It Is Not Character Flaws!

Víctor Chininin Buele

Why waste our collective time, writing and reading, if I know already that you won’t change your mind? Precisely because of that. And that matters because language matters. And because the gospel message, through language, is the only thing that will regenerate your mind.

Iosif Brodsky knows a bit about language since he was strongly urged to emigrate from the Soviet Union basically for being a poet, a free thinker. He once said, “You think evil is going to come into your houses wearing big black boots. It doesn’t come like that. Look at the language. It begins in the language.

There is something going on that has been bothering me during this entire election cycle. It’s been going on for years, though.

I keep reading things like these:

“Evangelicals in general who support Donald Trump recognize, that he has character flaws.

“All of us are human, and none of us are without sin, Trump is human like the rest of us.

“I will vote for the policies I believe most accurately represent God’s will for human flourishing. I will not make a big show of it or make apologies for my chosen candidate’s character flaws.”

I could quote many more, and you may have just made similar statements. Granting all the context and nuance that these and other statements may offer, they magically transform sin into flaw. A line of reasoning is advocated that (1) all human beings sin, (2) Trump is a human just like the rest of us, and (3) at that point the necessary conclusion that Trump sins is not quite articulated but left in the air, hanging, unresolved yet implied. Logic fills the void. So, the need for explaining it away is needed. The air is then filled with a much more respectable-sounding word: flawed. And that is something we can all relate to easily. So, next! I am flawed, you are flawed. “We are a happy family!/With a great big hug/And a kiss from me to you/Won’t you say [you’re flawed], too?” Enough, Barney!

The obvious yet unfortunately necessary disclaimer: This is not an anti President Trump only tirade or a pro Biden motivational speech. I can do the same exercise with Vice President Biden or with Victor Chininin Buele. My point here is to use the caricature in front of us to illustrate something critical. And Trump makes for such a poignant illustration. He is us on steroids, naked and shamelessly unashamed, out in the open, and twitted at crazy hours.

The point is that there is absolutely nothing false about the biblical truth that all human beings sin (Romans 1-3). If this were not true, there would be absolutely no need for the gospel, and with there would be no need for Jesus Christ. Simple fact. What this truth is not, when we rightly understand the gospel, is an excuse to sin flagrantly. And since my wife always prefers that I would stick to biblical terms and descriptions of sin, let me rephrase: This simple fact that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God is not an excuse to live unrepentantly in sin.

We don’t need a lot to illustrate the need for justification. First, we go and do something super dumb, like watch a bad movie, buy something stupid, say something embarrassing, you name it. We immediately rush to find a way to explain it to ourselves. (Actually, we say, it was a great movie, a smart investment preparing for the future, the needed word that needed to be said).

This is a deep part of our sinful, fallen nature. Once we have found a way to deceive ourselves that wrong is right, bad is good and even desirable, we become evangelists because we desperately need others to affirm what we’ve done, approve of us, and close the cycle. We start telling others how wonderful that terrible movie was. Because we can’t just own it. We start telling others to go buy the product because we can’t face it that we made a mistake. Because we do this for relatively simple stuff like hoarding toilet paper during a global pandemic, for example, we don’t pay much attention to this sequence of self-justification and self-deceit.

And that is where I want you to hear the language.

This is how we allow sin in our lives. We tell ourselves it cannot possibly be a big deal because both everyone else sins and others, like Trump, for example, sin way more than us, or their sin is worse than ours. This is how we self-justify our walk away from the pursuit of holiness. We’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus and His Word and have diverted it instead to excuse-making. And in that simple line of argument with ourselves, we’ve deemed our sin to not be a sin. And as it becomes systemic and permanent in our hearts and lives, well, we just associate our identity with it—we are flawed! The societal expectation to require others to love us just as we are (that is, without calling us to repentance and change) comes in, and there we are: self-justified in our self-described flaws but needing to run to any and every instrument of self-medication possible to quiet a guilty conscience. Because we know that when the night comes, and the land is dark, and the moon is the only light we see, that’s when we know we’ve sinned. We can’t hide anymore from God. And even if we over medicate and fall asleep deadening our conscience, sooner or later, we wake up.

And that is also how we allow wolves into our churches. We are pragmatic. We are sinners, and yet we want to see change. We want to see the gospel at work. We want results. We want to see lives changed. But we get mixed up. The world’s definition of success gets into us as we trade the concept of sin in our personal lives for the more palatable idea of flaws or mistakes. Then, this infiltrates the church. We are far more likely to overlook sin when things look just like we want them. Or even trending up to look just like we want them. Actually, the promise of something is far more entangling than getting the thing itself. Especially if we are constantly persuaded that the goal is just over here, almost within reach. We can see that promised land, y’all!

And wolves come in, walk on the red carpet we set to welcome them, eat our food, drink our beer, come into our homes, get to know us and our sins and our secrets. They set shop in our church, get paid by us, give us what we want to hear and see. We see their anger, sure, their wrath, their immorality, their covetousness, their lusts, their greed. We see what John Piper highlighted as the New Testament sins of “unrepentant sexual immorality (porneia), unrepentant boastfulness (alazoneia), unrepentant vulgarity (aischrologia), unrepentant factiousness (dichostasiai), and the like,” but we explain them away. We lie and say to ourselves and then to others when we become evangelists for our guy that we are all sinners just like Pastor Steve up there. He is so vulnerable and raw, honest and transparent! He struggles like I do! We are all flawed and say silly things from time to time… It’s just the tone. Our man, he gets results! That’s what we say.

Never underestimate the things you will say and do to justify your own sin. The Word is true—the wages of sin is death. Devastation follows sin.

So, let’s watch our language, shall we? If we don’t call out sin without euphemisms, we will never be able to repent of it. And without repentance, there is no regeneration. No regeneration means no renewal.

Is that what we want to leave behind? Lives consumed by selfishness? Churches consumed by wolves? A nation consumed by sin?

The Road to Incarnational Politics

Victor Chininin Buele

I keep getting asked a flavor of this question–what am I supposed to do with all of these issues related to the election? Last week, I started some more general thoughts regarding an earlier question about a distortion of the two-kingdoms view of theology here: https://chininin.com/2020/09/19/our-place/. Essentially, what is our place as Christians in politics? God is sovereign, and we are responsible. We cannot force change. The gospel is not coercive. We vote, but we know that our vote cannot ultimately change the hearts of a nation. We advocate for more just laws, but we know that ultimately a nation will legalize what it worships. We need regeneration before any revolution.

What I want to do here is to take up an additional path of discussion about the enthusiastic support of a party platform this side of eternity. Especially the current platforms. To do that, I want to discuss incarnational politics. I cannot see how we can be enthusiastic about either one of the two platforms as Christians. We really are in a season where our status as sojourners and exiles is blatantly clear. If we are feeling too at home in a red hat or a blue shirt, something is out of balance. John Stott always taught me in his writings and public communications that the Christian was going to be too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. I do not see us acting as sojourners in such a situation in this election cycle.

We are political beings. We have convictions. We have very strong convictions. And we live in a pluralistic society where our neighbors have very different convictions than we do. Algorithms serve us and our neighbors with different views of the world and reality, different pages and experts. We live in a massive cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias sociological experiment.

The essence of incarnational politics is this–Christ came into the world to save sinners. I know of no worse sinner than I because I do know the darkness, depth, and stain of my own sin. I hear myself always, and I know what I do, don’t do, and do without all my heart. Christ became like I am in every way except one: sin. He went through the similar human experience of emotions, convictions, disappointments, insults, conflicts, temptations. The big difference and hope for me is that he did not sin. In the power of the Holy Spirit, I’m daily being transformed into someone who sins less and less and less as I’m transformed into the image of Christ, yet still sins. Christ came, he became like us but without the sin, and he did not set himself on a mission to impose beliefs on us, to use magical powers to force us to comply to his divine will. He brought what Craig Blomberg calls contagious holiness. He encountered sinners and loved them. He had compassion. And they were changed. Never to be the same again. There ought to be no one more welcoming than the Christian. Our message is the best news of happiness to the world. We don’t have a monopoly over it. It was freely given, and much is expected out of us in getting it out.

Do we do that in our politics? Do we actually love the other person? Do we know her? Do we know why she goes to a certain march? Do we know why he feels isolated and left behind by the world? Do we know why he falls for QAnon ideas? Do we know why she is passionate about the Second Amendment? Do we know whether she is tired of being thought of as somebody who is becoming a liberal?

Do we know the person? When we don’t, we are not showing love. We are caricaturizing. We don’t like caricatures of us. But we dish them out easily.

Take this matter of immigration, for example. I have major conflicts of conscience. I know that ALDI can sell me strawberries for 1.99 every once in a while because there are people who look like me who pick them up under almost-slavery conditions, exposed to chemicals I would not put anywhere near my children while they are compensated less than what I would dare to make at my job. We have policies that wink at those who cross the border as if saying, “If we catch you, we’ll put you through hell, but if we don’t, please clean our toilets, pick up our fruit, make our burgers.” We thus encourage parents to endanger their children to cross the desert and the river, and yet these parents are responsible for making these choices. Not every immigrant is fleeing dangerous conditions. Some just want, like I once did, to come and become rich. Our asylum laws are awful, and we put children in cages separated from their parents. Do the Democrats have an actual solution for this? They do not. Do the Republicans? Absolutely not. Why do people not realize that building the wall will eventually result in the rising cost of our cheap food? Why do people not realize that if we don’t do something about bringing people out of hiding they will only live in a cycle of poverty and darkness. Amnesty sends an awful message, but tons of families live under a lot of stress and fear. The church doesn’t ask them about certain sins–as if we were saying it’s OK to use a stolen SSN to get a job. We aren’t watching for the ultimate spiritual wellbeing of these souls, of these humans. Immigration is far more complicated than a bumper sticker. And it’s only getting worse.

Take abortion. It is the dismemberment of children. It is as simple as that, but it is also a lot more complicated than that. I cannot possibly persuade you that this is murder. But it is. Have you read Defenders of the Unborn? That is a really good work of history showing us how we got to the current polarization. What was life like before Roe v. Wade? Democrats cared about the rights of the baby and the mother! What!! Yet, we seem to agree about the inherent value of every human life lost to COVID-19. Every life outside of the womb seems to matter, well, except when you talk about wearing masks. I get so frustrated with arguments that America is a totalitarian state. Have you ever been in a coup d’état in Bangkok? That is a very different thing. Have you ever been in a lockdown in Latin America? I hate to say it, but you really don’t know what you are talking about. America has institutions that as crazy as they may seem today, bending to the will of a polarizing figure, are still constitutionally accountable and liable for watching over each other.

We could go on and on. We disagree on a lot. I get it. But do you know me? Do you know why? Do you care to know why?

We can’t build a future together if we demonize the other, if we turn everything into a test of left or right orthodoxy. We need to know that some of these issues need to go through some sort of triage. We don’t have enough time to sort through all the massive waste dump that social media and the mainstream media dump on our lap. I have to confess, I was happy to only think about Molina’s 2000th hit yesterday rather than to research about the forced sterilizations of women at the southern border.

But we cannot lose the prophetic edge to speak truth to power and to not give up in doing good. Have you read Amos lately? If the man behind the Resolute Desk calls himself a Christian to pander my vote, you better believe that I’m going to call him to account by the standards that he claims to confess. Where is the fruit? I’ve been looking and looking, and time and time again I fail to see the fruit of repentance. Does that mean that I must vote for the other guy or for him? Abortion matters a lot because it’s tied to the gods of this age and nation. There is a way in which the exaltation of abortion is tied to all kinds of fundamental aspects of American life. It matters greatly. Am I a “single issue” voter? No. Why? Because I’m tired of the Democratic party pandering to African Americans, Latino/as, the LGBTQ community. I’m tired of the Republican party pandering to “evangelical” Christians and gun rights advocates. Nothing changes. Welfare increases under both red and blue administrations. There is a really neat little book about that if you are curious. I am tired of a system that consistently produces more of the same. Why are we content voting for the “lesser” of two evils? That means we know and acknowledge that both are terrible choices.

I am more than a caricature. I care about life inside the womb and outside of it. I want people to have the best opportunities to hear the gospel and live the best life possible in this earth. I want to see people live life in freedom and with true joy. I can’t achieve that only with politics, but I can’t see that by ignoring politics or by demonizing the other side or by ignoring the other side.

We all want to change the world, don’t we? We know that living incarnationally is critical. Because we can be fully known and yet loved. I can love you even as I try to show you why x or y subject can lead down a path that will not benefit either one of us. In the process, I will learn what drives you, and we will be better for it. Yes, there are horrendous ideas out there. But will we ever see them if we create for ourselves echo chambers designed to only echo the things we want to hear. Take one another seriously. And please, this is not a post where I throw out the Bible, its inerrancy, efficacy, authority, and sufficiency. I am not on the road to Liberaland. I am a son of God. Trying to do his will, trying to live with an honorable conduct in this strange age where I live.

Let’s talk, OK? Jesus did. He wept.

Our Place

Victor Chininin Buele

What is our place as Christians in this world? The Bible gives us what seems to be at times contradicting instructions, and it is easy to see that many have given up on Scripture because of what they perceive as contradictions. We are told that the kingdom of God is here (Matthew 3:2, 4:17, 10:7; Mark 1:15; Luke 17:21), and we are clearly also told, “Jesus answered, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.’” (John 18:36 ESV). We, Christians, live in a paradox. We are to think in paradoxes. Our minds will always be stretched through paradox. Not contradiction but paradox. So, what is our place here?

We are citizens of an earthly nation and citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). We have responsibilities in both realms. We are to be the best citizens here and serve as leaven in this realm for the kingdom of heaven. Peter in his first letter, chapter 2, addresses the Christians as those who were not a people but now are a people, those who are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession.” And the purpose of all of that is “that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (9). We’ve been reconciled to God and made part of His kingdom (now and in its future consummation) in order to be an evangelistic light. We’ve been saved to proclaim. After taking Hosea’s “not a people” theme and turning it into “now you are God’s people,” Peter urges the sojourners and exiles (how he refers to the Christians) to “abstain from the passions of the flesh” and “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak of you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”

The Christian is then called to “be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution.” Verses 13 and 14 issue a heavy command to these resident aliens in Asia Minor. They are to “be subject (submit yourselves, NASB) for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme (a king, NASB), or to governors as sent by him (2:13-14 ESV).” The task is great: obedience and submission are required of the believer to every human institution. It doesn’t narrow it down just to the king/emperor, and it doesn’t narrow it down to governors. The reason for the submission is not shown to be the worthiness or the righteousness of the human institution. The sojourners and exiles are not asked to be subject to every human institution because of the institution’s own righteousness or goodness. It also does not say to be subject to every human institution because of self-interest, i.e., what the exile can receive from submission to the human institution. Instead, Peter centers the rationale for the submission on the Lord alone. These believers are asked to submit to the human institutions for the Lord’s sake.

Defining what Peter means by every human institution is marked by the context. Peter uses the word κτίσει, creation/creature. Peter refers to human creatures, that the submission is to be to “every human creature,” literally speaking. The context that follows this helps clarify this command. Peter highlights the emperor/king, governors, servant/master relationships, wives/husbands, Shepherd/undershepherds/flock of God. Then, Peter is not telling any of us to submit blindly to any and every institution created by men, especially not on the basis of worthiness or goodness or self-interest. He is also not telling us to submit to every person. He is also not making a case for slavery, for blind following, for subservience. He is making a call to honor the Lord in all relationships and spheres of our lives. The exiles will glorify God by deriving every aspect of their relationships from God, for the Lord’s sake.

With this said, there are three things to evaluate: the nature of the Christian’s involvement, the limits of the Christian’s involvement, and the nature of change.

Some commentaries indicate that it is possible that the sojourners in 1 Peter were originally all living in Rome but were deported and spread throughout Asia Minor after their conversion. If that is the case, the call to submit to such a government is even more difficult. The command to display an honorable conduct towards evangelism is one issued to those under an authority that would be, to say the least, very difficult to submit to. So, we engage trying to be the best citizens that we can, letting the fruit of our regeneration and conversion spread through our actions and involvement throughout the society. A little leaven can do much for the whole nation. The gospel is leaven. If we hide and don’t engage, then we surrender critical ground. The gospel is not imposition, though, so we cannot force our beliefs on anyone. We are not to be cultural warriors in the caricaturesque sense of the word. We are to keep our conduct honorable. We live for Christ here, all our life. We live in a glass case. Everyone is watching us and measuring our witness with our actions or lack of action. There should be no one more committed to the pursuit of justice, beauty, truth, and order than the Christian citizen of a nation.

But there are limits to our engagement. Ultimately we will not be able to decisively persuade a godless culture without regeneration. There can be no revolution without reformation. We cannot persuade a single person about Jesus Christ being the Son of God who came into the world to live a perfect life and die a brutal death in our place for all our sins before rising up again and ascending to the throne of the Father where he intercedes for us even now as he makes all things new. We just can’t. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to illuminate the heart, mind, soul, to give eyes, ears, and soft hearts to take in the message we proclaim. Because of that, we can’t persuade somebody to display the fruit of repentance, the fruit of the Spirit from mere human persuasion. We can’t ultimately persuade anyone that abortion is murder and ought to be obliterated from our land. We can’t ultimately persuade anyone about a host of moral issues that are the outworking of the gospel. People need eyes to see given from God and they need our witness so that they can respond to God’s call.

And that is also the final point, the nature of change is that we cannot force change. We fully depend on God for that, but we must obey God also. He is sovereign, and we are responsible. We vote, but we know that our vote cannot change the hearts of a nation. We advocate for more just laws, but we know that ultimately a nation will legalize what it worships. We seek to root out corruption in worldly systems, but we know that when true repentance comes, the change will be mind blowing and a testimony to the power of God. We run for office, if it’s our call, remembering that men like Wilberforce fought to bring about impossible change. He was accused of preaching the gospel to the “savages” while he was trying to root out the slave trade from England.

The former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, notably said that there is not one square inch over the whole realm of this world over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry out, “Mine!”

The Kingdom is at hand, in our midst, but also not of this world. So, we live in this tension. We are sojourners and aliens. We are citizens. We don’t truly have a home in this world, but, as my friend Mike Bull says, “We must not be so heavenly-minded that we retreat from
the world nor so earthly-minded that we are disqualified from God’s blessing”

Sugarcoating Sin’s Bitterness

Victor Chininin Buele

When I worked in DC, we were at the tipping point of implementing our fears in that post-9/11 world into law and practice. Riding the Metro to work, I’d always hear our WMATA recording ask us, “if you see something, say something.” If we were to see a suspicious object or a situation or a person, we were not to doubt but report it. Fresh images were in our minds of the colossal Twin Towers coming down and people dying. We were determined to never let it happen again. Or at least, we were deadly afraid of it happening again.

Terrorism seeks the disruption of “normal” life. You just don’t expect the nice, kind doctor in the lab coat to blow up the hospital, or the sweet pregnant lady that was sitting next to you at the school function to set the school on fire. Terrorism is successful when it leads to ever-present doubt and suspicion. That’s how terror wins.

Yet, this hyper-alertness is very important because it helps with survival. Or so we think. If we doubt everything, then we will be able to report that which is strange and obliterate terror. Right? Wrong! We just can’t.

We wear ourselves out. We can not possibly be on alert always, ever, all the time. We can’t be evaluating every situation and every person. We are finite. We get tired, and we get complacent. Or we become the boy who cried wolf, or even worse, we are told we are the boy even though what we are seeing is real.

So, two simple takeaways today: 1) We can’t stand at the watchtower alone. We need others to watch with us. We need others to listen and challenge whatever needs to be challenged. We need others to act. 2) We have a messed up view of causality. Psychologists use the acronym DARVO: denial, attack, reversal of victim-offender. When we are confronted with our sin and feel threatened, the first response is to deny the sin ever happened. Once the truth is made clear (from our very own mouth and actions, mind you), we attack. It’s full survival mode at that point; it was the other person’s fault. And when it becomes clear that the actions or the abuse were clearly that sinner’s fault and responsibility, the next act is to flip the script: I am the victim of that horrible, horrible victim. Don’t you see it?, we will be asked, she is a sinner! And let’s face it, it is a lot easier for us to start chanting, SINNER, SINNER, SINNER! than it is to actually sort out the whole picture in the light of who Christ is and what He called us to be: Christlike.

One of our most fundamental, cultural heresies in America is that people are good, inherently good.

And when we believe in such a heresy, one of the most fundamental follow-up heresies is this: Grace becomes putting everything in its best possible light. Sin becomes putting everything in its worst possible light. Grace becomes about perception, which it most definitely is not.

Naming the sin, killing the sin, repenting of the sin, and redemption from sin all become impossibilities at that point. Let us not be surprised that cancel culture can creep in like this. For grace to have its full strength effect in our dead bodies and revive them, we have to recognize just that: that apart from Christ we are dead. Our sin is death. It produces death. We need to recognize, name, and repent of the totality and the depth of our sins.

It will most definitely not have a pretty ring to it, and it will cost us dearly. There just is no possible way to sugarcoat sin and live. Brazilian pastor Hernandez Dias Lopes says that the lie has short legs. I found that very insightful and just awkward enough when translated to English to stick in my mind. As a lifelong owner of short legs, I know this: it takes me many, many more steps for me to keep with someone with longer legs. It requires more effort, and I look ridiculous while doing it.

Do not waste your life trying to catch up, always, ever, all the time. Go ahead and picture it, me making four steps for every one step from a tall person. Laugh at it. Then, come back, surrender the lie. Live in the light. Name your sin. Repent of it. Be redeemed by the Redeemer.

When is the last time you were able to name your sin without sugarcoating it?

I have some pills that need to be made specifically for me at a compound pharmacy. It costs extra to have them coated. I never do. And every once in a while right before bed when I’m taking my pill the water will hit it just right that its bitterness hits me. There is no way of getting rid of it. I remember getting sick in Mexico City once and getting my antibiotics from Dr. Simi’s Farmacias Similares. Those things tasted like death itself.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,

Ephesians 1:7 

Dead Whiners Society

Towards a Practical Theology of Work — Part 2
Victor Chininin Buele

In the last post, we left off in Numbers 11, which tells the story of the people of God complaining, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (6).  It didn’t matter to them that the Lord had rescued them from slavery and given them manna abundantly. God’s faithfulness and generosity were perceived as betrayal and stinginess. They deemed Yahweh to be untrustworthy. Complaining and thankfulness are polar opposites.

And the people complained in the hearing of the LORD 
about their misfortunes.

Numbers 11:1 (ESV)

The people of Israel had been parked, so to speak, at Sinai. From Exodus 19 (the chapter before they receive the 10 Words from God) to Numbers 10, they had been at Sinai. They were impatient, they rebelled, they worshiped a false god. The cloud lifted from the tabernacle in Numbers 10:11-13, and the people started to move out of Sinai. And what is the very next thing we read starting in chapter 11:1? That they complained.

This is not just a common temptation for me, but one of the areas where I struggle the most. And let’s pay close attention to the fact that when we say “struggle,” we really mean “lose.” After all, we do not go around saying we are struggling when we are winning the battle. Struggling sounds more elegant than stating the truth that we are in fact losing. We lose the battle with whining and grumbling and discontent. We need heart transformation.

Israel complains and looks back to Egypt. Have you considered how hard it was to get Israel out of Egypt? It took miracle after miracle from the unrivaled and mighty hand of the Lord. The liberation of Israel was nothing short of a manifestation of the power of God. But, have you considered how hard it was to get Egypt out of Israel? You see, Israel became Egypt in many ways:

Now the rabble that was among them had a strong craving.
And the people of Israel also wept again and said,
“Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt
that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions,
and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up,
and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Numbers 11:4-6

They just couldn’t shake Egypt off so easily. They had vivid memories of the fish, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, the garlic. They craved the food of their slavery. They longed for their chains. They had no category for the generosity of God and for the faithfulness of Yahweh to keep His promises. They were hungry and nostalgic. They longed for their slavery.

I am like Israel. Every single day. My flesh wages war against what is good and right. Justification for my sins can very easily be concocted. Thorns and thistles are all around us. It is hard to earn our wages and to bring food to the table. It is hard because work, though originally created good by our good God, was stained by sin and cursed because of sin, the sin of our parents. Now, work gives us blisters.

Our backs hurt, we need surgeries, our eyesight diminishes, we have vitamin D deficiencies, our fingers don’t work as well, we suffer fatigue, depression, mood disorders, carpal tunnel syndrome. We become easily irritable and angered. We take what is not ours–whether a pencil from the office supplies or an “extra break.” We don’t always respect our leaders and speak well of them to others. We grumble and complain. Our compensation is not sufficient. Our package is not up to industry standards. We work too much. Too much is expected of us. We have to work yet another weekend, another long night. The customer has high expectations. We eat alone. We become disconnected. We disconnect from our spouses and our children. We divorce. We have “affairs” and divorce. We live hypocritical lives. We drown in debt. We put up appearances. We check our investment apps every few minutes to see just how rich we are. We spend too much.

It is hard to be a working human being!

“There is, therefore, a great need for discernment in our self‑understanding.  Who am I? What is my ‘self’?
The answer is that I am a Jekyll and Hyde, a mixed‑up kid,
having both dignity because I was created and have been
re‑created in the image of God, and depravity because
I still have a fallen and rebellious nature. 
I am both noble and ignoble, beautiful and ugly,
good and bad, upright and twisted, image and child of God,
and yet sometimes yielding obsequious homage
to the devil from whose clutches Christ has rescued me.”

John Stott, The Cross of Christ, 277.

If in our sinful nature we are natural grumblers, and that affects the quality of our work as well as our attitude towards our work, then what must we do to be saved?

Yes, that is the right question. I could have said, “then what can we do to work better?” or “then what can be done to avoid those horrible side effects?” No, this is a matter of salvation. This is a matter of eternal life.

Eternal life is not just a time concept–to live forever. Eternal life is about the presence of God forever. The believer in Christ receives this undeserved gift through no merit of his own. It’s free but bought at the highest price of them all–the blood of Jesus Christ at the cross.

So, what will we spend eternity doing? No more Jekyll and Hyde, good mixed with bad, evil mixed with good, upright mixed with twisted. Righteousness, holiness, fruitfulness. Forever. Fruitfulness is not an eternity spent doing nothing. We will spend eternity in true productivity. We will pick up there next time and see how this can affect our day-to-day productivity as we await the Lord’s return and invest in the Great Commission to make disciples of the nations.

Time to Reflect

Until then, if the fruit of our salvation is joy in Christ, then that joy in Christ will be obvious in our work. The battle against grumbling and complaining will lead us into more and more of God’s presence as we are transformed into the image of Christ at every battle, every step of the way.

What is one tangible, practical way to work out our salvation as it relates to our work?

Thanksgiving. Being thankful will help us to shift our focus from our self-pity, self-centeredness, and self-awareness of our difficulties into the generosity, mercy, kindness, and love of God. After all, if Christ had not come, our work would have zero redemptive hope. As we seek discernment in our self-understanding to help us orient our sight heavenward, consider thanksgiving. Practice thanksgiving. Pray thanksgiving prayers. Pray for the heart to desire to pray thanksgiving prayers. Be thankful. Thank others in tangible ways. Every encounter is an opportunity to be thankful to God and to your neighbor. Our unbelieving coworker will eventually have to come to ask one simple question, “If we are thankful, who do we thank?” “What am I thankful for?” And the universe, or life, or chance, or luck will not stand the test–we can’t thank an impersonal god. Only God will suffice.

May we see eyes open to the glories of Christ as we set aside our self-indulgence in grumbling and pick up thankfulness to God our Father, our Lord Jesus Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

Psalm 86:12

It’s Monday! Time to Worship

Towards a Practical Theology of Work — Part 1
Victor Chininin Buele

Let me ask you something. When you come in on Monday and you’re not feeling real well, does anyone ever say to you, “Sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays?” The Christian cannot have his theology of work dictated more by the old “classic” Office Space than by the Word of God. But it happens. We all do it. It’s easier to just go along with it and say, “Yes, I have a case of the Mondays” than it is to actually live by faith, to worship God with our work.

I’ve done it countless times. It’s easier to give in and go through the motions on Monday (or any other day, really). We just gathered to worship God on the Lord’s Day. How can we possibly have a case of the Mondays?

“[…] Immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  […] [No] one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces.  No one had the strength to subdue him.  […] [Crying] with a loud voice, he said, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.’ For he was saying to him, ‘Come out of the man, you unclean spirit! […] As [Jesus] was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  And he did not permit him but said to him, ‘Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.’”

Mark 5:2-4, 7-8, 18-20 (ESV)

After reading this, we need a very different vision for Monday.

Let me tell you how much the Lord has done for me, and how he has had mercy on me. Let me live that out in my work, doing it excellently, to the glory of God and the well-being of my neighbor. How can I pursue delighting in God in worship through the checking of emails and writing of documents and reading of documents and producing of my work product deliverables?

“The enjoyment and the glorification of God are one.  His eternal purpose and our eternal pleasure unite.  […] For:  ‘The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.’”[1]

If I am to glorify God by enjoying Him forever, and I give in to the so-called case of the Mondays, there must be something wrong with the way I am approaching my day-to-day work.  We cannot compartmentalize our faith–There cannot be a difference between the person that goes to Sunday service and serves the church, the person that goes to community or prayer group on Tuesdays, the person that goes to school, the person that goes to work every day. All of our lives are worship. All of life for Christ’s glory.

Over the years, I’ve read a number of books and articles on the theology of work, but the following statement really stirred me up inside: “Eventually, Christians tend to adopt one of two solutions to relieve the tension they feel at work.  They either run or they hide.  The run response comes from the idea that it would just be easier to make a clean break – to start over in a new environment or to withdraw completely by enrolling in seminary and going into ministry full-time.  […] The hide response is nothing less than a subtle surrender of the mission.”[2]

As a result of the Fall, we struggle with work.  Numbers 11 tells the story of the people of God complaining, “There is nothing at all but this manna to look at” (6).  It didn’t matter to them that the Lord had rescued them from slavery and given them manna abundantly as they walked away from their chains and towards the land that He promised to their fathers.  It didn’t matter that God had proven time and time again His love, mercy, wrath, and justice.  The people were complaining and kept on complaining.  They complained so much that Moses went to God, and that’s where we will pick up with this attempt at a practical theology of work next time.

Time to Reflect

Until then, reflect on the following. Peter writes to the exiles:

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

This presupposes the freedom I am highlighting today. We are all walking out of prior chains of oppression and slavery to sin. Whatever our past sins, they are all covered by Christ once we call upon His name as Lord to be saved. Our work is the fruit of our repentance, the fruits of our justification, the fragrant offering of the fruit of the work of Christ in our lives through the Holy Spirit. So, our work ought to leave people wondering. Our colleagues, our customers, our managers, our partners, our vendors will necessarily be driven to ask why. Why is this person so different? Why does he conduct his business in this way? Why does he treat me differently from the rest? Why do I leave his presence with a renewed sense of encouragement and an appreciation of my value as a contributor? Why do I feel loved? Why?

And it is in that context that we will have that opportunity to do, gently and respectfully, lovingly and compassionately what Peter calls “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” and what the Lord commissioned the Gadarene man to do, “to tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.


[1] Piper, John.  Desiring God.  (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003), 307

[2] Campbell, Regi.  About My Father’s Business.  (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2009), 27

Otto, Walter y Confía

Víctor Chininín Buele

Ya que Otto renunció esta semana y ha salido un documental acerca de la vida de Walter Mercado en Netflix y mi estimado amigo Pablo Ruiz escribió una columna en el diario digital hora32 titulada “No te comas el ‘manicho’” el día de hoy, a más de haberme hecho acuerdo de que no compré suficientes Manichos para sobrevivir la cuarentena que jamás pensé que iba a durar tanto, estas circunstancias me han hecho acuerdo de un artículo que he tenido pendiente de escribir por varios meses.

Algo me llamó mucho la atención a principios de este año en Loja y fue el movimiento Confía que es parcialmente a lo que se refiere mi apreciado amigo cuando dice en su columna “construir procesos y no personas, un país y no un partido, un colectivo y no un candidato”.

Me llamó la atención el vacío que existe en la política actual lojana y ecuatoriana expresado por un deseo profundo y muy válido de transformación y cambio. Es que algo debe ya de suceder. Algo debe ya de ser diferente. Solo lo mismo y lo mismo y lo mismo. No sabíamos que iba a haber una pandemia cuando Jorge Bailón triunfó en las urnas pero si hubiéramos podido imaginarnos que tal situación se podía suscitar en nuestra urbe, país y mundo, hubiéramos podido extrapolar con gran facilidad cuál iba a ser su gestión manejando el COE cantonal. Caras vemos. Las hemos visto por años. Y los hemos tenido a él y al Chato como alcaldes por tantos años que en verdad parece que corazones sí sabemos.

No me malentienda—oro por Jorge Bailón y por éxito en su gestión. Primera de Timoteo 2:2 me lo recuerda siempre. Si no oramos por nuestro alcalde, desobedecemos la Palabra de Dios y el llamado de Dios a que amemos bien a nuestro prójimo. Loja para Todos debe ser en verdad el ideal que todos los lojanos debemos compartir, seamos partidarios de Bailón o no. Y debemos procurar el continuo adelanto en verdad para transformar estas palabras en una realidad que transcienda un eslógan de tiempos de campaña.

Me puse a hacer una broma acerca de lanzarme a la presidencia y al hacerla me acordaba de las esperanzas destrozadas de quienes confiaron alguna vez en pan, techo y empleo. De quienes miraron con anhelo a quien se proclamó su defensor y que desde pequeños nos endoctrinó con aquella cancioncita que no podemos olvidar: pero hay una esperanza, la fuerza de los pobres… y que ahora dice «yo no sabía».

Y he ahí el problema. Seguimos pensando como lo hemos hecho siempre. No ha cambiado nada políticamente en nuestro país desde aquellos días en los que aprendí a leer y escribir leyendo el periódico con mi abuelito y leyendo las propagandas de Rodrigo Borja con mi papi en la campaña, silbando la canción de la ID e imaginándome un futuro diferente que en realidad nunca se materializó, ni con León ni con Rodrigo ni con Sixto ni con Abdalá ni con el interino ni con Lucio ni con Jamil ni con sus vices elevados al poder.

Es aquí que viene Confía.

La tercera vía. Otra manera de buscar el cambio o de hacer política, como lo quieran llamar. Ni de izquierda ni de derecha sino lo que venga de las raíces populares. Consenso.

Y la idea es atractiva en una sociedad posmodernista y relativista. Es claro que hay una alergia a dogmatismos y una aberración al culto a la personalidad. El posmodernismo es atractivo porque parece ser muy inclusivo e incluyente como se ha puesto de moda escribir. El relativismo promete mucho, nos da la impresión de que podemos vivir sin conflictos morales y éticos si simplemente dejamos que todos hagan lo que quieran, crean lo que quieran y vivan a su manera. Pero lamentablemente tarde o temprano el posmodernismo se choca con la verdad absoluta y el relativismo se estrella con la consciencia ayudado por el desenfreno. «No hay verdad absoluta» proclamaban en las universidades estadounidenses por muchos años hasta que el mentiroso más grande se volvió presidente y resulta que sí hay mentiras en este mundo. «Todo es relativo» decían hasta que llegó el momento de imponer nuevos dogmas para reemplazar los dogmas de antaño. Todos decimos que es el otro quien tiene dogmas pero nosotros no. Y tarde o temprano tendremos la tentación a hacer una sustitución en el culto a la personalidad—adoraré a alguien, ¿a quién? ¿A mí mismo? ¿A Rafael?

El documental de Walter Mercado nos muestra la explosión masiva y el impacto casi perenne que puede causar un ser humano cuando invade nuestros hogares con energía, magnetismo y dulzura. Cuando nunca nos dice nada negativo y nos miente con una sonrisa en la cara, de oreja a oreja. Cuando nos habla de lo que queremos escuchar y nos hace sentir como héroes. Cuando nos susurra que somos buenos y que todo saldrá bien mientras se aprovecha de nuestro sufrimiento, nuestra debilidad, nuestros temores y nuestro dolor. Todos queríamos saber qué nos deparará el futuro, desde las abuelitas hasta los nietos. Pausábamos todo para oírlo. Cáncer: hoy será el mejor día de tu vida. Y yo inmediatamente entraba al mundo de la fantasía en el que mi realidad podía ser distinta y acoplaba sus palabras vanas a lo que yo quería que se volviera mi realidad.

Deseo lo mejor para Confía. De hecho, me interesa mucho el movimiento. Pero no por mis amigos, o por el poder de la oratoria de quienes son parte del grupo, o por sus grandes ideas, o por algún interés político que en verdad no tengo. Yo tengo otro llamado en mi vida. Pero mi llamado no es apolítico. Es que Confía es lo más cercano que he visto en Loja a un deseo profundo por la salvación que solamente se puede encontrar en Jesucristo.

Escúcheme bien. Y espero que no detenga su lectura allí. No se me vaya por favor.

Confía demuestra la sed de mi generación por un cambio profundo, radical y verdadero. No más mentiras. No más luchar por los intereses y proyectos de otros. Que no nos vean la cara. Que no se aprovechen de nosotros. Observé que mi generación tiene ansias de ya poder dedicarse a lo que quieren dedicarse. Hay tantos problemas de falta de empleo y barreras a los emprendimientos que se empeoran con la corrupción y la negligencia de quienes tienen “el poder” y no lo utilizan para servir a los demás, por el robo y el engaño.

Hago una invitación a ustedes a una humilde investigación, a una búsqueda aun más apasionada por el cambio verdadero y duradero de la que ya tienen. Ustedes han leído mucho. Piensan mucho. Escriben y dialogan. Esto es muy admirable. Y han tenido tiempo de educarse en las palabras de filósofos y pensadores como Nietzsche. Es por ello que yo les invito a leer a un personaje muy interesante y que estoy seguro que no han tenido la oportunidad de conocer: John Stott. Particularmente su obra “El cristiano contemporáneo: Un llamado urgente a escuchar con los dos oídos” disponible aquí.

¿Por qué? Porque este caballero pasó su vida con humildad sirviendo a su comunidad y a Cristo haciendo lo que ustedes tienen en mente. Él lo llama escuchar con los dos oídos. Stott siempre fue considerado muy conservador por los liberales y muy liberal por los conservadores porque su agenda no fue la agenda de un dogmatismo ciego sino la agenda de Cristo basada en Su Palabra y Stott la dejaba transformar su corazón primero para luego salir a transformar el mundo a través de las esferas de influencia de cada persona transformada por Cristo. De hecho dedicó gran parte de su vida al LICC (Instituto del Cristianismo Contemporáneo en Londres) no educando al clero sino a abogados y doctores y periodistas y a todo aquel que deseara escuchar tanto a la Palabra de Dios como al mundo contemporáneo, con un pie en dos mundos.

¿Por qué es esta mi propuesta a Confía? Porque sin Cristo, es imposible escuchar con los dos oídos y eso es lo que ustedes anhelan. Lo llaman de otra manera. Su educación laica y sus presuposiciones tal vez les lleven a decir que no lo es. Tarde o temprano vendrá un conflicto que no podrán resolver. Tarde o temprano las masas seguirán a alguien y harán su becerro de oro o forjarán a su Mesías sustituto aunque ustedes crean con todo su corazón que están construyendo procesos, un país y un colectivo. Sus procesos traerán conflictos y sin convicción clara, sin una roca sobre la cual construir, el colectivo se hundirá o al menos estará amenazado y seguiremos en lo mismo. El pueblo lo va a escoger al más guapo o al más hablantín. Es cuestión de tiempo nomás. Y uno de los grandes obstáculos es llevar su mensaje a la colectividad en general sin que pierdan el interés en tres minutos. Necesitan construir puentes y los puentes deben tener un origen y un destino sólidos.

La transformación que necesitamos es mucho más profunda que cualquier colonización de las que hemos vivido. Moreno escribía a Alianza País alguna vez que el correismo no pudo transformar el corazón de los ecuatorianos. La Unión Soviética tuvo grandes planes para matar a Dios y no lo pudieron hacer. Es que el cambio que anhelamos es muchísimo más profundo que la imposición de dogmas a los cuales tenemos miedo. Es mucho más profundo que la euforia momentánea que podamos tener cuando nos arremangamos la camisa para trabajar pero después nos cansamos. No podemos cambiar el corazón, la mente, la opinión y los deseos de nadie. Nuestra persuasión tiene límites.

Es que eso es lo que le falta a Confía. A Confía le falta en quién confiar. Y sin Cristo toda confianza sustituta se desplomará. No quiero que se lastimen, ni que sufran, ni que se frustren. Más bien quiero estar a su lado y ser parte de buscar esta transformación radical. Quiero que prosperen y que prosperen en gran abundancia porque en su éxito está una posibilidad de transformación radical y duradera para Loja y el resto del Ecuador. Pero es una transformación que debe originarse desde adentro y eso no lo podemos manufacturar nosotros mismos, debe ser un regalo de Dios. Un milagro en sí para transformar cada uno de nuestros corazones y ramificarse de allí esta transformación para salvación y bendición para Loja. No permitan que los engaños de charlatanes que dan mal nombre a Cristo los desanimen de buscarlo. No permitan que sus propios prejuicios y parcialidad los hagan creer que este camino definitivamente se debe evitar a toda costa. No es religión lo que quiero compartir con ustedes. Es algo muy diferente a la religión y cuando lo vean, verán que es algo que huele a lo que anhelan pero que es infinitamente mejor. De hecho esto no es un problema de iglesia y estado como supongo que lo puedan ver. Ambas instituciones tienen esferas diferentes pero ambas son políticas. La iglesia jamás puede ser politiquera, eso es otra cosa. Y el estado jamás puede imponer la fe. Y ese es el punto de todo lo que he dicho. El evangelio no se cree a la fuerza, no se impone. No es conquista. Es irresistible eso sí y cuando vemos y atesoramos a Jesucristo por todo lo que Él es en verdad, podremos ver cada día un poco más lo que quiero decir.

Desde aquella reunión en la Juan José Peña aquella noche de enero, con mucha frecuencia me hallo cantando en mi mente, “Yo confiaré/Aunque la traición reciente me duela/Dios me consuela. Mi entorno va a cambiar/Si en Dios puedo confiar. Si el mar no se ha abierto, confía/No hay de qué dudar, aún en el desierto/El cielo está abierto, confía. Dios lo hará otra vez, otra vez”. Es que debemos confiar. Pero todo depende del objeto de nuestra confianza. Si me piden que confíe en Confía, nos desmoronamos, y no pienso que eso es lo que ustedes piden para ser transparente en mi opinión. Si me piden que confíe en las personas, nos desmoronamos. Digo personas porque antes se decía pueblo pero me han dicho que eso ya no es cool.

La obra delante de nosotros no es mía ni suya. Es de Aquel que vino al mundo a vivir una vida perfecta y morir en una cruz para resucitar al tercer día (hecho histórico, no una fábula) porque Cristo tiene mucha gente en Loja que van a creer en Él para la vida eterna. Apúntenme para ser parte del cambio. ¿Se apuntan ustedes?

Confía en el SEÑOR con todo tu corazón, y no te apoyes en tu propio entendimiento. Reconócelo en todos tus caminos, Y Él enderezará tus sendas. No seas sabio ante tus propios ojos; teme al SEÑOR y apártate del mal.

Proverbios 3:5-7 (NBLA)

The Smartest Investment Post You’ll Ever Read

Victor Chininin Buele

Back when Borders was still in existence, you would often see a couple of books in the bargain section. They were marketed as The Smartest [Investment, Money, 401(k)] Book You’ll Ever Read. I thought they promised too much and delivered too little. Otherwise, we would be full of millionaires who stole the books at a bargain price.

I woke up this morning to read two very different things. One was on NPR. ICE announced that foreign students in the United States enrolled in a college or university that decides to meet online next fall will be required to go back to their place of origin or transfer to a school that doesn’t meet online. I’m currently doing graduate work, and our school is planning to start with on campus classes so long as it is safe to do so but always with the possibility of switching back to online mode as needed. What does that mean for one of my beloved classmates, barely making it financially but happily and purposefully investing in the future? Will he need to go back to India? How is he going to raise the funds to go back? Will he ever get to come back? How do I process this?

Then, I opened my LinkedIn account and read a message from somebody very special and greatly appreciated by me. She has retired after 32 years serving at Northwest Missouri State University. So, I decided to do one of the things the title of this site promises. All of Life. Under the Sovereign. Happily. Yes, happily. Lest I fall short of my site’s explicit and implicit promises like those investment books, let me switch your attention for a moment from the political reality and the emotional consequences of it. Let me turn your attention to a story.

We can spend our lives arguing about immigration or racism or inequality, or we can do something about it.

And that is what this very distinguished professor did for 32 years.

I was a stranger. I had been in the country for perhaps six months. I came and had to hit the ground running. I had to learn all the English I could as fast as humanly possible. I was informed that I was too late, that the ACT admission exams were just around the corner. I was told that scholarships were all dependent upon this very important score. And to top the stress, I learned my classmates had been taking and retaking this test to improve their scores since their sophomore year. Things were not looking very good.

My calculus, physics, and English teachers invested a lot in me to help me get ready for college in record time. My band teachers became my parents, let me move in to their basement and welcomed all my clumsiness. My grandpa’s old typewriter was put to use for my applications and essays. I ran out of ink on that thing so fast. I do not remember how many applications I must have filled out, and how many of those resulted in simple rejection letters. Just to give you an idea of how far and wide I cast my net, the Maryville Business and Professional Women actually gave me a scholarship. I went with my mom to the dinner where they awarded the scholarship. How does an Ecuadorian young man get such a scholarship? Well, God has a good sense of humor.

I am not going to lie. There is only so far that you can go with your youthful pride and motivation. I was about to call it quits. Things were not looking good. The money just wasn’t there to be able to afford college.

And then one evening the phone rang, and my dad said it was for me. I was not expecting to receive any phone calls. He told me it was this professor from Northwest. I got so nervous that I held the phone upside down, and I couldn’t hear anything and kept trying to say hello to no response. Until I figured out that the phone was upside down, that is.

I was offered a scholarship from the computer science department that evening. Not a huge one, mind you. It was far from a made-for-TV movie plot. But it was the tipping point. And it changed things for me. The music department came shortly behind with some more money. I would become a Bearcat.

I loved it. It was the American dream coming true. I made friends. I loved the school, my professors, my classmates, my band, my piano (I got to play a Steinway!!! Way fancier than the old Petrof or the Yamaha from Room 17 in the SBC Conservatory from Loja, which is still very dear to me, of course). But the aftermath of Y2K and the globalization of IT were just starting to emerge. I had no time to notice such world changing events. I was too busy working like crazy, making it to band practice, practicing for my piano lessons, writing computer programs, and trying to get some sleep somewhere in there.

Outsourcing after Y2K resulted in the closing of many computer shops in the four state region. And with that came the tightening of anything that could be helpful to an international student. Scholarship money dried up. Internships disappeared. Jobs disappeared. It was no longer that I wouldn’t be able to get a job. Many, many computer engineers, programmers, and others lost their jobs. Things were just not looking good.

All along the way, the professor had been incredibly kind and helpful to me. I was welcomed in the department with open arms. I had every opportunity to grow and develop and contribute. But very soon, the clock was starting to run out. Graduation loomed in the horizon. I had no prospects for employment, and everything seemed like a lost cause. I had placed my bet, and it was time.

That day, I lost it. And who got stuck listening to my twenty-year-old self whine and complain and be angry at all of this? This wonderful professor. If I were to ever say that I was heard, it would be in this conversation. I received sound advice, I received encouragement, and I received a solid dose of reality. I was presented with a choice. I wasn’t manipulated or forced or made to feel guilty. I was given the data, and I had to choose. Would I move forward and finish the race? Or would I drop out and admit defeat in advance?

Did I mention that I ran out of money, and that things were not looking good? I was awarded a prestigious scholarship from one of the most important companies in Kansas City. I knew from the start that they would not be able to hire me due to immigration restrictions after Y2K and the massive layoffs in the metro area. I did not want to apply. I thought it was a lost cause. But I was advised to apply regardless. And I did. And I received that great distinction. I was taught a very valuable lesson by this professor, far beyond the database skills I use daily (Did I mention that I taught a seminar just today at work on how our payment engine uses SQL and the database?) and far beyond all the wonderful professional development advice I was given over the years. The lesson was that, I don’t think she ever put it like this, but this is what I got from it: You’re going to be told No a lot. It matters a great deal what you do with the No afterwards. And it is most important to not tell yourself No and not even try.

I do not know how many people she must have called for me, how many recommendation letters she must have written for me. I do not know all that she did behind the scenes. But I know I was greatly blessed by all of this.

You see, I wasn’t different to her. I wasn’t a minority to her. I wasn’t a Latino boy that went to her class. I was her student. Just like every other one. And I felt it and knew it. It made a huge difference.

One day, I recall being late for something, riding my bicycle, and hearing from her that I needed to go home and get ready for a mock interview. So I did. I turned around, rode as fast as I could back to the apartment, put on my suit, and rode right back to Colden Hall.

There I had an appointment that would change my life. The man she introduced me to was doing his job, pretending to interview me, like he was supposed to do. But something changed during the interview. Something I had done. Something I was studying. Something I knew. And I knew something changed in that moment, and sixteen years later, I am a principal technical consultant at the company where this man is a vice president of software development now. I have traveled the world and had the privilege of working with men and women of so many backgrounds and countries and languages. I have had the privilege of working with some of the world’s greatest banks and retailers.

She never stopped encouraging me to press forward. She never stopped encouraging me to study and overcome the odds. Even when I failed that database systems final because I had to record some music tracks for a friend (and some much needed cash) the night before.

She helped me help others as well, long after my days in the classroom.

I am thankful for her. I am honored to have had the privilege of studying under her. But most importantly, I have always enjoyed and delighted in seeing what it is like to do something about the evils of our day. And that is an encouragement to me to make the world a better place, every day, from my corner of the world.

May we not waste our lives merely talking instead of rolling up our sleeves and defeating the challenges of our day.

Bring Them Down!

Victor Chininin Buele

We have a lot up in the air! Things going up, things coming down. Outrage on the left and outrage on the right. Put them on, keep them off. My body, my choice. Don’t tread on me.

I would like to propose to you that these all are just fruits of the same root.

We do not know how to repent.

And we do not know how to repent because we’ve been pretending for too long that there is no such thing as sin.

You see, if everyone can be simultaneously right about everything, it is only a matter of time before one wants to fly a Confederate flag and another wants to take down his great grandpa’s statue downtown. And we can no longer push the discussion any further into Never Land. The time of judgment is here. And we do not know how to repent. We can’t keep pretending our problems, our sin, don’t exist.

My focus here today is rather narrow. If people were truly repenting, what we are seeing would look like kids’ play because of the number of things that would be going up and coming down because of true repentance.

You see, the Christian gospel is not about coercion. Most people believe a caricature of the Christian gospel—that we are here to force you to believe things. That we are here to make you comply with how we want the world to be. Do this, don’t do that, say this, don’t say that, love this and not that, love in this way and not this other way. That is absolutely not what the gospel is.

Also, the Christian gospel is at the same time the most inclusive and exclusive message. It calls everyone to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord—no exceptions, no preferences. We are all called to bend the knee to Jesus: the lawyer, the landscaper, the Mexican, the Indonesian, the Hindu, the Muslim, Trump, Biden, my mother, your mother, me, you. No distinctions, no barriers, no excuses. Everyone must have access to the gospel. They must hear. We can’t force you to hear. We can’t force you to repent. God has to do that work in you. And if you remain in your sins, that is quite a tragic story with a different ending that none of us should want.

But if you do believe, a miracle happens, where everything changes inside of you. That which you once called good is shown for what it truly was all along. And you want to change.

You will have to die to self. You will want to be freed from your chains. And some of those chains are thick and heavily secured over a lifetime of doing that which is not pleasing to God. You may have to deal with the marks on you and some of their weight even until the moment you leave this life. But, you will be increasingly, every day freer and freer.

You see, I don’t buy that Donald Trump is a Christian. I know many people I love deeply and care and respect a lot believe he is. My point is not to fight, but I want to share why I don’t buy that. Why don’t I believe he is a Christian? Because I have not seen Trump get hit by a Mack truck, figuratively, please Secret Service, don’t read that literally. I have not seen President Trump hit by the cost of discipleship yet. I have not seen President Trump broken and contrite saying good bye to the old Donald Trump. Why would a redeemed man hide his tax returns? Why would a redeemed man not speak the truth about so many things? Why would a redeemed man not count others as more significant than himself?

But it is important that I take you to him because one of the most critical things that are happening, if we are paying attention, is that he has caught your attention! Were it not for Donald Trump at this key moment in history, you would still be happily walking to Never Land without having to deal with the sober reality of truth. You see, somebody had to come and lie so much that you would have to admit that the world of relativism that we built is a lie. Somebody had to come and be so immoral that you would have to come and admit that there must be some semblance of morality somewhere.

And that’s where we need to come and reckon with our own sins.

I know what it is like to miss out on going to to an elite university on a scholarship partly because the school board of a small town in rural America did not give me a class rank. I don’t dare to directly associate that to my national origin because that would definitely be a Title VII violation, and that would be unthinkable, right? It didn’t matter that my dad fought for me. I know what it is like to walk into fancy restaurants and be asked if I’m there not to dine in because I’m brown. I know the looks of a bathroom shared by at least a dozen undocumented immigrants paying far more for renting a room in the outskirts of Newark than I was paying for renting a luxurious apartment in Nebraska. I know what it is like to be taken seriously by somebody until I open my mouth with my accent. I know what it is like to be assumed to not be a U.S. citizen and treated with disdain. I know.

You see, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a man from Esmeraldas walking in Loja. Let me translate that for you, I used to cross the street whenever I saw a black man walking towards me. I AM NOT WHITE! But we all sin in forming our own little tribes, groups, and excluding others. And that’s just the root. The fruits are awful—we call them names, we mock them, we ridicule them, we can do all sorts of things. We can exclude them from everything and reach awful places. If you read the history of the Jews, you know what Hitler did. This is deeply embedded in us. We are rotten. This is also not new at all. We see this in the New Testament:

In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.

1 Timothy 5:21 (ESV)

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory[…] But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.

James 2:1, 9 (ESV)

Racism is a flavor of this. I have repented of that. I have been changed. It is a miracle. I cannot imagine what my life would be like had God not changed me in this way. I treasure the blessing of friends and brothers and sisters from all kinds of backgrounds. I have brothers and sisters in Bangkok. I have brothers and sisters in Mexico. I have brothers and sisters in Brazil. I have brothers and sisters in France, the UK, Spain, several countries in Africa, Asia, the Americas. It is amazing to hear them, to know how they think, to have had my theology tried and tested and improved and pushed upwards by them and their realities and lives.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.”

Revelation 5:9-10

That is what’s coming. That’s what eternity looks like. Variegated. Diverse. Rich. In complete unity. Worshiping the Lamb who was slain for every evil word, thought, and deed I have committed against every human being, Caucasian, African, Latino, Asian, everyone. My sins are truly many. I still cannot comprehend entirely how in the world I can dare to approach the throne of mercy with all the sin in my life. But I do know it is because of Jesus. Jesus Christ, the One who had to destroy my life, my so-called hopes and dreams, my aspirations, and become the “gracious Savior of my ruined life.” He came that I may have life and that I may be an “instrument in the Redeemer’s hands.” I am not my own. I was bought for a price, the price of the precious blood of Jesus.

And it is in Him, through Him, and by Him that we can have true peace.

But it does require us all to die to ourselves. To lay down all our sin, all our trash. All of it. Far more than Confederate statues and monuments to materialism and the worship of ourselves.

Until then, just remember, if this were true repentance, we would be seeing a coming down of statues and idols of a truly cosmic magnitude, and we would start to see the glimpse of the glory of the Lord filling the earth.

And that is where this cancel culture fails us. There must be redemption. True repentance leads to true redemption. The beef is that since we can’t acknowledge our sin (personally first, then collectively, etc.), we can’t rightly repent, so we can’t be redeemed. And we all know that. That’s why people get canceled as permanently irredeemable. Because when this is left to fester, it becomes a main propeller for seeking vindication by ourselves. Until we get that it is God who is offended first and foremost, we will keep trying to get people to make atonement to us. And this will never get fixed. And what is worse is that those who feel canceled are going to be able to vilify their ‘cancelers’ (is that what I should call them?) as seeing them as irredeemable because they are spotting the fake repentance.

Let’s be clear. True repentance will be seen and known. Loud and clear. All deadly, idolatrous, cheap substitutes MUST COME DOWN! Bring them down!

Aliento al padre

Victor Chininin Buele

El día domingo durante la predicación, mi pastor nos hablaba del pacto en el contexto de ser padres. Durante la semana, he estado pensando acerca de las implicaciones del texto, reflexionando acerca de las implicaciones del nuevo pacto y de cómo el creyente en Jesucristo tiene una gran motivación en dicho pacto y puede, gracias al nuevo pacto, recibir un gran aliento. Al mismo tiempo, encontrarnos con este concepto en el texto bíblico nos muestra nuestra insuficiencia no solamente para ser padres ejemplares sino para agradar a Dios en todas las facetas de nuestras vidas. No podemos agradar a Dios con nuestras obras, nuestras promesas incumplidas, y nuestros buenos propósitos.

¿Qué nos dijo el texto el día domingo? Éxodo capítulo 20, versículo 5:

No los adorarás ni los servirás. Porque Yo, el Señor tu Dios, soy Dios celoso, que castigo la iniquidad de los padres sobre los hijos hasta la tercera y cuarta generación de los que me aborrecen

Éxodo 20:5 (NBLA)

¿Qué es lo que no debo de adorar ni servir? Ídolos. “No te harás ningún ídolo, ni semejanza alguna de lo que está arriba en el cielo, ni abajo en la tierra, ni en las aguas debajo de la tierra” (20:4). Y si lo hago las consecuencias pueden ser generacionales.

Como padres de familia tenemos gran capacidad de crear ídolos. Ya sea que estemos casados o no (porque no es que por no estar casados se deja de ser padre), los ídolos que adoremos no solamente se pueden convertir en los ídolos de nuestras familias sino que son las semillas de los frutos de la destrucción que viene después. En nuestra vida moderna en el siglo XXI, parece que ya no creamos estatuas para adorar. Somos más sofisticados, no tan primitivos; de hecho, hace no mucho tiempo en mi ciudad una gran parte de la población se opuso a que el cabildo lojano erija una estatua gigante de la virgen en una de las montañas que rodea la ciudad. Somos tan idólatras que todo lo podemos convertir en un ídolo, incluso nuestros propios hijos, la gran bendición de Dios para nosotros, se pueden convertir en ídolos en nuestro corazón. Todos creamos nuestras propias vacas sagradas a las que adoramos y por las que y a las que fácil y rápidamente daríamos todo, incluso nuestra vida y el bienestar generacional de nuestra familia.

¿Un Pacto?

Dios hizo un pacto con Abraham. ¿Pero qué es un pacto? Somos una sociedad basada en contratos. Yo firmo un contrato en el que se indica, generalmente, qué es lo que me están contratando para que haga y las condiciones bajo las cuales nuestro acuerdo es válido. También se indica la compensación que recibiré por proveer dichos bienes o servicios y las consecuencias por incumplimiento. Generalmente tenemos cláusulas que dicen que si me quiero ir, me deben dejar renunciar, y que si me quieren echar del trabajo, lo pueden hacer. Si alguien viola las condiciones del contrato, lo podemos llevar a una corte, si es que podemos pagar los costos legales, por supuesto. Pero la sociedad occidental básicamente se maneja honrando contratos. La amenaza de las consecuencias nos motiva a trabajar.

En los tiempos bíblicos no era así, es aquí que vienen los pactos. Dios hizo una promesa a Abraham, le prometió (cuando no tenía hijos y su esposa no podía tener hijos) una nueva tierra, que lo haría una nación grande, que en él serán benditas todas las familias de la tierra, que su descendencia sería tan pero tan abundante que ni las estrellas del cielo ni la arena del mar serían suficientes para contarla (Génesis 12:1-9, 13:14-18, 15:1-11).

Abraham recibió la promesa de Dios de que por medio de él, por medio de su descendencia, vendría la restauración de todo lo que fue y es dañado por el pecado. El pecado es maldición—este pacto trae bendición, la promesa de bendición no solo a un grupito de israelitas en tiempos antiguos sino a todas las naciones del mundo.

Pero si vemos el texto, vemos que de inmediato Abraham nos muestra lo que realmente es importante para él y lo vemos pecar, miente acerca de la identidad de su esposa al ingresar a Egipto. Dios hace un pacto con un hombre pecador e infiel. Ni bien acaba de recibir la promesa y cae.

Padre–¿no se siente así usted? ¿Que ya parece que las cosas van marchando bien y caemos por la tentación y lo echamos todo a perder? Ni bien acaba de oír el sermón y en rumbo a casa, la ira, la mentira, el engaño, el temor nos acechan y parece que nos vencen.

¿Cuáles son las primeras palabras de Dios a Abra(ha)m en el capítulo 15?

No temas

“No temas, Abram,
Yo soy un escudo para ti;
Tu recompensa será muy grande”

Génesis 15:1b (NBLA)

Dios nos conoce muy bien. Conoce nuestras especificaciones. Sabe muy bien que a pesar de que oímos sus promesas, en cuanto empezamos a creerle y empezamos a vivir no para nosotros mismos sino para Él, es cuestión de tiempo hasta que nuestra fe tambalee y el temor nos venza.

Por eso nos dice, padres: No temas, papá. Yo soy un escudo para ti. Nada que yo no permita podrá jamás penetrar tu Escudo. Y sigue adelante, no pierdas tu fe, no dejes de mirarme a Mí, tu Dios, que soy tu recompensa—no el sueño de ser una familia feliz, como en las redes sociales y con Photoshop añadiendo sonrisas y colores y fondos bonitos sino que te adopto para que seas parte de Mi familia y nada ni nadie te podrá separar de Mí. No anheles lo que perece si no lo que jamás perecerá.

Justo, ¿yo?

De inmediato viene el momento más impactante de la historia. Historia, no cuento, por cierto. No es una fábula de Esopo. O meramente ficción literaria y legendaria. Esto es un pilar fundamental de la historia de la humanidad. Versículo 6:

Y Abram creyó en el SEÑOR, y Él se lo reconoció por justicia.

Génesis‬ ‭15:6‬ ‭(NBLA)

Este es un cimiento de nuestra salvación en Cristo Jesús. Abra(ha)m le creyó a Dios a pesar de lo que sus ojos no podían ver y lo que naturalmente había sido imposible hasta ese punto y seguiría siendo imposible por muchos años.

Y Dios reconoció la fe de Abra(ha)m por justicia. Es decir, que Abraham fue considerado justo. El hombre que mintió para entrar e Egipto y que en el próximo capítulo sucumbe a la impaciencia y trata de engendrar un heredero por su propia cuenta sin el Señor. Este fracaso de hombre es con quien Dios hace Su pacto.

¿Minimiza ésto el pecado? ¿Significa esto que no importa que no viva en santidad, que no importa en realidad? Aquí es donde nosotros estamos separados del concepto de un pacto. Empezando en el versículo 7, Dios empieza a recordarle a Abra(ha)m de lo que Él ya ha hecho por él, que Dios es fiel y poderoso para cumplir sus promesas. Y le manda a traer una serie de animales—novilla, cabra, carnero, tórtola y pichón (15:9).

Abram le trajo todos estos, los partió por la mitad, y puso cada mitad enfrente de la otra; pero no partió las aves.

Génesis 15:10 (NBLA)

En los pactos se hacía esto. Quería decir que me pase a mí lo que le va a pasar a estos animales si es que llego a incumplir mi parte de este pacto. No es como con un contrato que nos puede causar pérdidas económicas. La consecuencia de incumplir el pacto es dejar de ser quien soy.

Y sucedió que cuando el sol ya se había puesto, hubo densas tinieblas, y apareció un horno humeante y una antorcha de fuego que pasó por entre las mitades de los animales.

Génesis‬ ‭15:17 (NBLA)

Es decir que el fuego consumió a los animales. Dios dijo, básicamente, que si Él incumplía el pacto con Abraham y su descendencia para siempre, Él dejaría de ser Dios. Sería consumido.

Nuestro pecado es tan grave que requiere que Jesucristo se encarne como hombre, viva una vida perfecta, sea crucificado y muera de manera horrible (que Él sea consumido por nosotros), y resucite para darnos esperanza verdadera. Es decir que el costo del pecado no se paga al acabar tirado en la calle si nada. Requiere mucho más. Y gracias a Jesucristo podemos recibir justicia y rectitud de Él.

Ese es el aliento que se nos da en el pacto: nuestras iniquidades son muchas, Su gracia es mayor. Dios no será infiel incluso cuando nosotros somos infieles pero Él nos transforma a través de su llamado y mandamiento a ser como Cristo, cada día un poquito más (2 Corintios 3:18). Él nos da a Su Hijo y a Su evangelio para reparar nuestra iniquidad y para transformarnos para vivir en santidad. Ya no seremos los mismos. Este es el nuevo pacto:

«Porque este es el pacto que haré con la casa de Israel después de aquellos días», declara el SEÑOR. «Pondré Mi ley dentro de ellos, y sobre sus corazones la escribiré. Entonces Yo seré su Dios y ellos serán Mi pueblo. No tendrán que enseñar más cada uno a su prójimo y cada cual a su hermano, diciéndole: “Conoce al SEÑOR”, porque todos me conocerán, desde el más pequeño de ellos hasta el más grande», declara el SEÑOR, «pues perdonaré su maldad, y no recordaré más su pecado».”

Jeremías‬ ‭31:33-34‬ ‭(NBLA‬‬)

“’Además, les daré un corazón nuevo y pondré un espíritu nuevo dentro de ustedes; quitaré de su carne el corazón de piedra y les daré un corazón de carne. Pondré dentro de ustedes Mi espíritu y haré que anden en Mis estatutos, y que cumplan cuidadosamente Mis ordenanzas. Habitarán en la tierra que di a sus padres; y ustedes serán Mi pueblo y Yo seré su Dios.”‬

‬Ezequiel‬ ‭36:26-28 ‭(NBLA‬‬)

Y ese es el aliento, mi querido padre, yo sé que es imposible ser el mejor papá del mundo y que definitivamente no se puede hacer todas estas cosas que dice la Palabra sin un milagro, sin el poder del Espíritu Santo obrando en usted para producir la santidad que Dios requiere. Pídale a Dios que transforme su corazón, que le dé este nuevo corazón para que ya no viva más para sí sino para Él. Gracias a Cristo podemos ser parte de la descendencia de Abraham por fe, como nuestro padre Abraham quien como nuestro representante en este pacto por su obediencia demostró que era justo, recto por la fe aunque bien chueco era todavía, y por ello aseguró la bendición para nosotros y nos mostró el tipo de obediencia que Dios desea de todos y cada uno de nosotros. Dios es quien inicia la relación con nosotros y quien la sostiene por la eternidad y nos da el poder y la capacidad para creerle, confiar en Él y rendirnos a Él, no solamente para nuestro propio bien sino para la bendición y el gozo de todas las naciones.

¿Le creerá usted a Dios hoy para recibir libertad eterna?