nothing short of that.  Transformation is possible, most definitely so.  I digress.  Let’s continue: President Trump loves to boast.  He is arrogant and rude.  He definitely insists in his own way, sentencing all of those of us common folks paying large hospital bills a few pennies at a time to higher insurance premiums coming up and higher deductibles to meet, among other things.  He certainly appears to rejoice at wrongdoing if 1% of what we see in the media is true.  And let’s not kid ourselves, there is an allergy to truth. The ironic thing is, he is doing everything he promised he would do, whether you like it of not.  In the middle of all the alleged and seemingly blatant falsehood, he is actually keeping his promises.

So, there.  I agree with you, my friend.  He is pretty bad.  Terrible even.  Very far from what Jesus is.

But you know what? I am still worse.  I actually know my sin and know myself to be worse than what I think he is.  The most terrifying part of the exercise remains me:

I am hardly a patient person at all.  I assume the worst out of people more often than I am called by Jesus to assume the best in them, so I’m not always the kindest person.  I am envious–envious of the rich, envious of the poor, envious of those who travel, envious of those who don’t, envious of those with large savings, and envious of those with mountains of debt, envious of those fake lives on Facebook, envious of the real lives behind the fake lives on Facebook.  I am boastful–worse than Trump.  He at least has a fairly contained list of accomplishments to rant about night after night.  I manufacture new reasons to boast all the time.  And it’s very hard to admit that very Pauline understanding of life that it is not I but the grace of God in me that accomplished them. I am arrogant.  Yesterday I was seemingly just giving an intellectual clause as part of a larger argument, but in the process I destroyed my listener’s opinion and hurt her deeply.  I am rude–just cut me off in the highway when I’m having a “bad day” and see.  I insist in my own way all the time.  And many times I will ridicule your way in some seemingly polite way.  I am irritable, very easily so.  I am resentful.  I keep a record of wrongs.  I know I’m not supposed to, but I am often horrified at how often I can tell date and time of when something was done “to me”–I crave for the vindication that can come to me for these wrongs perpetrated.  I rejoice at my own wrongdoing all the time.

But here is the thing: I am not what I once was, but I am not yet all that I will one day be by the grace and work of the Spirit of God in my life.

I am more patient and more kind every day, being conformed into the image of Christ.  That’s the part you often get to see and admire and respect.  I am growing in killing envy and boasting.  You often hear me boast in the Lord, and that’s because of His great grace to change my evil heart day by day.  I am not as arrogant as I once was, and you often see that through my sharing of things others wouldn’t share with you.  Again, Jesus changing me day by day.  I am not as rude as He changes me to love you all more and more.  I am not always insisting in my own way, and you perhaps compliment me on my ability to listen and respond with empathy.  That’s all Jesus.  I am not as irritable as I once was.  The same thing!  I am not as resentful.  I have learned more and more ways the Spirit of God empowers me to kill bitterness when it’s still seeds being poured into the ground.  I do not rejoice at obvious wrongdoing, and you often hear me giving commentary at how Jesus can change wrongdoing. Again, not I but the grace of God at work within me! You see me rejoicing in the truth, preaching the truth, pleading with you to see the truth.  Again, not me…

Here is the point I promised: Do you yet see how all that irritates the life out of you in Donald J. is because you are the chief of sinners?  President Trump is just the caricature that God has brought into your life of all your pet sins, those you guard closely, those you know are wrong but refuse to admit them, those you turn into culturally-accepted virtues worthy of cultural praise.

And you keep looking for a deliverer.  And while the Democrats will keep failing to give you one and the Republicans, too, all along you long for the fulfillment of this very text.

It is true–you want love.  You do.  

Turn to Him.

Be the beloved of the Lord.

Judging the Judge

Victor Chininin Buele

Congratulations! You’ve made it to the other end of this big mess. And you have sat in the seat–you have judged the judge, now an associate justice of the United States Supreme Court.

Since I suspect it will take you no time whatsoever to revert back to saying it’s not cool or acceptable to judge, a few words are important to consider.

Why Do You Care So Much?

When allegations like the ones we have heard take place, and when issues that are at the foundation of the religious soul of America (whether the religion of secularism or any other) are brought up, the soul cries out for the truth.  Not just for “her truth” or “his truth” or “my truth” or “your truth.”  When it truly matters, such as in times like today, we can smell the fake from a mile away, and I’m not talking about President Trump’s fake fake.  Deep inside, we know that there is an objective truth, an absolute truth, and our soul won’t rest until the truth is found.

You and I, common folks, will probably never know what actually happened.  But something did happen.

And it bothers us.

Why Is It That You Want So Badly to Protest?

Augustine is famous for having said that our souls are restless until they find rest in God.  We live in a free nation where it’s entirely acceptable for you to exercise your freedom to proclaim that there is no God, that the God of the Bible is a figment of my imagination, or that you can’t quite figure out whether there is a God or not.  We always got along just fine.  But now, people are no longer just disagreeing with one another.  Now, there is an assumption placed on the other person.  And it’s a most terrifying one: I disagree with you, and you are, quite frankly, the scum of the earth, the worst human to ever have lived.  If you believe the opposite I believe about abortion, well, you just want to kill millions of women… If you don’t agree with the same set of moral imperatives we want you to affirm, well, then you are just hateful and should lose everything you’ve got unless you reform, of course.  We no longer listen to understand.  We just want our turn to shout louder.

We want to protest because as the apostle Paul says, we groan inwardly for redemption.  This whole circus went terribly bad.  It was horrible for Dr. Ford.  It was horrible for Justice Kavanaugh.  It is probably fair to say that many were auditioning for their next seat of power in the future, whether dog catcher, senator, aspiring White House occupant, or whatever.

You are mad. I understand.  And you should stay mad.

Why Do I Want You To Stay Mad?

I want you to stay mad because pretty soon, you’ll return to your old ways.  You’ll go back to your echo chamber.  You’ll get distracted with the noise and the sound of the things you use to silence your conscience.

You are desperately broken.  You are mad quite possibly because you’ve been where Dr. Ford reports to have been.  You are mad quite possibly because the thought of you or one of your daughters being in the place where Dr. Ford reports to have been is quite frankly a major source of fear and despair.  You are mad quite possibly because you’ve been the one who has afflicted this kind of pain upon somebody.  You are mad quite possibly because deep down you know that to a lesser degree you are guilty of at least one of the things that have been thrown out there.

But you may also say you are a righteous person, a good human being, trying your best.  And this just shows you the futility of it all, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” said the old writer of Ecclesiastes giving words to your more modern “WTF?”

We Groan.  The Judge Groaned to Death.

So, we are groaning, regardless of your camp. Whether you are willing to camp outside of the Supreme Court crying out for abortion rights to remain or whether you are quietly contemplating how badly this whole thing went.  Whether you are ashamed that this happened or whether you are secretly sighing in relief.  Whether you think this is the biggest victory for the “conservative pro-life” or the destruction of that.

We are groaning.  How does this get any better?

Our legal system is based on the fundamental principle of the assumption of innocence unless somebody is found guilty.  That is a system of grace, of unmerited grace.  The criminal, the terrorist, the rapist, the man who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, the serial killer, the scapegoat, the innocent man, they all share this–we cannot call you a criminal, a terrorist, a rapist, etc., unless we have proven that beyond reasonable doubt.  That means that sometimes people get away with something…

And here is where I bring you to the gospel.

You are mad because Kavanaugh got away with something.

You are mad because the Democrats got away with something.

I honestly do not know which way it is.  And I’m not going to tell you which side is more persuasive to me because that’s beside the point I’m trying to make.

You get away with sin every day of your life and still live!

We are singing a song at church tomorrow that goes like this:

All who strayed and walked away
Unspeakable things you’ve done
Fix your eyes on the mountain
Let the past be dead and gone
Come all saints and sinners
You can’t outrun God
Whatever you’ve done can’t overcome
The power of the blood
We have all gone astray.  There is not one of us who can stand when we are placed in the  seat waiting our judgment.  And our Judge is more righteous than Chairman Grassley.  We have all sinned.  And we groan because our conscience bears witness of this, and we do not have peace.  We self-medicate.  We occupy ourselves with things to take our minds away from this.  We groan because the stain is deep and obvious, and we want to hide it.  We carry this scarlet letter in our robes, and we try everything possible from Chanel to Walmart’s George brand to try to cover it up.
Our legal system in the United States confronts us with grace.  If God calls the person who’s wronged you the deepest to Himself, and he comes in repentance to ask your forgiveness, would you give it? Can we imagine a redeemed Donald Trump sitting next to a redeemed Brett Kavanaugh sitting next to a redeemed Dr. Ford sitting next to a redeemed me?  The gospel is that powerful!  Paul closes his epistle to the Philippians in a most interesting way: [22] All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.[23] The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:22–23 ESV)

Got that?  Let me write it in modern English.  “All the redeemed sinners of this part of the world known as the United States, made holy through the sacrifice of Christ, greet you, especially the Trumps and the Clintons.  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

God can change those who are the farthest from Him.

You know you fail the judgement.  Do you want to be free? Do you want to be clean?

This all bothers you because the thing that’s happened confronts you with the fact that you are guilty until made innocent.  And only Jesus can make you clean.  And that’s grace.  You will get away with it because Jesus didn’t.  He took it all–your worst filth, your worst sin–it was all nailed to His cross.

It can only happen when you take off your stained robes and take Christ’s as your own.

Turn to Him and be saved.  Don’t delay.

Abolishing ICE

Victor Chininin Buele

Should you read the opinion of somebody who grew up being afraid of the INS (now ICE)? Should you read the opinion of somebody whose blood pressure goes up a bit and starts sweating when he drives by the ICE office downtown St. Louis even though he doesn’t need to go in?  Stories matter, right?  Well, you should read.  Let me tell you why.

I am up at 4:30 AM on a Saturday morning. Why? That should be clear to you by the end of your reading.  But I digress.

La Migra has been part of many horrendous stories in my life.  There always was a story down in Ecuador from a friend or a relative of somebody who had a bad encounter with this institution while they were crossing the Río Grande illegally to go to the United States.  You know the media.  In Ecuador, for decades we’ve been seeing stories like the ones that have recently made you aware of abuses.  And the headlines were always horrible: people shot, murdered, imprisoned, mistreated, killed in the desert.  But like every other person, I grew up thinking, “Well, that may be true, but it won’t happen to me.”

By the grace of God, I never had to leave it all behind and turn myself over to a coyote to carry me through the mountains and valleys, deserts and jungles of the Americas.  Instead, I boarded Continental Airlines flight 750 from Quito to Houston.  I was greeted by an INS officer who lawfully admitted me.

But lawful doesn’t mean easy.

I grew up in the mountains.  First, I needed to go to the coast city of Guayaquil for the most intimidating interview of my life at the U.S. Consulate General. That in itself was the first hardship.  Have you ever tried wearing a long sleeve shirt in Guayaquil? Everything from the security guard to the consular officer was off.  This was the beginning of my encounters with the complete opposite of U.S. justice.  You see, this side of the border you are innocent until proven guilty.  The O.J. Simpsons of the world get to be justified.  Those who can hire an expensive attorney to find reasonable doubt in what a police officer has clearly seen was a murder can go free.  The other side of an encounter with ICE or a consular officer is a very intimidating place.  You are guilty until proven innocent, and innocence is measured at the discretion of the officer.  You are assumed to be lying about your intentions to travel to, remain, and leave the United States unless you can convince the officer that you are telling the truth.  I would travel with every possible document I could think of for years — employment letters, bank records, tax returns, work products, school official letters, a copy of my college degree, property title of my house in Ecuador, college transcript, grades.  In retrospective, I can see such was the fear of running into an odd situation.  But it happened anyway.

One day I was almost sent to secondary inspection for failing to answer a question satisfactorily.  The very important question was, “What is your favorite video game?” I am a musician.  I am a amateur theologian.  Just because I have a computer science degree and a job related to software, it doesn’t mean I know what video games are popular or that I play them or that I enjoy them.  I had no answer, and the officer immediately changed the interview at the port of entry.  Something didn’t add up in his case: a computer guy who doesn’t play video games.

One day one my dearest friends came to my dorm in college knocking and shouting, “La Migra, La Migra,” and I was on the phone with my mother.  We both got a very big scare.  We can laugh now, but the idea of the INS coming to my home was not something that would have surprised me.

Until very recently my social security card bore the inscription in all caps, “VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION.”  You see, the INS and I go way back!  It’s ingrained in my mind.  Every time I write down my social security number I visualize that.

One day, the INS changed my priority date (and the priority date of thousands of fellow permanent residency applicants) by mistake.  It was around my birthday in 2007.  I rushed to file the paperwork required for my application to continue to move forward only to receive on my birthday the news that it had all been a mistake.  A bad April Fools’ joke of sorts.  Take your expenses, eat them, and get back in line.  Thankfully, there was a class-action lawsuit, the court saw the harm caused, and we were allowed to keep that date and move forward.  But it made for a very sad birthday–kind of like you taking away from your child whatever special toy you just gave them for their birthday.

Then there was the time that USCIS (the name has changed over the years) turned me into an undocumented immigrant thanks to the combination of a lawyer’s incompetence and bureaucratic backlog.  I had my papers ready six months ahead of an H1B renewal, but this lawyer refused to file them then.  He kept saying that his office had more important cases, and that he would file by the required date.  And that it didn’t matter that USCIS was taking 3-6 months to process this type of an application because I had a built-in grace period.  For fifteen days, I was in that fun and exciting legal limbo.  I couldn’t work.  I had no paycheck.  I couldn’t travel.  My wife and I visited the USCIS office downtown, and she came in, brightly smiling and carefree.  She couldn’t understand why I was so afraid to go in.  She assumed the best of the U.S. government.  When we crossed the doors into that sterile environment and we encountered the officer who would be answering our questions, my wife understood the reason for my fears.  This wonderful civil employee held in her hands everything she needed to send me to detention and initiate deportation procedures.  The sad thing I saw that day was that nobody could tell us where my case was, what its status was, how long it was going to take, and when I could return back to work.  I am a technology worker!  These should be very simple questions to be answered from a network of computer systems.

And then, there was my wonderful citizenship interview.  I know that many people have a truly wonderful experience.  But mine was a very strange grilling that ranged from scary to offensive, from condescending to reassuring.  It was way weird.

Thanks for getting through that.  I’m getting to the point now.

These are my horror stories.  In the process, the INS/USCIS/ICE did a number of things that are worthy of affirmation: they did their best to ensure I wasn’t a dangerous criminal, that I didn’t have a disease that would have been a public health risk to the U.S. (though it would have made more sense to do this before I came rather than 7 years after I was admitted at the port of entry), that I had all the proper documentation to work.

I was so terrified of them that when I was married, I chose to remain under my own ongoing immigration processes rather than submit my wife to ICE questioning about the authenticity of our marriage. Sure, I’m a prideful person and wanted to do it all on my own and not need to depend on my wife.  Let’s keep it honest.

I have a choice at this point.  My horror stories (and it’s always easy to just focus on the horror stories) can be found to be consistent with the overall narrative of today.  I could take my Saturday and go to a park or go outside of the ICE office downtown and bring a #AbolishICE sign.

Or I could take the time to speak about institutions and our allergy to them.

Change is needed.  That’s for sure.  We are thirty years late to the conversation, but hey, let’s talk.  We all have blood in our hands.  This is one of the most uncomfortable truths to hear in America today.  We all have blood in our hands.  We all have a part on this immigration debacle.  Or you mean to tell me you’ve never bought a tomato in the winter or a suspiciously cheap batch of strawberries?  That you haven’t sat in a toilet cleaned by somebody with my skin color or that you haven’t hired a white man to do a construction job only to find somebody with my skin color show up at your door and do his best to tell you in English what he’s come to do and to find out what he needs to know before getting busy delivering somebody else’s promise?  The conditions have worsened over the years reaching this tipping point.  I am not minimizing anyone’s role in this – President Trump, his administration, Congress, corporations, lobbyists, consumers.

Abolishing ICE is a very interesting reaction to all of this.  There are a lot of things that this institution accomplishes.  And people may not have taken the time to think through them.  This is a question that never gets asked, “What are the implications of what I am proposing?”  We focus a lot on the feelings that we suspect taking this approach will result in, but we don’t think things through all the way.  Have you really considered the chaos that would come?

I am not an ICE fan, obviously.  But I am not going to call for ICE to be abolished.  Reformation is needed, that is for sure.  I will focus only on one simple idea, what if we applied the same standard of justice that we apply this side of the border?  What if we assumed a person was innocent unless proven guilty?  What if we assumed that a person is not a liar to begin with?  I have some theological issues with my own idea that I would be happy to discuss some other time, but if I am picking out one thing to start the conversation, this would be the start.  Not because this is necessarily an implementable idea, but because it would help us see how people end up thinking things like stereotypes of “sleazy Mexicans.”  Our government has been calling immigrants liars forever.  Can you imagine how the treatment of an applicant would change if we were not thought of as deceivers to begin with?

Why am I up at 4:30 AM?  Because the Church matters.  I have a lot of work I need to do today to love and serve the church well.  I would really like to go back to bed, but I can’t.  The Church is my focus today.  Wait, why are you talking about this?  Did you go crazy?

Because it should not be surprising to us that people talk about abolishing ICE when they’ve abolished the Church in their minds for so long.  Whether the reader is Christian or not, Christ is King.  And He gave the Church authority.  The reformers of old knew that the church would need constant reform (always reforming) because we are sinners.  The institution of the Church is given by grace to sinners.  Will sinners abuse authority?  Obviously so.  Will sinners sin?  Obviously so.  Does that abolish the institution established with the authority of Christ?  Absolutely not.  Should this drive sinners to work to earnestly seek her care, reform, and beautification?  Absolutely.

The discussion about abolishing ICE is just one more way our culture is showing our conflicted views on institutions.  We think they can save us.  We think they are the problem.  Neither is right.  Neither salvation nor the solution to our problems will come with/from/without an institution.  But they are also not the entire problem.  Can you imagine the power that would come from a right relationship with Christ and His Church?  Yes, there will always be a separation of Church and State.  We don’t want to marginalize those who haven’t come to know Christ yet.  But when are we going to see the truth that religion and politics don’t separate?  Our religion determines our politics, whether we call ourselves secularists, atheists, Christians, Muslims, … It is always somebody’s morality that is being legislated.

What would happen if you would stop holding every institution guilty until proven innocent?  What if you would do that for the Church?  If you would dethrone yourself from your high place and would assume the Church is innocent of the evils ascribed to her and not properly ascribed to sinners within her?  What if you would drive down I-35 or I-435 this Sunday if you lived in Kansas City and you’d come spend a couple of hours with us and see what it’s all about?  Come see us: kcprovidence.org.  Or just come see an old friend you haven’t seen for a while.  You may get a free lunch out of it.  Just saying.

Hablemos de la Famosa Revocatoria

Victor Chininin Buele

Conciudadanas y conciudadanos lojanos,

¿Qué hemos hecho?

Por más interesante que sea aquella conversación, lo hecho, hecho está.  ¿Por qué digo «qué hemos hecho»? Porque tal es la implicación de la democracia.  No puedo decir lo que esos hicieron, lo que algunitos hicieron.  Loja se ha pronunciado.  Es nuestra realidad.  Loja somos todos.

Razones existen para no querer al Dr. Castillo.  Algunas de ellas han afectado personalmente a personas que quiero con todo mi corazón–a familiares, a hermanos y hermanas en la fe.  He sentido la traición.  Pero cualquier ser humano que observó lo que le ocurrió a nuestra querida Loja durante los años en los que el burgomaestre fue cambiado por decisión popular no puede tapar el sol con un dedo.  No quiero hablar del ingeniero Bailón tampoco de una manera denigrante.  Fue la autoridad que elegimos.  Baches y desorden, Ciudad Victoria y todo.  La democracia es así.  Para eso existen las elecciones: para la alternabilidad, para el cambio, o para la confirmación de la confianza del pueblo.

Razones existen para agradecer a Dios por la obra del Dr. Castillo y sería algo inaudito y una muestra de una gran falta de educación ignorar lo que ha ocurrido en Loja desde aquel principio de esta aventura en el año 1988 y ser mal agradecidos.  Loja ha sido administrada por él en los períodos 1988-1992, 1996-2000, 2000-2005 y ahora desde el 2014.  No se puede separar a Loja del Dr. Castillo.  Las flores y el césped tienden a desparecer cuando él no está en el sillón de la José Antonio Eguiguren.  Jipiro se vuelve igualito a la selva amazónica.

Quiero insertar una variable importantísma y ampliamante ignorada al diálogo de las semanas venideras.

La gran mayoría de las quejas se fundamentan en alegatos de tiranía, mala administración, abuso, violencia e injusticia por parte del Dr. José Bolívar Castillo Vivanco.

Recuerdo aquél día en que volvíamos a Loja con mi abuelita a pie por la calle 10 de Agosto y vimos que el hogar de las ratitas domésticas, también conocido en aquel entonces como el Mercado Central, estaba siendo demolido.  Hay muchos lojanos que hoy pueden votar que nunca conocieron este monumento a la salud pública en pleno centro de la urbe. Es obvio que soluciones ingeniosas como estas han ocurrido y que las multas nos han hecho pintar las casas y pretender que nos vamos a portar bien y no exceder el límite de velocidad siempre y cuando nos digan exactamente en qué cuadra hay que reducir la velocidad, que nos han hecho poner la banderita afuera de la casa en los días cívicos y barrer un poquito.

La variable que quiero introducir es una interrogante–asumiendo que es verdad, que el Dr. Castillo se valió de acciones que eran o parecían ser tiranía, abuso, violencia e injusticia, ¿por qué fueron necesarias tales acciones?

¿Qué parte de la culpabilidad la tenemos nosotros como ciudadanos?

¿Por qué nos oponíamos a quitar los letreros de la vía pública que hacían que Loja se vea tan pero tan fea?

¿Por qué nos oponíamos a los cambios necesarios para que no tengamos que ver y oler las heces fecales saliendo de esos tubos viejísimos a unirse a la trayectoria de los dos jugetones riachuelos?

¿Por qué nos oponíamos a la limpieza de los mercados? ¿Por qué nos oponíamos a que haya orden en la ciudad?

¿Sería porque nunca queríamos ver más allá de nuestras narices?  Y después que toditos se hicieron la rinoplastia hasta más chiquita quedó aquella distancia.

¿Sería que nuestra naturaleza lojana se opone al cambio a toda costa? ¿Que se deleita en el mal del prójimo? ¿Que envidia al que surge y busca mejorar la calidad de vida de los lojanos? ¿Que se opone a todo lo que pueda tener efectos positivos a largo plazo?  ¿Que no quiere escuchar que el cambio es posible?

Claro, que han habido cosas como la última cantinflada de las Carabelas y la pobre abuelita en su casita.  No todo es color de rosa.

Pero no dejemos que este momento histórico se nos vaya sin preguntarnos…

¿Por qué fue necesario que él nos administre de esa manera por casi veinte años?

¿Por qué es que cada vez que el próximo héroe se asoma, sea Reyes o Bailón, todito se daña vuelta?

No me sorprende esto a mi en lo absoluto ya que todos hemos utilizado la revocatoria de la autoridad más fundamental de todas, aquélla de la que provienen todas las otras autoridades, y nos hemos aprovechado de ella para buscar nuestros propios intereses sin pensar mucho en los demás.

Es hora, lojanos, de dejar de estar envidando al que ha intentado hacer el bien.

Es hora, lojanos, de deshacernos del odio.

Es hora, lojanos, de en verdad tener la frente en sudor empapada.

Y con ella, solamente inclinarse ante Dios.

Necesitamos la Regeneración Verdadera.

Aquella del corazón.  Y al que esté con curiosidad, me lo indica por favor.  Les dejo con un aperitivo de lo que se necesita para la Regeneración Verdadera:

No hagan nada por egoísmo (rivalidad) o por vanagloria, sino que con actitud humilde cada uno de ustedes considere al otro como más importante que a sí mismo, no buscando cada uno sus propios intereses, sino más bien los intereses de los demás.

Haya, pues, en ustedes esta actitud (esta manera de pensar) que hubo también en Cristo Jesús, el cual, aunque existía en forma de Dios, no consideró el ser igual a Dios como algo a qué aferrarse, sino que Se despojó a sí mismo tomando forma de siervo, haciéndose semejante a los hombres. Y hallándose en forma de hombre, se humilló El mismo, haciéndose obediente hasta la muerte, y muerte de cruz. Por lo cual Dios también Lo exaltó hasta lo sumo, y Le confirió el nombre que es sobre todo nombre, 10 para que al nombre de Jesús se doble toda rodilla de los que están en el cielo, y en la tierra, y debajo de la tierra,11 y toda lengua confiese que Jesucristo es Señor, para gloria de Dios Padre.

Change

Víctor Chininin Buele

My wife asked, “What really is your position on this?” And ended with asking me to think about how I had made a case for us to storm the gates of the foster care system and rescue as many children as possible.

You see, doing theology is dangerous. It always brings you to confrontation with your idols.

Why are we so easily lured by somebody promising us change? Why are we so easily misguided to put away in a drawer things like logic, truth, beauty, faith, the gospel, when there seems to be a faster, more attractive way to get what I want?

Why is it that we are vociferously loud when it comes to somebody else doing the work? Why is it that when it goes beyond social media outrage (a dear friend said medium-rage earlier I suspect as a way to point out how outrage is so common now that it may mean nothing anymore) and letter writing all causes seem to die out a few days after the critical mass point of media attention?

I remember crying listening to then Senator Obama promising me the New Jerusalem in the United States during that eloquent DNC speech. It didn’t come to pass. We left those years more divided than before.

But I know better than to just blame President Obama for it.

Let’s face it.

We are a nation of idolaters who have bought their way out of acknowledging and feeling the right judgment for our idolatry for a long, long time with mansions, booze, money, entertainment, pills, weed, meth, abortion on demand, pornography, fits of rage, anger, self-worship, shopping malls, work, hobbies, mistresses, smart phones, self-indulgent media consumption, racism, classism, all inclusive resorts.

We will do what it takes to silence our conscience when things come close to the idol we worship above God.

Trump didn’t create this. He has used it all. I can’t figure out if it’s all done masterfully as some would like to give him credit for–as a master genius who saw things that we as a nation were too drunk or high to see and used them to seek the world’s biggest playground fight win over Obama. Or if he is just so unintelligent and so driven by primary instinct and emotions that everything becomes a bargaining chip in his plot to “keep on winning.” But as it often ends when I go down this road, I realize that it does not matter.

What matters then?

Hearing the cries of children caged at the southern border and away from their parents reaches deep into our hangover and stupor. Processing that it is all used for political purposes by those in Washington, that aptly called swamp people were promised would be drained, and for corporate gain by those who know just how to package it and dice it so that they can rightly place us in the right category by means of algorithms for special interests to target us… and pay them money to do so… it reaches deep into the slumber and reminds us:

This must be what judgment is.

And we are under it.

Many questions have come as I’ve processed this:

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children we’ve left behind because a younger woman had a bigger rack or a nicer pair of legs without cellulite? Or one that doesn’t nag as much?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children we’ve left behind because of spousal abuse and neglect?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children we have abused when we have stolen authority and exerted it in harmful ways over those we are called to protect?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children who have been taught for decades that the world revolves around them, that truth is relative, and that they need to think of themselves as more significant than anyone else when they finally see it was all a farce–that the man with the orange skin has proven fairly easily that truth is absolute after all, that there are others out there who need us, and that humility is thinking of others as more significant than ourselves?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children who need a calculator to add 11 + 11 who are obviously going to be ill-equipped to compete in a global economy?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children being fed Starbursts and Kool Aid in our inner cities or in places where a fresh vegetable is as rare an occurrence as a father at the head of the dining room table?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children who are being transported across Central America and the Southern desert in the United States by parents, coyotes, or abusers who cannot possibly carry the water and food needed for a child not to suffer thirst and hunger?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children who starve in the countries to our south where the political, economical, and social structures are far from ideal?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children in the Ecuadorian Andes who grew up without a father because he left to pick fruit, clean toilets, lay concrete, wash dishes, roof houses in the United States?

What about the silent cries of the children violently ripped away from what ought to be the safest place for them to grow and thrive, their mother’s womb?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children who are in the foster care system?

What about the silent and not so silent cries of the children whose parents can’t afford health care or make a living wage to support them?

What about the not so silent cries of the children being born addicted to drugs all over America today?

You see? Judgment stings.

It feels monumentally impossible to do anything about it.

That’s why we believe Obama and Trump and the ones before them and the ones who will come after them.

What shall we do?

Believe the gospel and repent. We need Jesus.

We need to know that Christ came into the world to save sinners. That we have obviously sinned in horrendous ways. That there will be no amount of money, activism, or outrage that will unite us back to our Father.

We are the children in the cage. We need the Good Shepherd to unlock the cage and set us free.

Do you want to see? Do you want to change? Open your eyes. You are the child the media is showing you. Open your ears. Those are the cries of your soul longing for your Father.

Fed Up With “Thoughts and Prayers”? I’m Glad!

Victor Chininin Buele

We develop these platitudes that mean nothing. Let’s be honest. We want to be nice or to comfort somebody, but we have no clue whatsoever about what we should say or do. It happens. We are fallen humans.

Every time a mass shooting has happened, I observe my friends growing more and more fed up with the standard “thoughts and prayer” response. You may assume that I would say that being fed up with that is wrong. I’m actually quite glad this is happening. But obviously, most likely this is not for the reasons you think. It is not wrong to see another mass shooting and say, “Hey, these ‘thoughts and prayers’ thing is a bill of goods.”

Thoughts. For many years now, Americans have lived this practical theology of wishful thinking, or the power of positive thinking. We have at the White House a representative of this. We’ve started to see the folly of this notion that we can wish things with our thinking. That if we speak positively into our life things will happen. That our words have power to create reality. You can see that because Trump says something is the largest inauguration crowd in history doesn’t change the fact that it wasn’t. We can’t change reality with our thoughts.  Three hundred million people thinking that massive shootings need to stop has not changed the reality that these things keep happening.  Thinking about something is not enough.

Prayers. This is a perfect storm. In our secularist society, it is intellectually suspect to think that God exists. Even if you do think that God exists, it is almost a necessary conclusion to think that he is useless and powerless or bad. Then, when this narrative comes back to the news cycle—people say that they pray, and the shootings keep happening—our suspicions appear to be confirmed. There is no God. Or prayers are useless. What a big effin’ waste of time.

—So, Mr. Theologian Aficionado, what are you trying to get at? That you also believe that God is puny? Are you ready to come to your senses and step into the light, forsaking your dogmatic infancy of believing in God at all?

Not at all.

I would instead ask you, “Can’t you see that we are getting closer and closer to the moment where prayer for national repentance is the only way forward?”

Allow me to explain myself.

There is another possible conclusion here. We are not thinking the right thoughts to prompt us to the right actions through righteous prayer. That would also explain why “thoughts and prayers” have not resulted in an end to mass shootings.

We think too highly of ourselves. An underlying assumption to all the discussion about mass shootings goes around the idea that if there were the right controls and legislation, shootings wouldn’t happen. Cain killed his brother with a very low tech weapon. It’s part of our fallen nature. Jesus said that it is not just murder that is sin, but that which is just as much murder as murder itself—anger. My “losing it” at a poor clerk who has to inform me that a flight has been cancelled is just as sinful as the grabbing of an automated weapon to murder her. Both are reprehensible in the sight of a holy God. We must, therefore, spend our lives working on ways to govern life in this fallen world as to preserve life knowing full well that no matter what degree of deterrents are put in place, we have murderous hearts inside of us. We quarrel and fight, and that in due time arises to murder.  Whether it’s flipping the middle finger at the guy who cut you off (perhaps by accident) or by pushing him off the bridge with your car. This does not mean that we should not pursue deterrents and that we should not have vigorous discussion about what deterrents have the potential to save the most lives. We just can’t leave the discussion at that, thinking that legislation can change the human heart.

We don’t really pray. When people say, “You are in my thoughts and prayers,” most likely they walk away and never pray for you. Why do I say that? Because I’m a judgmental jerk? Not entirely. Because I know my weakness. I have to have lists of things I’m praying for because otherwise I’ll forget about them. I’m a weak human with a weak mind. I need lots of reminders. My prayers are often derailed by the smallest distractions. And that’s for the stuff I’m aware I need to be praying for. I wasn’t praying for Broward County, Florida, yesterday, or the day before, or even when I was working in Ft. Lauderdale several years ago, or when I was driving around the county looking for a wheelchair for my grandmother. I’m not that good of a person. And I’m a finite person.

We have this “I’m in the doghouse, save me,” theology of prayer.  We pray when we are in trouble. We don’t seem to really be much for prayer when things are going well.  A few years ago, our van started shaking up to about 50 mph. I remember that I had never been more aware in my life about the wonder of God allowing such a machine to move one revolution of the tires. I remember the wonder of praying and giving thanks for every rotation of the tires. All of a sudden, every mile was filled with miracles. Were the miracles not there before? I was just foolish to suppress my acknowledgement of them and my thanksgiving for them. When my mechanic fixed it, it didn’t take long for things to go back to the way they were before. Soon enough I wasn’t thanking God for holding this thing together when performing miraculous trips down I-70. We must have a more expansive theology of prayer.

If we don’t get what we want, we conclude that prayer does not workWhat do you want? Do you want people to stop shooting others? I suspect yes. Have you given thanks for the family who welcomed this broken human being who held the gun in this incident? They welcomed this troubled young man after he lost even his mother. Have you considered praying for them? I can’t quite relate to the type of hurt they may be going through right now.  Do you want peace and harmony? Do you want safety? Do you want to be able to send your child to school and not feel like your treasure could be snatched away from you at any moment?

What do you want?

I want people to be convicted of their sin, to repent of it, and to turn to the Lord. We are all murderers, or do you presume to tell me that you have never sinned against anyone in your anger? I once had a terrible manager. This man was worse than the pointed-hair boss from Dilbert. My wife was in terrible pain, and he demanded that I be in his office immediately regardless of the difficult time we were going through. That day I had a clear choice. Would I look at this man and do what my flesh wanted? Would I murder this man in my heart and see my every subsequent day destroyed and tainted by my hatred and the grudges I was holding against him? Or would I pray for this man, as Jesus taught me to do? Would I pray for this man and bless him? Not just say a blessing upon him but actually bless him? Do my best work for him? Treat him with utmost respect? This changed my heart about him over time. I can look at him in the eye now and have no hatred of him. That was not ME, that was the work of God in me. Imagine the implications of national repentance! Imagine if our sad divisions do indeed cease. You are right about something, platitudes, empty thinking, and pretend prayers won’t get us there.  But prayers of repentance, prayers that push aside the sin that has eaten away so much good from our lives, families, homes, neighborhoods, schools, places of business, churches, cities, states…

I want people who seek God’s wisdom and guidance for all of life. What is God’s best for us to discern for how to best protect life this side of eternity? How do we genuinely care for those in the fringes? How do we care for those with depression and anxiety? How do we care for those who return from serving this nation with profound brokenness? How do we care for those struggling with mental illnesses? How do we care for the practical orphans raised in this culture of broken promises and broken families?

I want us to understand that there is a gospel that is more powerful than behavior modification.  If we seek to change our behavior, sooner or later we will crack, and our final lash will be worse than any of the little lashes.  Only the gospel has the power to arrest our mind, our soul, our heart, our lives, and to push us upward through the process.  Have you ever genuinely been in a true Christian community? If God has gifted you with that privilege you will know what I’m talking about.  There is a mingling of souls that could never come together apart from the Spirit of God rescuing them from their filth and binding them together into the image of Christ.

America, we can mourn together. We can grow together. We can understand one another. We can pray together. We can think together.

Think what you ask? “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)

I’m glad you’re done with the platitude of “thoughts and prayers.”

Will you repent? Change has to start somewhere.  Let it start with you.

Love Is The Only Way: The Death of Storytelling in the Twenty-First Century

Victor Chininin Buele

My wife and I were invited to a screening of Paul, Apostle of Christ.  I walked away from the movie deeply saddened. There are a ton of thoughts I have about the movie, but the one that is most important is the death of storytelling in the twenty-first century.  With The Fate of the Furious and Toy Story 4 and every possible franchise coming to a similar predicament, I find myself more and more frustrated by movies.  We have lost storytelling.

I would not recommend the movie Paul, Apostle of Christ at all.  It fails to tell the story.  I understand that you have to build screenplays and more “robust” stories to keep an audience’s attention.  I understand that there are 10,000 details that are not present in the pages of scripture.  We don’t know what clothes Paul wore, we don’t know the physical details of the jail where he was, we don’t really know Aquilla and Priscilla.  Pictures were not included.

So, there is a lot of room for the imagination.  And that’s fine.  And understood.  My commentary does not come from that.  Creativity must be exercised when trying to bring a story from the page to the big screen.

My commentary relates to bad storytelling.

What we do know is that Paul died preaching the gospel he once opposed.  Paul died proclaiming the Messiah he had once persecuted.  He died because he believed that God sent His Son Jesus Christ to become a man, to live a perfect life, to die a brutal death, to rise three days later, and to be raised up in glory.  He died because he proclaimed his witness of this message throughout the Ancient World.  He died because his Spirit-given boldness could not be silenced.  He died with a certainty that he had finished the race.  He died without fear of not being accepted by Christ.

The Paul portrayed in this movie was not the man I have admired, respected, hated at times, been instructed by, been convicted by.  The Paul portrayed in this movie was not the Paul that wrote the words that were put at times in the mouth of the actor.  The Paul of this movie dispensed wishy-washy Oprah advice to a suffering people.  The words of the Paul of this movie (or the lack of words) brought about division, anxiety, fear, and death, rather than the comfort and peace that the words of Paul in Scripture bring to us even today.

**SPOILER**
Paul is in prison in the movie, and the Roman prefect in charge of the prison has a daughter.  This girl is dying.  The prefect obeys all the rituals to the gods and goddesses to ensure his girl would live.  He is having marital problems because his wife blames him for their girl’s illness saying he is angering the gods by being a little lenient with Paul and Luke (who in this movie sneaked in the prison to write the Acts of the Apostles from Paul’s stories).  As anyone could predict, eventually the illness gets so bad that the prefect calls for Luke.  Luke comes and the girl is healed.  All the Christians end up praying for the girl.  The girl goes from being dead to being radiant.  So, this gets Paul some time alone with the prefect under the sun.  The Paul of the Bible would have been gracious, humble, and bold to proclaim the gospel to this prefect.  Acts 26 comes to mind and his defense portrayed there before King Agrippa.  The Paul of this movie gave a somewhat decent metaphor about water that I predict will be used in many sermons in the years to come.  Then he said a couple of platitudes.  A sentence of comedy relief.  He said, “I’m not trying to convince you.”  The whole theater laughed.  I don’t think Paul would have laughed at that.  In verse 28, Agrippa asks Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” Paul responds in verse 29, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am–except for these chains.”  Paul was most definitely trying to convince Agrippa.

Sure, you can argue that you don’t want to alienate people who want to watch the movie for entertainment purposes.  You can argue that you are building a bridge.  You can argue a lot of things.  But make up a story for that.  Put the words you want in the mouth of a police officer or a football player or a firefighter.  If you are going to take the life of a man from the pages of Scripture whose life is a manifestation of human weakness magnifying the power of God, tell the story.  Add your art.  Add your music.  Add extra-scriptural details.  But don’t change the character of the man.

Summarizing the theology of Paul as “Love is the only way” falls far short.  While I was thankful for the glimpses of the tragic persecution our forefathers faced and for the reminder of the blood that was spilled to guard the treasure that we now get to buy and carry and read and share freely, the portrayal of Christians as belligerent, vengeful, and defeated left me pondering the consequences of storytelling like this.  People who have never read the Bible and people who may never read the Bible and people who read the Bible can take bits and pieces of this and strengthen what they want to hear instead of sound doctrine.  That would have grieved Paul gravely.  Yes, the story arc of Luke having to overcome the temptation to not seek to heal the daughter of the prefect, even as many brothers and sisters were being thrown to the beasts at the Coliseum, is an important one.  The triumph of love over hate.  The triumph of love over abuse and violence.

But the movie never defined the source of this Love.  Yes, there is 1 Corinthians 13.  But that Love, that Love needs to be defined.  We can’t leave it to the imagination or to whatever feels right to us in the moment

The movie was left with these empty pockets for you to fill in with whatever makes it work for you.  I was really confused to hear pastors speak of the prefect’s conversion.  The prefect never proclaimed Christ as Lord.  He stood by as Paul was killed.  We saw a bit of a happy ending in this life for the prefect and his family, but we weren’t told anything.

They had Paul speak parts of his epistles as he would move through the movie.

We keep doing violence to storytelling when we take our view of the world and our feelings and our agenda into stories from the past.  We need to let stories be the stories they are.  We don’t get to rewrite history.  The subject of the married life of Aquila and Priscilla as portrayed in the picture is highly anachronistic and Scripturally suspect. That can be a conversation for another time.

The biggest disappointment of this movie was that the gospel was never proclaimed.  There is not a letter of Paul that does not proclaim the gospel.  This was clearly a case of bad storytelling.

It was so strange to walk into a movie theater and see you’re being (1) manipulated (constant repetition of “Love is the only way”), and (2) treated as a gullible demographic.  Because actor x is in a movie you all went crazy about years ago, we are sure you’re going to love this movie.  Because it barely touches upon the Bible, we are certain you are all going to come in and hand over your money, bring your friends and all.  People were clapping in the end.  People laughed at the comedy relief thrown sporadically.  People left ready to bring their churches in to watch this.  It’s been released right before Easter so I’m sure many will think this is the next big thing that will bring the world to the gospel.

But when we step back, we find that the most wonderful story, the one that our souls long for, and the only story that makes sense of our existence was never mentioned.

The trailer mentioned this, but it wasn’t in the movie:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. (1 Timothy 1:15–17 ESV)