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?

The Great Persuader?

Victor Chininin Buele

One of the most important books that I read during the aftermath of the last presidential election was Scott Adams’ Win Bigly. Scott Adams makes the argument that Donald Trump is a master persuader. And he, trained hypnotist that he is, walks us through a plausible explanation for Donald Trump’s hold on people that resulted in his rise to the office of the President of the United States. Adams argues that everything serves a purpose: the third-grade playground “nickname” insults given to his competition, the lies (truthful hyperbole from The Art of the Deal). Some quotes to let the man himself speak:

If you have ever tried to talk someone out of their political beliefs by providing facts, you know it doesn’t work. That’s because people think they have their own facts. Better facts. And if they know they don’t have better facts, they change the subject. People are not easily switched from one political opinion to another. And facts are weak persuasion. So Trump ignores facts whenever they are inconvenient. I know you don’t want to think this works in terms of persuasion. But it does.

People are more influenced by the direction of things than the current state of things.

Facts don’t matter. What matters is how you feel. And when you watch Trump and Pence fight and scratch to keep jobs in this country, it changes how you will feel about them for their entire term. This is a big win for Trump/ Pence disguised as a small win.

If you want the audience to embrace your content, leave out any detail that is both unimportant and would give people a reason to think, That’s not me. Design into your content enough blank spaces so people can fill them in with whatever makes them happiest.

What mattered was that people saw Trump agree with them on an emotional dimension—that immigration was a big problem that needs fixing. Once he agreed with voters on an emotional level, he was free to tweak the details of his policies, and people followed him.

Whenever there is mass confusion and complexity, people automatically gravitate to the strongest, most confident voice. We humans don’t like uncertainty, so we are attracted to those who offer clarity and simple answers, even if the answers are wrong or incomplete.

Trump used his mastery of the news cycle to create the impression that he was the most important person running for president, even if you hated him.

If you are trying to get a decision from someone who is on the fence but leaning in your direction, try a “fake because” to give them “permission” to agree with you. The reason you offer doesn’t need to be a good one. Any “fake because” will work when people are looking for a reason to move your way.

Another important book I read was Amanda Carpenter’s Gaslighting America: Why We Love It When Trump Lies to Us. She shows a pattern of behavior that we can use to trace back through many of the big media events mediated by the President’s Twitter account and see the gaslighting at work. She herself was gaslighted by the campaign while live on CNN as one of Ted Cruz’s supposed extramarital affairs.

The benefit of embracing the lie ultimately outweighs the sacrifice required to cling to the truth. Sometimes, more often than we’d like to admit, lies are easier to believe than the truth. Especially in politics.

He learned that people actually love it when he lies. He loves it because he gets stories about his prowess—whether it be sexual, business, or political—in the press. The media loves it because it keeps people reading the papers, watching their shows, and clicking their links. And his enemies love it because they keep thinking that this time will really, finally, truly be the time Trump does himself in with his jaw-dropping yarns. We’re all suckers.

Questioning everything is exhausting.

You may hate his lies, but Trump sells them with unshakable confidence. He forces us to pay attention. Trump even keeps those who don’t believe, as he has said, “in suspense.” We are a captive audience, living in constant anticipation of his next move.

You see, when Trump is gaslighting, he rarely tells an outright lie. When pressed, he avoids specifics but keeps everyone chattering away with speculation on the topic.

This is the pattern Carpenter observes:

STAKE A CLAIM: Trump finds a political issue or action that competitors are unwilling to adopt and that will ensure a media frenzy. Such as: “President Obama is not a U.S. citizen.”
ADVANCE AND DENY: Trump casts the issue into the public realm without taking direct responsibility. He does this by raising questions about or discussing what other people are saying, reporting, or thinking. Tabloids, YouTube videos, tweets from unknown origins, and unverifiable Internet news stories are often used as sources.
CREATE SUSPENSE: He says evidence is forthcoming that will soon get to the truth of the matter. Trump can remain in this mode for weeks, months, or even years.
DISCREDIT THE OPPONENT: If critics gain traction, Trump attacks their motives and personal character.
WIN: Trump declares victory, no matter the circumstances. This step usually takes a long time to reveal itself, and Trump will often engage it when he is ready to drop the matter.

Can either one of them actually prove they are right? No. They can’t. This is an important point. And neither can I. And in some sort of super sick and weird way, that is precisely the point.

That’s the allure of this situation. People are super convinced that Trump is a liar and the worst scum of the earth or the most hard-working, accomplished president. Disgusting or hero. Satan or Messiah. Either he is complete trash or the King set in place by the Lord God Almighty. That’s the polarization we go through. And the thing is that somehow, as I’ve said before, if you squint your eyes and tilt your head 72 degrees counterclockwise… Confirmation bias abounds.

But either way, we follow his agenda. He controls us. We talk about what he wants us to be talking about. I find it absolutely fascinating, like a sociological experiment at a massive scale, that Democrats cannot make any headway with their agenda but are constantly responding to Trump’s tweets. Tantrums. Whatever you call them. And the Republicans have given over their platform entirely over to the President at the price of some judges, a couple of justices, and who knows what else. Trump wins. The media loves it because it fuels our interest in them through this. And don’t think I mean just CNN or Fox. There are all sorts of other opportunists there ready to capitalize in our ever-thirsty desire to engage with the crazy! It is obvious that the massive amount of content produced by trolls and bots is shaping discourse—I doubt people had a ready copy of Bill Clinton’s picture while he was holding a Bible back in the day. Some of the phrasing in what I see in people’s feeds, I know did not originate with them. It came from elsewhere.

We are facing a battle of manipulation. And we are at the center of it. And we love it! But nobody is actually talking about what we need to do to truly move forward. And that is because we are all still too enamored with our flesh.

I don’t think Trump is a master persuader, I believe he is.

What? Precisely that. It’s a walking contradiction wrapped in an enigma. I don’t think he is smart enough or wise enough to the degree Adams gives to him. I don’t think that there is a master plan, or even a plan. But because I know how big of a sinner I am (iOS keeps autocorrecting that to winner), I know he is a master persuader because these things work. I know this stuff works on us because we, like Trump, care about ourselves the most. I find it is entirely plausible to assert that he doesn’t care about you, your faith, your religious freedom, aborted children, the second amendment, your convictions, Covid-19, Dr. Fauci, international relations, the national debt, the future of the Supreme Court, police abuses, racial tensions, polarization. He does not. He cares about himself, and that is why he takes an interest in whatever will allow him to remain seated behind the Resolute Desk, much like you or I do. He is a master persuader because the feeding of his ego demands it. And face it, facts don’t come close to changing anyone’s mind. The most frustrating job in America is to be a fact checker for Trump’s speeches. Probably the second most frustrating job is to be the one transcribing the speeches. Have you seen the poor fact checkers on TV? They are desperate to change your mind by showing you evidence.

It doesn’t work. We are facing a master provocateur, and that has unfortunately come at a time when our sin leaves us lacking critical strength not just in the area of discernment but in the area of foresight.

While we are distracted, a massive number of forces are in conflict. What is the point of taking your time to read this? There is more at play than BLM, the Coronavirus, the November election.

Cancel culture is choking us to death. We do not live as if redemption existed. We cannot possibly see how redemption is possible for someone like Trump or any of his favorite enemies of the day.

But there is redemption, and we need it. We must recognize first and daily our continued need for redemption and salvation. And that will be the only way out of cancel culture. Why share segments from the Scott Adams and Amanda Carpenter books? Because seeing is helpful. Because seeing how much we don’t see if helpful. But most importantly:

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)

You, too, dear traveler, can be redeemed, forgiven, and saved. And so can even Donald Trump. Our problem is the same. The solution is the same—the real Messiah, Jesus Christ.

On the Day My Daughter and I…

Victor Chininin Buele

Shortly after moving to Johnson County, Kansas, it became clear to us that our phones were not working very well.  In the process of figuring this out, one day my daughter and I walked into a very special place.

I very soon realized I must not have looked like I fit there because nobody said hello or helped me.  My daughter and I left without buying a phone from such a slick place.  I realized what may have happened.  I was wearing a Mexican soccer jersey and old jean shorts.  She was wearing play clothes and non-matching shoes.  Her hair was unkept.

When I came to the United States, almost twenty years ago, I made two “promises” to myself in an attempt to survive the cultural change: (1) I was never going to allow myself to be homesick, and (2) I was never going to allow myself to participate in self-racisim.

You can see my delusion of godness there thinking I had more control over things than I did in reality.

Addressing homesickness came because I observed these big plans of my fellow Lojanos to go to big places, but very shortly thereafter, I would see them back in the streets of Loja with dreams unfulfilled.  My 17-year-old self was too proud, too selfish, and the wrong kind of ambitious to desire against all obstacles to avoid going back to Loja.  But what about the self-racism promise?

My 17-year-old self developed this theory that it takes two to tango.  If I would refuse to see myself as fundamentally different than the rest of the U.S. population, no matter what other people would think about me, I would not be contributing to the development, brooding, and systematization of racism.

In other words, I banked the foundation of my survival in America in this–that a white person may choose to look at me as whatever they would want to look at me, but I would not reciprocate that by acknowledging it, fearing it, acting differently because of it, living up to any stereotypes, or changing my plans because of what they may say, think, or do.  In other words, this was self-esteem on steroids.

And as one of the very, very, very few Hispanics in Nodaway County, Missouri, back then, there were far more than a handful of interesting encounters that would have crushed my soul had I not had this front up the whole time. And wearing this mask was exhausting, I must confess.

Yet, none of these encounters threatened my life. They are actually pretty comical in retrospective. Beside the usual high school mockery and sidelining, a few strange questions about whether we have cars in Ecuador, a date asking me if Ecuador was in Texas, none of these things put my life in danger.

Most of my life in the United States I have lived as a coconut, which is how they would call it in that Netflix show Gentified. Brown in the outside. White in the inside. And in God’s kindness of His providence to me, He has shown me a glimpse of another world I had always succeeded in avoiding. White/brown relations were always very simple for me because I‘ve had the means to live mostly as a white person. There are only a couple of places where I’ve really felt out of place–Monroe County, Illinois, and Johnson County, Kansas.

Yet, in the last four years, a number of strange incidents have continued to occur where I’ve been seen and treated differently. And also, in God’s kind providence, we have discovered the joys and challenges of gathering with the saints in a Spanish speaking immigrant church. We’ve edged towards a different circle of influence, and we’ve felt and seen different things than before.

I was only partly right as a teenager, imagine that—yes, I can compound the problem by responding to racism, which is a real problem, and to systemic inequality, which is a real thing, by making my identity largely a response to real and perceived racism. My identity is not founded in this, and it cannot be. If it were, it would be soul crushing. What I did not account for and what I was largely blind to as a result of living in different socioeconomic circles than the majority of Latinos is that racism dos remain a big sin in our country, a very real struggle, and a foundational roadblock for peace. And the King of Kings specializes in the solution for this sort of thing.

Donald Trump did not create racism. He is an opportunist who has leveraged sin in people’s hearts to rise to power and try to hold on to it. That’s what he does. And it is vile. But if we didn’t love it, if we didn’t desire that sin, we would not fall for it. The racism in our hearts must be put to death.

We have to deal with our sin.

There is no other way. We can keep putting it off and only make it worse. It’s time to wake up and really get woke. Not as the popular use of such a term but as in “I have my eyes open, what must I do to be awakened to this? What must I do to be saved?”

First Peter 2:11: “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” We wouldn’t be racists is we didn’t have this passion inside our flesh for it. We wouldn’t be entitled looters if we didn’t have this passion for entitlement inside our flesh for it. If we don’t love it, we don’t fall for it.

We have to face the evil desires within ourselves. We must put that sin to death. We, minorities, must destroy the sin within our hearts. The traditionally not thought of as minorities who are becoming the minority, must destroy the sin within their hearts. We are both a very entitled people. We demand to have. We are envious. We hold grudges and are not quick to repent. We loot and set things on fire. We play the victim. We oppress, we abuse, we victimize. We do not foster opportunities for true advancement of those who don’t look like us. We do not make it a point to actually incarnate, to pitch a tent and live among those who do not look like us. We do not make any efforts to truly understand those who are different than us: What is their plight, what is their sorrow, what is their joy?

In short, by becoming more like the King of Kings, Jesus Christ, we can put to death these sins that are destroying us. This is not a mere call to “act like a Christian” or to “do Christian things.” The gospel is not about mere behavioral change, but it is about a radical transformation of the heart that only God can bring about. A man being turned into the image of Christ will be made more and more like Him every day—every day the sin within the heart that leads to murder, to abuse, to looting, to rage will be put to death a little bit more.

It is time to seek the Lord while He may be found and heal this land.

There is no other way. We keep trying what looks like other paths. And here we are again, it’s not even June of 2020, and the sad story repeats itself. George Floyd is the name today. Will you wait until it is your name to turn and seek Christ?

On Sheep and Mediators

Victor Chininin Buele 

What a season! One of the first things I ran into today was a man saying on Instagram that he wasn’t a [you can imagine what wonderful expletive was use]ing sheep.

But I am a sheep, I said to myself. I am. And so are you, “Costco Kevin.” And so is Tison.

Why should you consider what I am sharing with you? I have seen a further escalation of our polarization—new adjectives we can use to distinguish ourselves from others, I should say.  “Mask wearers” are sheep, I’ve read, since I must highlight that we don’t actually talk to one another like this. We let memes do the work. It is easier.

Living in a pluralistic society is very difficult. We have been pretending for quite some time that it isn’t, but it is. It requires listening, speaking civilly, articulating our ideas clearly, having grace when we and others aren’t clear, patience when trying to express ourselves again, grace to overlook minor offenses, and a ton of other things we do not have time to address. It requires humility, and that is not our strongest gifting in America.

On the last post, I was saying, in Spanish, that moments like this novel coronavirus pandemic crisis reveal our faith and by revealing it, this crisis clarifies the definition of our generation’s faith.  It’s not that we don’t have faith.  We have just as much faith as Fundamentalists of old or as the sun worshipers of the ancient Incan empire. We are sheep.

Our cultural faith is a very deep faith in ourselves. And that’s backfiring bigly. Or should we say big league? I am not sure anybody can agree to what it is that the President actually says anyway.  And that’s part of the point. In the post I said that we have a tendency to make an omelet with our faith. But that doesn’t translate super well. The best analogy I can find in English is a steamroller. We want a steamroller faith.

We have a profound faith in ourselves. Blind faith. Unquestionable faith. Unshakable faith. A steamroller faith. We can and will get through this.

Sometimes we hide this faith of ours in Christianity, secularism, atheism, conservative values, morality, equality,  public opinion polls, liberal values, rights. You get the point. What I’m saying is that the collective American faith is out, exposed and in shambles. We are most definitely not watching after each other. From the man behind the resolute desk watching out for his reelection to my procrastination to write this because I after all do care inordinately about what you think about me, we are all watching after ourselves. We are insufficient for this thing. We are sheep, and we keep shouting at others that we aren’t. We want what we want. We want to not wear masks. We want to wear masks. We want to be free. We want to be healthy. But before we get too far, I do see glimpses of hope here and there of some who are showing a disposition to think of others first, to think of others as more significant than themselves as Paul exhorts us to do in Philippians 2 based on the example of Jesus.

I am frankly amused that a public health matter has taken such tones. My musical brain takes me to the wonderful seats of Powell Hall in St. Louis, remembering the STL Symphony and the choir singing from Handel’s Messiah that we like sheep have gone astray, which is nothing more than Isaiah 53 put to song:

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:6 ESV).

We are sheep. It is not a pleasant description. I think it’s good that it offends people because we need to understand that Holy Scripture does not show us in a very favorable light with such an accurate and appropriate description. Yes, we are also made in the image of God and are privileged with great worth and value because of that kind gift bestowed to us. But sheep are dumb, they follow the crowd, they do not think, their vision is fascinating and powerful yet they miss what’s right in front of their noses, they lack depth perception. Sheep are easily led astray by wolves. It matters infinitely if the sheep is being watched by a shepherd or by a thief:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. – John 10:1-15

Sheep find it easy to make mediators for themselves to hide the difficulty of life.  Don’t. Don’t swallow whole what your mediator of choice gives to you.  The research on masks is not straightforward, the research on COVID-19 is all over the place, government officers have been tripping all over it and making contradicting and contradictory claims and decisions. We simply don’t know. It may be that wearing a mask is a greater danger than not wearing it. Perhaps, perhaps not. I have followed the evidence closely from many sources, not just from a central mediator. I have made choices for my family and for myself. I trust in God and in His wisdom. Some Christians will think I am living in fear. Some Christians will think I am too liberal or too lose.

We want to have somebody to tell us what to do and to have that match perfectly with what we want to do. That is what going astray like sheep means.

It matters infinitely who our shepherd is. All man shepherds will ultimately fail us. Trump, scientists, pastors, talking heads, politicians, governors, the media, those who say not to be the media but are, WND, CNN, Fox.  They will all fail us.

Here is what I long for. I long for the gospel to sweep over our sick land and give us a renewal, a fresh start, the end of our sad divisions. That those who have found a love for life and a desire to defend life will let that go all the way to all it’s necessary implications even if they require a death—the death of their own self-interest. That those who have found a love for what is thought of by them as holiness but is really self-righteousness will let that go all the way and let Christ transform them with a profound sense of compassion of tireless dedication to love others well, to truly love them. That those who have a passion for freedom would work and pray ceaselessly for true freedom to be found in Jesus for themselves and those they long to make free.

There is a kingdom that cannot be shaken. We can either waste this pandemic fighting over masks and rights and shooting and shouting at each other, or we can surrender, pick up our cross, and seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and find true joy, a joy that does not require mediators through faith in a Shepherd that will never let us down and will truly protect us whether COVID-19 kills us or not, whether it came from a bat or from a lab, whether we see our false dilemmas and faulty logic or not, whether we look like we are right or not. In the end, we can know the One who is Right

It is grace. Turn your eyes to the Shepherd.

Catecismo 2020 – Colosenses

Victor Chininin Buele

Al encontrarse la iglesia dispersa por motivo de prevención de salud pública debido al Coronavirus, utilizo esta página para apuntar a las diferentes sesiones del Catecismo 2020 en YouTube.

La idea es leer y amar la Palabra de Dios para entender nuestro mundo a través de Dios.

Parte 1: Colosenses 1:1-3:
Parte 2: Colosenses 1:3-9:
Parte 3: Colosenses 1:9-14:
Parte 4: Colosenses 1:15:
Parte 5: Colosenses 1:16-20:
Parte 6: Colosenses 1:21-23:
Parte 7: Colosenses 1:24-29:
Parte 8: Colosenses 2:1-3:
Parte 9: Colosenses 2:4-7:
Parte 10: Colosenses 2:8:
Parte 11: Colosenses 2:9-15:
Parte 12: Colosenses 2:16-19:
Parte 13: Colosenses 2:20-23:
Parte 14: Colosenses 3:1-4:
Parte 15: Colosenses 3:5:
Parte 16: Colosenses 3:6-8:
Parte 17: Colosenses 3:9-11:
Parte 18: Colosenses 3:12-13a:
Parte 19: Colosenses 3:13-14:
Parte 20: Colosenses 3:15-17:
Parte 21: Colosenses 3:18-25:
Parte 22: Colosenses 4:1-2:
Parte 23: Colosenses 4:2-6:
Parte 24: Colosenses 4:7-18:

La Tortilla del Salmo 91

Victor Chininin Buele

Hay momentos que revelan nuestra fe y al revelarla clarifican la definición de la fe de nuestra generación. Nuestra fe colectiva es una fe muy profunda en nosotros mismos.  Es el fruto de la autoestima que estuvo cerca de la raíz de nuestra educación. Juntos podemos decimos todos. Yo estoy en control. Yo puedo contra esto. Si nos lavamos las manos, si no salimos, si compramos mascarillas, si compramos papel higiénico en abundancia (por una razón que parece que se nos escapa a todos), si agotamos los recursos disponibles en el super y lleno mi casa de atunes y arroz, entonces no nos llegará el Coronavirus. O si nos llega sobreviviremos.

Al inicio de nuestro encuentro con el Coronavirus, el gobierno de la república puso una mesita en el aeropuerto con un mantelito y un doctor con mascarilla.  Nada más.  Tomamos foto de eso y fue el origen de los memes “Nos fallaste flaco” una vez que ingresó el coronavirus al territorio nacional. Vamos de la falta completa de atención a esta materia (como aquella mesita en el aeropuerto Mariscal Sucre) a un pánico, vamos de 0 a 160 km/h en pocos segundos. Pero el pánico deja nuestros corazones al descubierto.

Y puede que los cristianos leamos esto diciendo, “pero yo confío en Dios”. Y resulta que hacemos lo mismo.  Somos creyentes grandes del evangelio de la prosperidad. Aunque lo rechacemos formalmente y aquellos mercaderes de evangelios falsos nos hagan dar náusea, dentro de nosotros reaccionamos de la misma manera–quiero la oración que haga que este virus no entre a mi casa, quiero la solución que mantenga a mi familia con salud y seguridad, quiero la garantía de que no voy a perder mi trabajo, quiero una fe que me garantice que no me llegará el Coronavirus.

Y entonces entra esta fe en nosotros mismos y se disfraza de cristianismo.

He visto mucho el Salmo 91 en estos días, especialmente los versículos 9 y 10. Nos dan cierta confianza y pueden fácilmente calmar nuestro deseo de encontrar confianza en nosotros mismos:

Porque has puesto al Señorque es mi refugio,
Al Altísimo, por tu habitación.
No te sucederá ningún mal,
Ni plaga se acercará a tu morada. (Salmo 91:9-10)

Cuando hacemos una tortilla, nos aseguramos de aplanarla bien–los huevos, la salchicha, las verduras, lo que sea que le pongamos. La hacemos bien planita.  Muchas veces hacemos eso con la Palabra de Dios y nos encontramos en lugares que demuestran que nuestra fe está en nosotros mismos y no en Dios.

Decimos–porque el Salmo 91 dice esto, entonces si yo pongo al Señor como mi refugio y mi habitación, entonces el Coronavirus no entrará a mi casa. Y en ese momento rendimos nuestra fe al altar idólatra de nuestras propias obras, de nuestra fe en nosotros mismos, de nuestra confianza en nosotros mismos.  En vez de apurarnos a comprar mascarillas nos jactamos que porque tenemos a Dios como nuestro refugio, entonces, el Coronavirus no nos llegará.

Cuando aplastamos nuestra fe como una tortilla no damos espacio para que toda la Palabra tenga su lugar correcto en nuestros pensamientos y nuestra fe. No damos espacio para que al justo Job le pase gran desgracia y enfermedad. No damos espacio para los sufrimientos de los salmistas. No damos lugar para que Pablo le pida al Señor en agonía que le quite la espina que tenía en su carne (no sabemos qué dolencia sería). No damos lugar para el rol del sufrimiento en nuestra santificación. Por medio del sufrimiento nos volvemos más como Cristo. Esta promesa y realidad también está en la Palabra.

Pero es que nos suena tan bonito decir, “Si me porto bien y hago lo que se supone que los cristianos deban hacer, entonces no me dará el Coronavirus”. Porque entonces todo está en mis manos, en mi compra de artículos de aseo personal, en la distancia que guardo de las personas, en la intensidad de mis oraciones, etc. Porque si resulta que en mis viajes para proveer a mi familia de la provisión que Dios nos da me he agarrado semejante compañero de viaje del Coronavirus, entonces ¿qué se diría de mí? ¿Que mi fe no es lo suficientemente fuerte para que el Coronavirus no entre en mi casa? ¿Que no he hecho morada permanente en el Señor? Tenemos que cuidarnos de hacer una tortilla del pobre salmo 91 porque las dos cosas son ciertas–Jehová debe ser nuestra morada permanente y en Él, ninguna peste nos alejará de Él por la eternidad, eso es consistente con Romanos 8 por ejemplo. Entonces, venga o no venga la peste, debemos amarnos los unos a los otros, cuidar de los más vulnerables, predicar el evangelio porque no hay mejor momento para explorar la verdad de la cruz y resurrección de Cristo que cuando nuestra mortalidad parece estar muy cerca.

Lo que no podemos hacer jamás es confiar en nosotros mismos.

El diablo le citó el salmo 91 a Jesús para que Él se aleje de la relación perfecta con Su Padre, para que desobedezca al Padre, para que de una vez por todas nos deje sin posibilidad de salvación. Cuidémonos de utilizar a la preciosa Palabra como una muleta para ayudarnos a caminar por nosotros mismos, con nuestro propio esfuerzo, diciendo que estamos en Cristo pero viviendo alejados de Él.

Solamente la fe. No lo que yo haga o pueda hacer.

Que Dios los proteja en estos tiempos difíciles y no dejemos de orar.

La Luz

Victor Chininin Buele

Ayer vi a mis hijas jugar con una de mis primas. Su nombre es Luz. Supongo que su nombre con intención honra a mi abuelita Luz. Y verla en casa de mi abuelita Luz corriendo y haciendo todas las cosas que hace un niño delante de aquel pesebre que por tantos años ha estado en la misma esquina de la sala desde más antes de mi niñez, me llevó a pensar acerca de cuantas veces la luz está tan cerca y tan brillante y andamos con los ojos vendados, o peor aun, cerrados por nuestra propia voluntad. Verlas corren me hizo pensar como aquel carpintero de Belén debió haber estado preocupado que el pequeño Jesús no acabe con clavos en sus pies o que no se ensucie con las heces de los animales que pasaban por las calles polvorientas de aquel entonces o que no termine con mucho aserrín en la cabeza antes de ir a comer.

La ciudad se llena de luces.  Hace ya buen tiempo que no he estado en Loja por Navidad. He pasado muchas más navidades en Kansas City que en Loja. Y en realidad he llegado a extrañar el frío y el pronóstico del clima tan anhelado que diga que haya unos dos centímetros de nieve: lo suficiente para una foto bonita y para que se vea todo bonito afuera pero no tanta nieve como para quedarnos atrapados dentro de la casa sin poder salir. He llegado a extrañar tantas cosas que una vez fueron extrañas para mí.

He estado preparando la prédica del día domingo.  Entonces he estado estudiando Isaías 60. Es un sermón que lo he tenido pendiente por muchos años. Las imágenes que el Señor nos da en ese precioso capítulo han cautivado mi imaginación por mucho tiempo. Y al ver esas palabras tan hermosas—levántate y resplandece—uno no puede quedarse callado o sin compartir el asombro.

¿Cuánto más bella fuera Loja si en verdad resplandeciera con la luz de Cristo, la luz de su glorioso evangelio?

Decimos que queremos la luz pero solamente nos gusta para las fotos que vamos a poner en las redes sociales.  Cuando penetra en nuestra oscuridad, córremos a escondernos.  No queremos ser expuestos. Nos tapamos con lo que sea. No queremos que la luz nos muestre nuestra debilidad verdadera—la oscuridad de nuestra depresión, la profundidad de nuestra ira, nuestra adoración de lo que queremos y nos gusta pero sabemos que nos está matando, nuestros secretos y engaños, nuestros rencores e insatisfacciones.  Nuestros pecados.

Y nos llenamos de palabras supuestamente bonitas y sabias para callar nuestra conciencia—la Navidad es acerca de la familia, el espíritu de la Navidad es compartir, la Navidad “no es un momento ni una estación, sino un estado de la mente”, la Navidad es valorar la generosidad.

Fui al Teatro Bolívar a ver una obra de teatro que me entristeció y al mismo tiempo me dio gran esperanza.

Aquella obra de teatro me mostró el corazón de mi ciudad—queremos una Navidad bonita, llena de luces y pavo, regalos y sonrisas, que una a la familia, que nos dé cierto calor en nuestro vacío y triste corazón pero, por favor, sin Cristo.

Por generaciones nuestra sociedad lo minimizó volviéndolo un juguete al que le ponían vestidos suntuosos y lo llevaban a la misa obligatoria. Pero ahora ha sido minimizado aun mucho más—ya ni lo mencionamos. En el Mall de Don Daniel escuchaba a una madre amenazar a su hijo con la ira de Santa Claus si no dejaba de colgarse de ese estante en el almacén. Antes nos decían que el Niñito nos traía las cosas. Ahora somos más avanzados—sabemos que Santa y el Mall vienen de la mano. Y esa obra de teatro expuso esto. Queremos una Navidad sin Cristo. Es lo que el pueblo pide y a lo que le dio una gran ovación antes de que las luces se apagasen.

Me entristece esto porque la luz resplandece y nos tapamos los ojos y nos escondemos de ella.

Pero me da gran esperanza porque en Cristo, cuando llega la salvación, nos unimos a una familia mucho más gigantesca que la familia más grande de Loja (Marcos 10:29-31), compartimos en realidad de un corazón que es generoso porque recibió gracia infinita, inmerecida y gratuita del Señor Jesucristo (2 Cor 8:9).  La Navidad es recordar un momento que pasó en la historia real, en una ciudad real de este mundo, el nacimiento del Salvador (Lucas 2:1-7). Es decir, que anhelamos lo que solamente Cristo nos puede dar. Y eso es buenas noticias.

La luz está brillando. La pregunta es simple: Si usted está con los ojos abiertos en esta oscuridad y ya se da cuenta que está en un cuarto oscuro y sin salida, ¿está lista para seguir al Espíritu Santo a la luz? Es hora de prender el foco.

“Pero, ¿qué dice? «CERCA DE TI ESTÁ LA PALABRA, EN TU BOCA Y EN TU CORAZÓN », es decir, la palabra de fe que predicamos: que si confiesas con tu boca a Jesús por Señor, y crees en tu corazón que Dios lo resucitó de entre los muertos, serás salvo. Porque con el corazón se cree para justicia, y con la boca se confiesa para salvación.” (‭‭Romanos‬ ‭10:8-10‬ ‭NBLA)‬‬

Si usted está con los ojos cerrados, ábralos. Se dará cuenta que es verdad que la oscuridad cubre todo lo que ve—hay dolor, sufrimiento, pena, destrucción, enfermedad, devastación, corrupción, engaño, mentira, adicciones, pérdidas cuantiosas. Pero cuando reconozca que está en la oscuridad podrá ver la luz. Y Cristo se deleita en hacer el milagro de hacer la luz:

“Y si todavía nuestro evangelio está velado, para los que se pierden está velado, en los cuales el dios de este mundo ha cegado el entendimiento de los incrédulos, para que no vean el resplandor del evangelio de la gloria de Cristo, que es la imagen de Dios. 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.” (‭‭2 Corintios‬ ‭4:3-7‬ ‭NBLA‬‬)

Feliz Navidad a ustedes.  Y voy a orar por una Loja verdaderamente unida, resplandeciendo en Cristo Jesús.

Stepping Out of Spiritual Abuse

Victor and Angela Chininin Buele

We have walked a hard road for the past eighteen months.  It has been a somewhat lonely road, but not entirely lonely.  God has provided grace and has been faithful to us–He has fulfilled His promise to never leave us nor forsake us.

We have been involved in a case of spiritual abuse and are able to break free of the chains, in part by breaking our silence now.

Our purpose in sharing this is to walk in repentance to call to repentance. It is not to gossip or to elicit anger. We want to see beauty from this ashes from the hand of a Savior who knows what it is like to fall into the ground and die to bear much fruit.

We want to be part of healing for those who have been similarly abused and continue to point abusers to repentance and abundant life with Christ.

We want to be able to walk in freedom and without shame. We want to walk without chains of silence imposed by others. We want to walk without fear. We want to be able to speak with authority to share the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. We cannot afford any more distraction or delay from this, and it is for that reason that we share this.

There are many problems at hand, but in order to move forward we are sharing our story separately. This does not mean that there is a disagreement between ourselves or that we do not stand together. It is very important that each of us expresses his and her witness in his and her own voice.

Angela’s Testimony: Angela’s Account
Victor’s Testimony: Bringing Light In

In the testimonies, there will be references to additional documentation. We have redacted personal information from these.
Charges Document to the Denomination — this is the document that was filed in March 2018 with the denomination to address this situation.
Mediator of Just Cause’s Determination — this is the document where the charges were found to be irrelevant.
Digital Conversation–October 2018 — this is how the pastors spoke about Angela among themselves.
The Slander Document — this document was provided by the senior pastor for Angela’s instruction on the subject of slander. Since we address the subject of slander in our testimony, it is important to contrast what we have presented with this document.