The Dawn

Culture Shock

While talking with Mike this morning he mentioned that recent studies say that culture shock actually comes and goes in waves through the entirety of one’s life as opposed to the previous opinion that it came for a time and eventually went away. Over time as you develop some center the waves become less and less strong. A wave recently passed, and still my “center” is becoming more defined and steady.

Detatched

Recently Dani and I have discovered that we need to be in more structured community and will begin looking for a home church to spend at least half our time in.

Abandoned

It would appear that past missionaries came to Chile, planted churches, and left never to be heard from again. It seems some have kept in better contact than others. It would appear that the past missionaries left some pastors in charge with inadequate formation (preparation), because—in Chile—some Restoration Movement Churches teach Calvinism, others speak in tongues, others perform miraculous healings regularly. In some the men sit separately from the women and in others strange legalistic traditions altering many parts of the service have emerged. Some take communion every Sunday. Most don’t. Some believe baptism is essential for salvation. Some don’t. Certain pastors warn us not to work with other pastors for varying reasons, most of which include warnings that a pastor will take advantage of us. Orthodoxy is David in the Chilean Christian Church and factionalism is Galiath.

So, we have begun to reach out to past missionaries to get a better understanding of the history, so that we can serve the Chilean Church better in the present and future, because if you’re going to climb a proverbial rock wall, it is best to ask the person at the top where tricky situations might be and how they maneuvered through them than to try to do it on your own. If you are reading this and you have been a missionary in Chile, please help us serve better by reaching out to us with your experiences. There are always many sides to the same story and we want to learn from you in humility. BUT WE DO NEED YOUR HELP to be better servants to the Iglesia de Cristo in Chile. cornerstonechilemission@gmail.com

Transparency

I have a great conviction that part of the work we do in Chile is to communicate everything well to our community in the United States as well as with locals in our neck of the woods/field. Over this past year we have started from scratch for developing CCM as “Plan A” obviously didn’t work out. The elders of Cornerstone Christian Church and other mentors and ministry contacts have helped us to find ministry opportunities and now god is blessing much trial and error experience with fruit. We’ve gone back to the Bible and talked about what it says—and does not say—about missions, and have created a solid foundation from which we are now able to work more productively.

I have tried to communicate where we are and where we think we’re going as the ministry was (and is) forming. It seems good to me to share obstacles that we have had, have now, and will have in the future… even when we don’t have the answers. Now Daniela and I are married and growing stronger and closer together everyday because of God’s blessing on our life. We are getting very busy with ministry opportunities. We want to share where we are with you consistently so that you have a better idea of the mission you are supporting and praying for, even if we can’t tell you what’s next. Although we are excited about God’s plans for our future.

God Leading???

What does that mean? How do we know where God is leading and what his plans our for our life. My first thought is, “We don’t.” How could mere men know the entirety of God’s plan for us when His ways and thoughts are higher than our own? Well then, how do we follow God’s will for our life? How do we know which direction we should go?

Here’s what Dani and I are doing to follow His lead: We’re making contacts and pursuing ministry partnerships with anyone who seems to be of a genuine and humble heart; and yes, even if we have some minor doctrinal differences (I promise you won’t find two Restoration Movement churches in Chile that are the same). We’ve been getting to know the nation as a whole, the capital of the country where we reside (Santiago), and more specifically the southern half although we have begun to branch out to the north a little more as well. We are also specifically concerned with the community of La Cisterna that is our local community. We’re working with a lot of people in a lot of different ways with our eyes pealed for any ministry opportunity to pray about.

You’ve probably read that an excellent ministry opportunity in Osorno has presented itself. Yes, the time with Edio and Emma was very VERY good and yet we will still continue to pursue the ministry that God has blessed us with in Santiago. No matter what happens, the time spent with Edio and Ema and the churches of Osorno was a blessing. There church and ministry is so active, Edio and Ema and others do an amazing job of pastoring the community and promoting deep relationships not just with Christ, but with one another as well.

So how do we follow God’s leading or plan for our live? By using our minds to think logically, plan ahead, give ourselves time to pray about and evaluate options way ahead of time, and give God time to open and close doors as He wills. Talking it out with people also helps (wise counsel). No big changes coming soon, but we are planning ahead.

The Proposal

Tonight at 8pm before the prayer meeting I have a meeting with the pastor of Iglesia de Cristo on Capitán Thompson in La Cisterna. We have been working with their congregation more and more over the past year, but definitely have some doctrinal differences. Most of the consistent members of the congregation seem to be  aware of this as well, though we never teach on the subject and consciously avoid the topic so as not to hinder ministry or create factionalism. Though when directly asked, we cannot lie. For example: Dani and I don’t completely deny that people speak in tongues today, but we both agree that if people speak in tongues, there must be an interpreter. I have never seen anyone speak in tongues as the Bible seems to describe it (with an interpreter) and am largely skeptical of the practice. However, I haven’t studied the topic enough to say with absolute certainty that it does not occur anywhere in the world today. I have seen one lead member of the church on Capitán Thompson speak in tongues without an interpreter and that certainly seems unbiblical to both Dani and I. And there are other differences as well.

All that to say that there are some discrepencies and trust has been difficult to build. But tonight I am going to ask this pastor to trust me. I am going to make my case for him to trust me to help him feed his flock, because of Daniela and I’s faithfulness over the past year. He and his family work full-time during the day in the street market and I imagine it must be hard for him to do that and lead the church with 5 meetings a week. It doesn’t seem like there’s much time for anything, let alone sermon prep. Just because we have some different beliefs, doesn’t mean that we can’t work together. So tonight I am going to ask this pastor to trust me more to help him with pastoring his flock.

He might tell me know. He’s a tough cookie. But the fact is that Daniela and I have been faithful to his church and the youth group—and he has permitted us to serve more and more—even though we both have known that we have doctrinal differences since the beginning. He is an intelligent man. So tonight I am going to ask him that he let me do Bible study a different way than the congregation is used to. I’m going to ask him that he warn the congregation that it will be different, and I am going to ask him that he participate in the study to encourage the congregation to participate as well. Honestly, I’m not sure how this is going to unfold, but If God blesses this ministry with Capitán Thompson it could blow everyone involved away. Please pray for God’s blessing and my own humility.

Awake

Since a child I have not slept normally due to an illness related to my eye condition called Hypopetuitism which also causes hypothyroidism. I get tired easily and sleep irregularly. In college I would go to sleep at 6 and wake up at 2 or 3 in the morning to study. I’ve never recovered from that cycle and this sleeping pattern has been bothersome to me these first two years on the field. Now I am getting help and the treatment helps me to sleep during the night like normal people and have energy to get through the day. This has been a huge blessing because I’m not constantly wondering how much time I put in to ministry, calculating sleep hours and second guessing my integrity to our home churches. Now Daniela and I are getting more in routine, more in sync and spending less time thinking about the most efficient way to complete trivial tasks and more time on how to bring the gospel to people. We are both very thankful.

Youth Meeting

Last night we had a great youth meeting. The first words that come to mind to describe it are “raw” and “straight up” :). When we first started teaching I taught the academic way because it seemed to be the best, but now We’re doing a more practical study outlined below:

  1. Read the passage.
  2. What questions do you have about it’s meaning or content?
  3. What do you think is the message of the passage?
  4. I share some of my personal first thoughts and questions about the text.
  5. Consult other educated brothers and sister to hear their thoughts on the text (commentaries).
  6. Evaluate what we have learned.
  7. Now what do you think the text means?
  8. How do you think the text applies to us now?
  9. Let’s pray silently and ask God what He wants to tell us about the text (3 minutes).
  10. What did God tell you?

It’s pretty intense, but was GREAT!! Only two youth came, and that might be the way it is for a while, but if we can keep confronting them with God’s love this way, it will undoubtedly produce fruit. Hopefully they will keep coming. They left somber. Not judged. Not condemned. But I saw the remorse in them that every Christian must feel at one point or another. I reminded one youth as he was leaving that God meets them right where they are. I always tell them, “It is not your task or even within your ability to do ANYTHING to go (or get) to God. Just collapse where you are and let Him save you.” We’re hoping that they come because of personal desire and not social pressures, and that they desire God more each day. Daniela and I are very passionate about their individual situations and challenges.

Smarty Pants

You all know I’ve been studying for a masters degree at Johnson, and it seems that people might get a little too big for their bridges when they use big words. I only want to communicate things the best way possible and apologize if I have come off prideful in the past. Sometimes when I’m explaining concepts that are new to me, I only know how to use the “big” words with which they were explained to me. But we all keep getting better by His grace. Thank you for your patience.

Pride

Why is this post entitled “The Dawn”? Because the past two years have been the night. It has been difficult, dark, and lonely at times, but by His grace we grew through the trial. We started over from scratch and the elders of CCC and others had to be patient with me. Steve Trinkle helped me walk outside and meet people when I was sitting in the apartment, just praying for something to do for God, and ashamed of the lack of ministry that was happening. Steve and others helped me hone in on a specific kind of ministry I’ve always had passion for and gave me tips on how to try things out without damaging relationships after the trial period so that possibilities for future partnership would remain open. None of the ministries we’re doing now were part of the schedule a year ago, and now God is providing opportunities to do ministry specific to the passion God has given me.

But now we have a foundation. Now we have grown in strategy and defining goals. Now we understand the needs of Chileans better and understand that Chileans will always understand that need better than foreigners. Now I’m more confident and capable of teaching by speaking better Spanish and having a solid foundation for accessing modern shcolarship so as not to be led astray. Daniela and I are stronger.

So, this is the dawn. The night has passed for now and Daniela and I are so encouraged by the way God has been blessing our marriage and ministry. The problem is that just when everything is going great, Satan wants to give you a pat on the back and say, “You did it”. Daniela and I haven’t done anything. God is the one who has provided all of the ministry opportunities and mentorship that have helped us get here. So please pray that I won’t become prideful and forget how to rely on our Father.

Daniela

Daniela works 50 hours a week… well actually I don’t know how many hours a week she works. lol. I know I kiss her good bye before the son comes up and she doesn’t get back until it’s down again. So, with a work week like that, how is she supposed to be doing ministry activities all weekend and there not be a missing gringo in Santiago? I’m learning that part of my work is to make sure that we have food in the house so we don’t have to waist time we could be doing ministry activities together, going grocery shopping and running errands. It’s actually even more practical because I just hit the store on the way home from a meeting or activity or something that I’m out doing and that way we don’t take extra trips and we get more out of our time. Please don’t misunderstand me. Daniela does a ton, but I realize that if I take responsibility for more at home we can do more together in the community. That is part of us getting into a better routine and more efficient as a team.

As always, thank you for your partnership. You bless us.

Todd and Daniela

Learning in Osorno

Restoration Movement History in Chile

Edio Carcamo is a seasoned Chilean pastor from Osorno. I believe he was converted by missionaries in the mid 1900’s and he tells me he has learned a great deal from them since his youth. He attended a four-year (I believe) Bible institute in Texas and pastored a church while studying. Since his return to Chile Edio has been living in his home town of Osorno and in full-time ministry. Edio’s connections with the United States and experiences with US culture enable him and his wife Ema to understand my way of thinking better, as I am obviously a Gringo. This enables us to talk about topics that might be culturally sensitive in a way that places what is important to God over our own pre-formed cultural ideals.

For instance, many US churches see plurality of leadership as a set committee of elders, while the term “elder” (anciano)in Chile is often no more than an age indicator, and its more abstract significance as someone of greater spiritual maturity appointed for leading the church is viewed as foreign. Most Chilean churches don’t have elders and the idea of plurality of leadership—as US Americans understand it—seems to be viewed as causing factionalism and hindering the growth of the church.

While conversing with Edio, I noted how the Iglesias de Cristodescribe their pastoral retreats as for “pastors,” “elders” (sometimes), “leaders,” and those “encharged” of the church, and we began to talk about how these terms may—or may not—refer to the same group of people. Let me interrupt the train of thought here to note briefly that the issue of plurality in Churches—and similar culuturally-sensitive topics—is not only Edio and Ema’s concern, nor is it solely my own and Dani’s, but it is the responsibility of the international church. However, I know we all would be honored if God were to use us to reach orthodoxy on a global level—even if we were only a small part of taking one of the first steps in the process.

Community

In general, the Bible seems to promote community and the Idea that God has been in constant relationship (interaction) with Himself as the Trinity since the beginning. We know that “iron sharpens Iron,” “two heads are better than one,” and that the church is for encouraging one another in our walk with the Lord. We know from watching instant replays of the big game that every angle captured adds to the greater understanding of the reality that occurred. In the same way, the church exhorts itself when members share their personal experiences (angles) of God to contribute to the greater—and more orthodox—understanding of Him.

Nonetheless, these experiences must conform to biblical teaching and the orthodoxy of 2000 years of tradition. During my conversations with Edio, Ema, and others I began to understand something a little bit better. I began to perceive more clearly how the Chilean church has something to offer the world too. They have insight into God’s grace as the fruit of the seeds sown by missionaries and native Christians over the past 75 years or so. Yes, I do believe that there are more educational opportunities in the United States—ESPECIALLY biblically speaking. That’s why I desperately want Daniela and I’s children to speak English; so they will have access to greater learning opportunities. However, having said that, academic education is only a pawn to serving the greater goal of maturing in Christ and is not always necessary to achieve this main Goal. Though it is very helpful. Nonetheless, Chileans do have something to say—something to contribute—to the global church.

As such, Daniela and I are trying to converge our privileged access to the vaster theological information and church tradition available in English with our combined (albeit still growing on my part) solid understanding of Chilean culture to equipp us to break down more cultural barriers. We hope to break through these cultural barriers by providing other Chileans with a greater opportunity for participation in the greater—global—body of Christ by providing sound biblical teaching from sermon type to academic, while being sure to focus on the heart of the message of the Bible. That means cross-cultural accountability and working with professionals on both shores to promote generally accepted principals that can be applied to any child of God no matter where they are. Maybe one of Daniela and I’s children will even continue the work one day.

Other Thoughts on International Community

Short-term mission trips are coming to be understood as less and less effective in recent study, but in what sense? It seems that US American Christianity—amidst many other disciplines—is becoming privy to the world-wide sentiment that we haven’t been seen as sharing well with other nations, and now we have begun to rethink our role as the US Church. The idea of planting the seed of the gospel on unsown soil as missions as is being done in other areas of the world—such as the 1040 window—is now incompatible with the Chilean context.

This seed that is still being sown in other parts of the world has already been planted in Chile. But what about watering the seed? This might be described as pastoral care, discipleship, or spiritual formation. Can we put fertilizer on the seed? This might have the form of introducing more academic theological and biblical studies to our brothers and sisters. What about the dead leaves that fall of one plant in the forest and become fertilizer for another? THIS IS PROBABLY YOUR ROLE! These “dead leaves” are our personal experiences of Jesus Christ that fall from our lips to fertilize (produce growth in) the heart of a fellow brother or sister. This might be bilingual church members sharing with one another in person during short term mission trips (Or sharing trips? Or community trips?) and staying in contact through the internet. These trips would still be primarily for producing growth in the church even if the general connotation of “mission” has changed a bit. Interpreters may also be used. The idea of short-term missions might be over as the church has previously understood it, but that does not mean that we cannot have multi-cultural sharing and sharpening relationships with one another in a different context. Even if the community of the international church is more distant and/or more shallow than that which we have with our home churches, the benefits of sharing the experiences are still worthwhile, especially when thinking of long-term global development.

Another thing that comes to mind is sending  young persons to the US to participate in my own—or another church’s—ministry/pastoral internship program where they can get more diverse understanding of ministry to better adhere to the way God prescribes it through the Bible.

Chilean Family and the Church

In the US—and other wealthier countries I suppose—once a child comes of age, they are free to do whatever they want. This is not at all different from the Chilean situation. However, thereisa difference in the child’s ability to be self-sustaining. Chilean—and most of the rest of the world’s family’s—are more dependent on each other to survive. I’ve known this bit for a long time—and maybe the information is not new to you either—but, what I am newly realizing is that different characteristics of society make it easier for US Americans to flee the nest than in most other countries. For instance, houses and apartments in Chile are built with morethan two generations in mind or more than one family in mind, Debt is harder to acquire, and obviously jobs pay less.

What this means for the church is that the “my house, my rules” mentality—at the least—pressures adult children—and the children’s children—to attend church. In some cases they are outright threatened with eviction if they don’t attend. We know that God doesn’t force us to worship him, but wants us to choose him willingly, so when should Chilean parents stop mandating their children to attend church? At the “age of accountability” (when God sees them as an adult)? At 18 (when the Chilean government sees them as an adult)? Somewhere in the middle? Afterwards? MAYBE A GREATER QUESTION TO ASK IS: Is the forced attendance (NOT participation) of the adults encouraging the church or harming it? It seems that a foreigner—newly introduced to these cultural circumstances—should probably listen more than comment on the subject… especially one who has not even had a child yet. So, I’ll just leave this one for all you more experienced ones to chew on for a bit.

A Great Option in Theory

Edio, Ema and I had a great time praying and talking about these and a slew of other culturally sensitive topics that are best considered with the grace and understanding of Christ. My mind was stretched and my understanding grew notably. And so, it appears that one logical option for long-term service in Chile would be for Daniela and I to work with Edio and Ema in Osorno, and to learn what practices and spiritual disciplines have kept the Iglesia de Cristo of Osorno thriving in God’s grace over the years. If it were God’s will that Daniela and I would work with Edio and Ema in Osorno, we would be a great team and possibly even a contribution to the development of missions—in general—over the long-term. But, the bigger blessing would be the huge boost of acceptance by church members of the Iglesia de Cristo—in the region—from working with Edio as the nationally renoun pastor that he is. Finally, nobody likes to make mistakes—especially when people’s eternity is hanging in the balance—so the idea of learning from an educated native—and listening to him recounting his own culturally-relevant human error to help me avoid making the same mistakes—placed alongside the great mentorships that have already been blessing our ministry—seems to be a strong recipe for success.

Moving in Santiago

But, we feel convicted and encouraged to continue our work in Santiago—for the time being at least. There are some activities that haven’t born as much fruit as we would like, but I’m really growing in being able to gauge an audience—whether it be old or young—to present them with that aspect or prospective of the gospel that will help them most where they are. I refer to ONE aspect because, who could capture the entirety of the gospel in a sermon or day or year, when it takes us more than a lifetime to fully mature in it? What IS good to know is that, Edio and the Iglesia de Cristoin Osorno has offered us a ministry partnership, and we are and will be praying about it in the inmediate future.  Please be praying for God’s direction with us over the next while. More to come on the previously mentioned Bible studies soon.

Right Now

Right now—just to give you an idea of the ins and outs of daily routine, I’m processing the recently-learned information from Osorno and writing to you about it, planning the youth meeting for this weekend, scheduling meetings with ministry mentors to talk about ideas discussed with Edio, trying to fix the internet, and continuing through a book that attempts to capture the great spectrum of ideas that should be considered in extracting theological meaning out of the biblical text (exegesis).

Later I’ll go pay a couple of bills. Then stop by the store on the way home to make room for ministry activities during the weekend so Dani and I can attend and serve together instead of shopping. I just try to do as many things in a loop—or outing—as possible so that we are the most productive with our time. Daniela is at work. She has a big event this week to bake a lot for and her and Tabi Boyce are prayerfully considering a ministry opportunity that we will be exploring in greater detail as family units (the Boyce’s and the Kepschull-Vera’s). This weekend there is a multi-church conference held in the north of Santiago to promote inter-church community and orthodoxy. It is organized by the pastor’s meeting I have been attending. As always, there will be more to share soon.

Lastly

Daniela and I were talking last night about how much we love that—at least in our personal relationship—it doesn’t matter that she is Chilean and that I am a US American. It’s not that we ignore it or try to avoid the difference, it’s simply that God’s maturing love in us helps us see past it or through it to what is behind it or at the center of it (the created person). We talked about how cool it would be if that understanding wouldn’t stay confined within the walls of our marriage but, was a model for us to look at others the same way and for other believers to have that higher quality in their own intercultural/international relationships with one another. It seems that Christianity must keep up with the times in forming these uniting relationships that strengthen the global Christian Church though the idea may seem strange—or even unpractical—in the present.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read this longer letter and consider the happenings in this neck of the woods. We are very grateful for your support in every way you give it. God bless you all.

Steam

Youth Meetings of Capitán Thompson: Three out of four young people associated—but not attending—Iglesia de Cristo Capitán Thompson (local church) have been attending the youth Bible studies. When numbers are small God has blessed us with the opportunity to engage more guarded parts—of the youth’s life—with the gospel. Though only two siblings came, last night was a success. It was a balanced time of looking at socio-historic factors behind the text—to provide them with the tools and knowledge they need to logically refute claims attacking belief in the Bible’s infallibility, and discussion time that allowed everyone to participate in “iron-sharpens-iron” conversations where we share our  own understanding of the theological significance of the passage and then compare it with commentators. The latter has been the most fun to do, because after giving the youth contextual (whether it be cultural, geographic, or whatever relevant) information, we get to watch them use that information and work out the theological significance of the texts on their own.

Pastors & Churches: I’ve been privileged to attend monthly pastors meetings—for pastors from the metropolitan region—and to get to know them and learn about their struggles, frustrations, and blessings in ministry. Last week we had a great talk about what exactly a pastor is, and the different titles are that Paul gives to this group of people (pastor, elder, and bishop) in Acts 20:17-28. Unfortunately tangents are frequent and last week—though not typically—we digressed into experiential recountings of supernatural occurrences that were counter productive to the goal of the community exhorting itself in orthodox theology through studying scripture—which is more beneficial to the church we serve. The good news is key persons who will keep the group focused on the more beneficial study of scripture should be able to rejoin our group next meeting. The better news is that—irregardless—everytime we meet, we get closer and form stronger unity. Daniela and I are also visiting the churches that the pastors attending the meetings—and others—serve, which provides a more firm foundation for future opportunities to share the gospel with their congregations and whatever other things God has planned.

Johnson University: Unfortunately, I was unable to finish the NT background course. I feel that it is my responsibility to inform you of this as I would like to use some of the money contributed to CCM to retake this course in the fall. I gave it my all, but couldn’t get it done. The good news is that the syllibus probably won’t change much and I am already over half-way finished with the course work. I did, however, earn an (A-) in the NT Research Methods course. And have already translated the final research paper into Spanish. The next step is to get some help editing it to affirm I have a good grip on  relevant vocabulary before beginning to teach it in two churches or so. Right now I’m reading a book of essays from renown scholars who provide direction in bridging the gap from imperial historical analyses and methods of forming theological significance based on these analyses, then a book on the world of the new testament, and one on a Pauline theology. Hopefully I’ll have written a technical paper about how scholars arrive at various dates in Pauls life (for the NT background course) and translated it—and transformed it—into a study on the chronology of Paul’s life to present at one of the monthly pastors meetings by mid (Chilean) Winter and be moving on to the next school project and thinking of the most beneficial way to share the info with Chile.

Strength in Numbers: May the fourth through the seventh Edio Carcamo (experienced and respected Chilean pastor) and I plan to meet and talk about church history, daily pastoral situations of average Chilean pastors, Iglesias de Cristo in the southern region, and what kinds of missionary partnership activities he thinks would be most helpful to the Iglesia de Cristo in Chile. Daniela, Steve Trinkle (associate pastor of Cornerstone Christian Church in Florida), Mike Boyce (good friend, fellow missionary, and on-the-field mentor), and another missionary partner and I are also—separately—in consistent conversation over things like a ministers duty to serve the congregation more than 40 hours a week (that’s what the rest of the church works too), the spectrum of mysticism and intellectualism, how to manage delicate situations, next steps for ministry and other practical advice and clarification of situations and occurrences on the field.. The elders of Cornerstone Christian Church and I also just had a meeting where we could talk about some of these things in more detail.

This post is called “Steam” because CCM has picked up steam. Everyday seems to get shorter and we are challenged to grow in our faith that God is sovereign (to know that tasks and goals cannot be completed on our own strength, but only by trusting in the Master’s strength and love for us to act for our good and his glory). Lastly, Daniela and Tabi Boyce (Mike Boyce’s wife) have been developing a ministry plan for six years or so, and are considering how to take final steps in putting that plan into action. More on that to come as things develop. But for now please be praying for the contribution that they are desiring and preparing to make for the True Kingdom in helping to bring the message of the gospel into Chilean lives.

As always, thanks for your support in every way you give it. You all bring so much more than finances to the table. Though we are thankful for that too, we are also thankful for the time and energy you sacrifice to pray—individually or as part of a mission meeting—as well. God bless you all.

Goals

Capitán Thompson Youth Meetings started up again last Sunday. We’re trying the meetings out in our apartment, now that Dani and I are married, hoping for a closer environment that provides more opportunities for relationship growth. Last Sunday went really well and am excited about using new study techniques learned from Johnson University to share more insightful information about the gospel with the young people. We’re including footnotes in the study guides and encouraging them not to believe everything they hear.

Last week we provided a general outline for the Gospel according to Luke to provide a context for where we left off last year and revisited a key passage that sets the stage for Jesus’s ministry as Luke tells it (Luke 4:14-30). This week we’ll be picking up where we left off, in Luke 5:12 We’ll be studying the passage where Jesus heals the leppor and the following one where Jesus heals a paralytic—lowered through the roof—on a sabbath, and discussing why some commentators place these two passages in different categories of Jesus’s ministry and why others place them together. After studying the passages in depth we’ll ask our younger friends what categories they would place these passages in and why.

Chileans Want to Study: Although Chileans have a desire to study the message of scripture more deeply, accessible resources are NOT plentiful. So in addition to using two academic commentaries on Luke—for the youth meetings—we’ll begin evaluating one online commentary—IN SPANISH—per week. The value of this is two-fold: First it teaches our young people how to think critically about—and evaluate— the insights of theologians. And second, it is helping us to see what kind of free resources are available for Chileans and all of Spanish-America. So far I have not found a lot of good resources. But that’s why we’re going to try one per week to see for ourselves what is good, cited, material—on one end of the spectrum, and what is opinion and conjecture—on the other end.

Wise Council: Meeting with Mike has been a great resource to think through new—and uncharted—ministry waters. Most recently, he encouraged me to have lessons (for the youth) or other teachings (whoever they may be for) done in advance to minimize the risk of parroting new theological concepts without having time to process them. This seems like a great idea to me, and so I’m working on getting the youth Bible study advanced by a week. The idea is that as preachers/teachers we get emotionally attached to our own findings, and so with time to cool down, process, and come back to the material later, we may see things that are unrelevant to the teaching, or things that could be explained better. Very exciting! 🙂 I’m still meeting with other experienced mentors in the field as well.

Johnson University: Plugging away on the last research paper for one course, though it has had to take a backseat the past few days in attempting to get the Bible studies advanced. But it’s going great. I thought this passage—1 Cor. 4:1-13—had to do with being a missionary—that’s why I picked it—but what I’m learning about it’s general application to everyone in ministry is very encouraging. It will be very nice to share it with you all and—hopefully—to turn it into a Bible study for different churches.

Church: Since the Jesús es el Camino Church disbanded Dani and I have been visiting other churches. This weekend we plan to visit a pastor who would like me to show him how to use Logos Bible Software better. We’re planning on spending every other Sunday with the church on Capitán Thompson to encourage the youth.

Osorno: I’m working towards the goal of being able to visit Osorno within the next two months. The plan is to get to know this region of Chile to understand the Chilean context better, and to understand the Iglesias de Cristo on better, on a national level. The pastor I’d like to spend time with is one of the few in Chile who has a degree from a Bible college, and will be able to provide deeper insights into the life of the average Chilean pastor, and explain what would really help them, which may be very different from what I might think would help them. We’ll be working on good questions to ask that will promote the best possible understanding of the daily circumstances of the Chilean pastor. It is NOT probable that I will be putting this information to practical use within the next two years or so, BUT it helps us to take steps in the right direction from the “get-go” so we run less risk of wasting energy and having to change direction in the future.

Goals in Order:

  1. Get youth Bible study advanced by one week and maintain that time to process and come back to the lesson a day or two before for revision that will allow for more sound teaching.
  2. Finish final assignment for research methods corse at Johnson (paper on 1 Cor. 4:1-13).
  3. Finish Into to New Testament Course (40-50% complete).
    1. Write a research paper on the life of Paul, translate it, and share my findings at a monthly pastors meetings.
  4. Begin translating research paper—on 1 Cor. 4:1-13—and work it into a Bible study that will take place over several weeks.
  5. Visit Osorno and ask good questions that will improve understanding of the struggles of Chilean pastors.
  6. Possibly register for Intro to OT for US Summer.
  7. Evaluate ministry to consider beginning to work with the blind and visually impaired.

It’s a lot going on right now, but we’ll just take a day at a time and give it 100%! 🙂

Thanks for all your love and support.

Ps. Back: There are three disks in my back that are sticking out and braking apart. When they are inflamed, they rub against the sciatic nerve and cause varying degrees of pain. I thought the possible surgery consisted of pushing the broken disks back inside to provide some cushion so they wouldn’t hit the nerve. But, the doctor said that they just cut the bad part off, and since there are three bad ones, it’s probable that if they operate on one, a different disc will then begin the same problem.

So, basically, it’s a chronic back issue that I’ll just learn how to manage better over time. Now I know that laying down in the grass for a long period of time is NOT a good idea. lol. The past few days it has been great, but at this precise moment it hurts more. Surgery doesn’t seem to be in the immediate future though. He told me to take an anti-inflammatory every day and hold out as long as possible because it’s better to wait until I’m older for the surgery.

Shapes

We all want to get the most out of our lives. Some want to be remembered and some just want to be the most productive as possible to give God thanks for his compassion. When thinking about productivity we often evaluate what is most important and prioritize accordingly. There is a great analogy of filling up a jar with sand, pebbles, and rocks. If we put the smaller things in the jar first the bigger things won’t fit.

rock-pebbles-sandBut if we prioritize and put the bigger (more important) things in first then the smaller things will fit after. Sometimes not all of the sand is going to fit in the jar, but at least we’ll have the more important things inside.

The way we choose to prioritize our jars (live our lives), is just that, it is a choice. These choices mixed with our personalities, acquired skills, and God-given talents make up our shape. We each have our own shape that is unique for each individual life or path to which God calls us.

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Many of you know that one man may have ONE shape and one woman may have AN OTHER shape, and when they are married before God and become one flesh, they also become ONE shape.

IMG_0354We know a few things about our shape as one that we will strive to follow with our whole hearts as these principals come directly from Scripture.

  1. God is first: Worshiping and serving God is always our number one priority. Our wedding rings even say, “God First” and “Dios Primero” (same thing in Spanish). God is #1 and we are each other’s #2. It’s fun to say that to each other. 🙂IMG_1001 2

  2. Our family unit is second: We believe that we are responsible for maintaining a spiritually healthy family unit and for raising our children to walk in righteousness (we’re hoping to have at least two or three years of before starting that journey though). Nevertheless, our family unit, comprised of Dani and myself at the moment, must come before ministry. I have heard so many sad stories about ministers and missionaries who devote so much of themselves to their ministries that they loose their families. It seems to be much wiser to invest in the lives of our wives and children (even if we haven’t had them yet) than to leave them uncared for. In fact, we believe that all parents are commanded to do so in The Bible, and that the husband is responsible for leading his family in spiritual growth and worship of the Lord. We all have, and I certainly will, fail along the way, but these are the plans and the priorities for our life. 🙂

  3. Ministry is third: It’s not that we don’t care about the rest of our family and friends, but ministry is the next priority after our smaller family unit. As our SHAPE develops we will figure out which ways  we are most productive and which ways we are least productive. This will happen through experience and prayer. And bit by bit some ministries may be given less time so that others may be given more.

This is how we are going to live our life intentionally to be the best worshipers, spouses, and servants that we can be. It’s all for giving God the most thanks and honor that we can. Speaking of ministry. It’s time to tell you what’s new.

Capitan Thompson Church: Relationships are developing into good friendships with some of the members. The minister and his wife won’t be able to attend the wedding unfortunately, but the three youth Dani and I have been getting to know did confirm their attendance, as well as the friendly pastor in the neighboring community of El Bosque. We hope to begin working with a couple of youth from this church when we return from our honeymoon. We’re very excited that the other pastor from El Bosque and his wife will be able to attend along with the youth. The wedding is a great time for us to share a special event with these friends and other ministry contacts to strengthen our relationships so that we can be more united in what we do together.

Evangelism Team: The evangelism team being developed in the community of San Juaquin may draw upon the youth of these two first communities mentioned, in its final stages of development. Although, right now, everything is moving slow as it is time for summer vacation and many Chileans leave to go on vacation for a MONTH at a time. So, we’re not planning on meeting again until march. Furthermore, the pastor who is the catalyst for this team has advocated for a street-preaching approach while I have stated from the beginning that this method appears to be unfruitful to me. My elders, mentors, and other wise counsel agree. However, this pastors son, Ismael, while conversing at my bachelor party, had the idea of inviting people to an event that would share the gospel with them. I LIKE THIS IDEA A LOT, because it, unlike preaching on thee street with a megaphone, gives people the opportunity to choose wether or not they want to listen to your message. The invitees can even say, “of course I’ll be at the event.” even if they have no intention of coming, and they will not be forced to listen to something they care nothing for hearing. The other great thing about this idea is that it is Chilean, not Gringo. Write now we seem to be at a standstill with deciding on an evangelism model, So please pray that God will help us to love each other through the difficult time and for our relationships to grow through the rocky places so that we can emerge stronger than before and make a difference in the lives of the world that He loves.

Mike and the Institute Option: Mike Boyce is a more experienced missionary in Santiago and he and his family are an important part of Dani and I’s life. We met during my initial visit to Chile and talked about the possibility of me teaching at the bible institute he has been developing. As our friendship has grown and I have settled into missionary life and Chilean culture, we have slowly been considering what it might look like for me to teach the things that I’ve been learning at Johnson University here in Santiago. We recently met and talked about which concentration would be best for me, from the Master of Arts in New Testament program and why. But more on that later. We also talked about what classes might be wise for me to take next, so that by the time I do take those classes he might be ready to offer them at the institute. We’re thinking my Spanish might be good enough to teach more profound concepts at this time as well. I mentioned that it might be good for Mike to teach the class the first time around so that I can sit in and watch and learn how to teach the subject, how to communicate the ideas in Spanish, and that we might converse the content and way of teaching objectively in an “iron sharpens iron” fashion. This is all a rough sketch of what might happen, in the future, but it is good to be proactive and thinking ahead to be the best we can be. Mike and I also talk about all sorts of things and I think we are both thankful for our friendship. Here is a pic of Mike and I at the Mens conference in Concepción a couple of months ago, having some fruitful conversation before the first worship service in the morning.

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The sun was a little bright. lol. 🙂

Church Planting???: I’ve always had a passion for being a minister of a church, but I thought those dreams were kind of squashed when moving to Chile, because it seemed that a Gringo wouldn’t be a good pastor of a church, because Chileans wouldn’t understand him or he wouldn’t do a good job of understanding the Chilean context. I have been troubled because a passion for this kind of ministry has been growing in my heart again, but I thought it was impossible because I am not Chilean. While talking about this with Mike the other day, it seems that this dream is not out of reach, which should have been obvious to me as nothing is impossible for God. Mike and I were discussing the concentration I chose from the program options with Johnson which is the preaching concentration, which will obviously be beneficial for a church-planting ministry, but will be an asset for whatever path Daniela and I take.  PLEASE PRAY THAT GOD WOULD CONTINUE TO GUIDE US IN DECIDING WHICH TYPES OF MINISTRIES TO PURSUE AS WE DEVELOP OUR SHAPE TOGETHER. 

Visits: There are some important visits coming up. Firstly, Ed Aller, an elder of Cornerstone Christian Church, may be visiting in February or March to get a better idea of what is happening with Cornerstone Chile Mission so that the mission and my home church can be more united. This is a great opportunity as Ed is originally from Peru and so speaks fluent Spanish, which means he will be able to understand everything happening, probably even better than myself. lol. Second, I’ve been talking with a pastor from Osorno to schedule a trip to visit one of the most southern regions of Chile, which will be very beneficial for understanding the Iglesia de Cristo on a national level. And my mom just arrived Monday evening for the wedding. The legal ceremony is on Friday and the real deal before God is on Saturday January 20th.

There is a lot going on, and I feel so good having communicated it all to you. Hope you all have an amazing week and that you all stay warm up there. 😦

Much love, in Christ, to you all;

Todd

 

 

Evaluation

Evangelism Team: The “evangelism team” has been meeting over the past few months, exploring the qualities of being a Christian leader, requirements of salvation, the origins and doctrine that make up other major world religions, and the ideas and doctrine behind the Restoration Movement. Last weekend we spent time at Luis Vejar’s (local pastor and producer of the evangelism outreach) house on the coast where we participated in classes taught by Luis and Mike Boyce and worked on building our relationships together. Following are some is a picture of the group and of Luis and I.

We may have been at the beach, but let me tell you… It was freezing! 🙂 Anyhow, things are moving along, but we still have some work to do for defining our mission, vision, and creating a practical plan for achieving our goals. I do appreciate the passion this group has for helping churches evangelize. Even yesterday the need for this project was communicated to me in a deeper way that I had not understood before. What’s cool is this is a Chilean vision for a Chilean project to meet Chilean needs that only Chilean people would understand, AND MY FRIENDS STILL TRUST ME TO HELP WITH IT EVEN THOUGH I’M A FOREIGNER.

One-on-One Ministry: I’ve been meeting with a friend for over a year, teaching English. We talk about God sometimes, but I’m going to see if he is interested in reading The Gospel of Luke together. He belongs to the Jehovah’s Witness faith, and although they have their own version of The Bible that is permitted for them to use, I’m hoping that we can read Luke together, he with his translation, and me with mine, and practice English in that way, and also grow in our faith together.

Fernandez Family: Unfortunately when visiting with the Fernandez family I typically hurt my back stretching Juans arms or moving him… and unfortunately he seems to often get himself in situations that he can’t get out of on his own, which in turn requires my help, because I won’t opt to leave him where he lay. Thankfully, last week I was able to coordinate a visit with the Fernandez’s while Ross and Raquel (from the ministry sight of the Swanson’s) were visiting, which allowed me to help with other things around the house as Ross is more able to take care of Juan at the moment. I’m hoping to be able to visit with Ross, Raquel, and the Fernandez family again tomorrow, but only if Ross will be there to take physical care of Juan while I help with other things.

Johnson University: This has been a great semester learning about different biblical analyses (or criticisms) as a stepping stone for developing my own exegetical method. The knowledge gained this semester has me reading The Bible differently now and asking questions about the text that I had not in the past. It’s very exciting! Because I fell behind in the course work earlier in the semester, I opted to take an “emergency grade” which means that I’ll have until the US Spring to complete the work for this semester. I am not planning on taking anymore classes until I get caught back up. Which probably means enrolling for more classes next US Fall.

Capitán Thompson Youth: Two siblings attend regularly now and one other semi-regularly. Trust continues to build and Daniela and I are excited that they are showing more interest in participating, even if the change isn’t drastic. They’re bringing their digital Bibles to the meetings and participating in the readings as well. We are going through The Gospel of Luke and every week seems to get a little better. We’re also beginning to work with a newly formed church in the neighboring community of La Cisterna, called El Bosque, within Santiago. This church has two or three younger youth that may want to participate. Were hoping to all have dinner together next week to get to know each other more. Below is a shot of my fiancé’s amazing ping-pong skills while playing with the youth at Capitán Thompson.

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I still attend the Thursday prayer meetings at Capitán Thompson and the Sunday night services, primarily to communicate our desire to work with the pastor in community and not to just use their church facilities to minister the gospel.

Visiting Chile’s Dixi Land: Osorno is a region in the South of Chile that I have not known yet. A significant percentage of the Iglesias de Cristo of Chile are located in this city and its neighboring towns. It is important for me to visit there to understand the Iglesias de Cristo better as a whole in its Chilean context. I plan on spending a few days there in April to get to know the churches and their needs better. It may be wise to swing by San Carlos on the way to promote an idea for a website and directory that would help unite the Iglesias de Cristo on a national level and help to promote sound doctrine within the Restoration Movement here in Chile. This idea of organizing a website and a national directory may have to wait until a more opportune time depending on how other ministries are developing.

This update is entitled “Evaluation” because everything must be re-evaluated from time to time to make sure that time is spent most wisely. Please be praying for the above ministries and that God would help Daniela and I see clearly to follow the direction He has for the future.

– Todd/Toni

Transcultural

Looking for the right girl for me was something that I had been doing even before arriving in Chile. I was very cautious as looking for your mate, obviously, deserves care. There didn’t seem to be any “fish in the sea” for me in Florida, and I went to Chile knowing that if God blessed me with a Chilean woman to love, our intimate relationship would break down cultural barriers and bridge cultural gaps. I spent thirty years alone and God used the hard times to make me stronger, but now here I am, finally, where He wants me to be.

The fact that I love my Chilean fiancé more than anyone, after Christ, is helping to build trust between myself and other Chileans, as witnessing proof of someone’s cross-cultural love seems to speak more loudly. Obviously we can still build strong cross-cultural unity and friendships without marrying someone from the other’s culture as my good friends Mike and Tabi Boyce exhibit so well. However, the hypothesis formed from my multiple cross-cultural experiences, is proving to be correct, that it does help. 🙂

Apart from my beautiful Chilean wife-to-be giving me some “street-credit”, I had the opportunity to publicly declare my long-term (life) intentions to a large number of ministers and other brothers from the Iglesia de Cristo at the men’s conference in Concepción this weekend. For the first time I publicly elaborated on my mission and intention to dedicate my entire life to ministry in Chile. Multiple opportunities presented themselves for me to use my education at Johnson University in a way that allowed us to exalt one another within personal conversations, and then to communicate an application of God’s grace for us, during public discussion, after a sermon on “the Lord’s supper” given by a friend from Osorno.

While at the conference I did some interviews for K2H, a new-born radio station out of Santiago that is ran by members of the Iglesia de Cristo. The interviews gave coverage to the conference and I tried to pick someone from each region represented, for the interviews, in order to bring unity to the Iglesia de Cristo. And a trust-building conversation with a pastor late in the conference on Sunday presented an opportunity to exhibit my knowledge of cultural differences and that I do respect and, am growing in my understanding of, the Chilean culture specifically, more than some past missionaries, in that I don’t spend time with people from my own culture. I was able to advocate my trustworthiness as a missionary, where there may have been wounds in the past, because the people I spend the most time with are Chilean. Furthermore, these are not just people that one has surface conversation with. I truly love my in-laws and the rest of Daniela’s family. I was able to empathize with the pastor’s assertions of the cultural insensitivity of past missionaries, and at the same time strongly advocate, with integrity, and without much effort, that I am living out this idea of putting Christ before my own hometown, country, culture, family and other things that try to take my identity before who I am in Christ. Like the rest of us, I am still a long way from perfect, but am thankful that by God’s grace in my life, my actions and lifestyle testify that the gospel comes before the United States, Chile and any other people-group, culture, or government. None of it compares. Finally, after the past year and a half, another important mile-stone was reached.

Although the original plan was to visit the Osorno region of Chile before the wedding, the back injury has prevented this from happening. However, I did make a promise to the pastors of the region that my next trip, would be to the Osorno region to get to know the churches in the area and to better understand the Iglesia de Cristo in it’s national context. This will be a fact-finding trip, that will help me understand what the churches in Osorno need, by observing and more importantly, by listening to the pastors and brothers in Christ of the area. There may not even be anything there for me to help with, but I’ll return with a better understanding of Chilean culture, the Iglesias de Cristo on a national level, and will be able to provide insights of the needs of the region for others who may want to help, wherever they may be from.

Meanwhile, the youth meaning on Capitán Thompson was canceled this week due to the men’s conference. Miguel and I will be meeting after the weekly prayer meeting, for young people, on Thursday, and I hope to spend a considerable amount of time with him in prayer together sharing our thoughts with God to promote a unity in our spirits before Christ. We’ll probably be talking about where the youth ministry is as it stands and bouncing ideas for the future off of one another as well. Please be in prayer that God would help us understand his direction for youth outreach in our community that is best in a Chilean context.

There is much more to say, but I would like to end with a note on the importance of culture to the majority (of the) world. For those of us who were born and raised in the United States, we may be less understanding of other cultures as our culture typically does more of the impacting, as it is more developed in various ways. At least we should be able to agree that the US is less influenced by people outside of it’s boarders. The movies and shows we watch aren’t typically in subtitles from French, We don’t know many songs in Polish, and news about what the president of Japan is doing does not typically air on our local TV stations… But in Chile, and the rest of the majority world, people do see close to the same amount of coverage on news about the president of the United States as they do of their own president. The majority of the movies and shows come from other countries (with the United States leading). Chileans know songs in English even if they don’t understand what the words mean. It may be that United States citizens don’t think so much about culture, because it would be virtually impossible to argue that the US is not a front-running trend-setting country in the global context. This innocent ignorance of the US’s position in global cultural development has produced obstacles to the progress of the Gospel in the past (in Chile, in the US, and everywhere else in the world). This kind of problem is not new to the spreading of the Gospel. I imagine even the early church was faced with the issue.

The point is that, although cultural awareness and sensitivity is growing in a post-modern society, reading about it in a book, or learning about it from a documentary, only scratches the surface of all the information one can understand when actually experiencing it and living it out in daily life. The US is obviously a melting pot, and their are people from all over the world right next to you. So, I invite you to ask your foreign friends and family what they think about the US’s position in world-wide cultural development and how they perceive the cultural impact of the US on the culture of the country where they are from. It seems that people who have less impact on the greater cultural development of the world as a whole, might be more eager to prove that they have something to offer to that global cultural development. That is why it is so important for missionaries to be culturally sensitive. Especially gringo missionaries like myself. 

Please pray that God will continue to use my growing love for this beautiful Chilean woman and, my ever-deepening relationship with her family to bridge cultural gaps and brake down cultural barriers that will help me better understand my other chilean friends and brothers and sisters in Christ.

In Christ;

Todd

Esfuérzense sin Esforzarse.

2 Pedro 3:14-18

Por eso, queridos hermanos, mientras esperan estas cosas, hagan todo lo posible para que Dios los encuentre en paz, sin mancha ni culpa. Tengan en cuenta que la paciencia con que nuestro Señor nos trata es para nuestra salvación. Acerca de esto también les ha escrito a ustedes nuestro querido hermano Pablo, según la sabiduría que Dios le ha dado. En cada una de sus cartas él les ha hablado de esto, aunque hay en ellas puntos difíciles de entender que los ignorantes y los débiles en la fe tuercen, como tuercen las demás Escrituras, para su propia condenación. Por eso, queridos hermanos, ya que ustedes saben de antemano estas cosas, cuídense, para que no sean arrastrados por los engaños de los malvados ni caigan de su firme posición. Pero conozcan mejor a nuestro Señor y Salvador Jesucristo y crezcan en su amor. ¡Gloria a él ahora y para siempre! Amén.

El llamado de Pedro, para “hacer todo lo posible” (v. 14), es más fácil que distorsionar la realidad para estar cómodos viviendo en el pecado.

¿Por qué queremos cambiar las Escrituras y crear enseñanzas falsas?

Para distorsionar la realidad para que la esclavitud al pecado sea cómoda.

¿Quiénes tuercen la verdad?

Vv. 16 y 17 nos informa que esos son los ignorantes, inestables, y libertinos.

Todos nosotros queremos la paz de que refiere v. 14 y el consuelo que esta paz nos trae.

Y también ¿piensan ustedes que Jesús quiere que nosotros estamos en paz?

Obvio que sí. Jesús siempre quiere lo mejor para nosotros.

Entonces, ¿de qué forma nos instruye Jesús para encontrar esta paz?

Por esforzarnos con “todo lo posible para que Dios [nos] encuentra … sin mancha ni culpa”.

Otras maneras que La Biblia habla del tema de “hacer todo lo posible” en buscar la perfección, que nos ofrece Cristo, son encontrados en:

  • Deuteronomio 6:5 “Y amarás a Jehová tu Dios de todo tu corazón, y de toda tu alma, y con todas tus fuerzas.”

  • Mateo 12:30 “El que no es conmigo, contra mí es; y el que conmigo no recoge, desparrama.”

  • Apocolipsis 3:16 “Pero por cuanto eres tibio, y no frío ni caliente, te vomitaré de mi boca.”

En resumen, esa “diligencia” es la actitud de arrepentimiento.

Por lo tanto, Las Escrituras nos dirigen para tener una actitud de arrepentimiento de corazón entero, mientras el opuesto pecaminoso es distorsionar nuestras percepciones de la realidad para que la esclavitud al pecado parece cómoda.

Puede ser que esto concepto parece difícil y se de miedo. Tal vez pensemos, “¿Cómo nosotros debemos superar estos vicios que han tenido tanta autoridad en nuestras vidas por tanto tiempo?”


Por eso, vamos a prender con una mejor definición del “arrepentimiento”.

Hay que notar que hay dos partes del “arrepentimiento”, confesión y el esforzarnos con “todo lo posible” del v. 14.

Igualmente, hay dos partes de la confesión también.

Muchos fijan en el obvio de recontar los pecados pasados y pierden el punto que, tal vez, sea aún más importante de la confesión.

Esto punto que es demasiado pasado por alto es la adición de confesar que, sí, hemos pecado en el pasado, pero aún más admitimos que nuestros corazones son tan egoisticos que aceptamos que vamos a volver a pecar otra y otra vez, Y que la única forma que vamos a pecar menos es por crecer en nuestro entendimiento de la gracia (del amor) por experimentar arrepentimiento por nosotros mismos de nuevo y de nuevo.

Por eso, cuando estamos desanimados en ver la senda de la paz que tela adelante, es importante recordar que la esencia misma de “ser diligentes” o “hacer todo lo posible” en v. 14 no es que camináramos el camino solos, sino que vendríamos humildemente a los pies de Jesús y que le permitimos a Él levantarnos y aún llevarnos por el camino de paz (v. 14).

No hacemos “todo lo posible” para caminar ninguna distancia solos. Hacemos “todo lo posible” para postrarnos donde mismo que estamos, porque El Maestro ya ha venido a dónde estamos y ha estado esperándonos.

A eso refiere Pedro cuando habla de “tener en cuenta que la paciencia con que nuestro Señor nos trata es para nuestra salvación” (v. 15).

Pedro nos amonesta para confiar en la gracia de Dios, para nosotros, como el primer, y último, paso que jamás necesitamos tomar por el “camino de la paz”.


Entonces, ¿como se ve cuando volvemos al pecado?

Sería como si Jesús nos llevara por la senda de la paz interna y nosotros empujándonos violentamente de sus brazos para ver que hay por el otro camino, cual es pecado.

Lo más maduros que somos en la gracia, lo más rápido entendemos que solo porque fuimos a ver que había por la senda del pecado, no significa que somos obligados a doblar por esto camino. Digamos, aún si tomamos pasos por la senda, puede ser que la rapidez de que nos postramos, es un espectro para medir crecimiento en la gracia.

Si, era malo que rebelamos violentamente contra nuestro salvador. Pero, como maduramos en gracia, nos da cuenta, cada vez más rápidamente, cuando doblamos la cabeza y miramos atrás que Él ya está rodillado en una posición para recibirnos en sus brazos de nuevo, y para llevarnos aún más allá por la senda de paz.

Sabemos que Dios no crea la maldad, pero que Él puede utilizar la maldad, como nuestro pecado, aun para nuestro bien. Así, cada vez que arrepentimos de nuevo y experimentamos Su gracia de nuevo, nuestro entendimiento y fe en Su gracia es fortalecido y eso es como “crecemos en la gracia y el conocimiento de nuestro salvador Jesucristo” (v. 18).


Ahora que tenemos la idea de cómo se ve “caminar por el camino de paz interna” pero, ¿como se ve caminar por la senda proverbial del pecado y deformar nuestras percepciones de la realidad para que una vida engañada en el pecado nos parece cómodo?

Primero, notamos que él que miente a Dios es Él que distorsiona verdades escriturales que son descritos como “difíciles de entender” (v. 16). Eso es para crear incertidumbre, lo cual, sucesivamente, crea la confusión. De esto vienen muchas enseñanzas falsas que alistan una fundación inestable para que otros construyan un entendimiento torcido de la realidad encima.

Un ejemplo de cómo las realidades falsas llegan a ser enseñanzas falsas es:

  • Juanito tiene 18 años y él manipula el versículo en el principio del Evangelio de Juan, que habla de cómo Jesús cambió el agua a vino, para justificar su adicción al alcohol y su amor para emborracharse.
  • Eso es una realidad falsa.
  • Unos años después, alguien, tal vez menor de edad, que está explorando la gracia del evangelio, pregunta al mismo Juan (ahora está más viejo el Juan). Pregunta el joven, “Juan, ¿cómo es que dices que sigues a Cristo, pero te emborrachas?”
  • Juan responde, “porque Jesús cambió el agua a vino, por eso se puede emborracharse.”
  • Ahora la realidad falsa ha llegado ser una enseñanza falsa.

En otras palabras, eso es mentir a Dios en nuestros corazones. Después de todo, ¿el opuesto de la verdad es la mentira, ¿No?

Entonces, ¿dónde termina esto camino?

También en v. 16 nos confirma Pedro que la senda de pecado termina en “la condenación”.

Entonces, ¿cómo podemos saber cuándo nosotros o alguno de nuestros queridos está viviendo en el pecado?

¿Recuerdan que el acto de arrepentirse consiste de dos partes? La confesión y esforzarnos “con todo lo posible”.

Una pista para nosotros que vivimos en pecado es que nuestro arrepentimiento no es completo. Digamos, tal vez solo hayamos confesados nuestros pecados pasados, pero no hayamos madurados en la gracia para confesar que nuestros corazones mismos son egoisticos y rebeldes.

O, tal vez hayamos cumplido con las dos primeras partes, pero no nos esforzamos con todo lo posible para que Dios [nos] encuentra en paz, sin mancha ni culpa”.

Recuérdense que esta expresión de hacer “todo lo posible” es blanco y negro. No hay área gris. Somos completamente dedicados o completamente, al contrario.

Por lo tanto, esta devoción no está completa en el corazón de los que no están quitando todos los tropiezos potenciales de sus vidas.

Por ejemplo:

  • Si confesamos adicción al alcohol, pero no botamos nuestro alcohol, nuestro arrepentimiento no es completo.
  • Si confesamos nuestra lucha con el chisme, pero vemos fotonovelas todo el día, probablemente no estamos esforzándonos con “todo lo posible” como Pedro nos está llamando.
  • Si confesamos que tenemos sexo con nuestros novias o novios, pero seguimos viviendo con ellos, nuestro arrepentimiento probablemente no está completo.
  • Si confesamos una adicción a la pornografía, pero guardamos materiales pornográficos en casa y no buscamos a la contabilidad con nuestra actividad en el internet, no estamos esforzándonos con “todo lo posible” que Pedro está llamándonos.

Así, si no atacamos a todos los tropiezos conocidos en nuestras vidas con “todo lo posible” y todavía proclamamos que seguimos al Maestro, estamos mintiendo y somos los mismos de que refiere Pedro, en este pasaje, que son “los ignorantes”, “débiles”, y “malvados” que “tuercen” las escrituras que nos enseñan de la realidad, porque son la palabra verdadera, sin error, de Dios.


Esto nos presente a unos de nosotros con un ultimátum que nos deja mirando por la senda de paz con miedo y aprehensión.

Tal vez entendamos el proceso general del arrepentimiento, pero no podemos pensar claro para tomar el paso primero.

El paso primero siempre es postrarnos a los pies de Cristo en humildad. No solamente confesando nuestros pecados pasados, pero también que ni tenemos esperanza en nosotros mismos para tomar el próximo paso sin Él enseñarnos como, y aun llevándonos.

No le permites al enemigo (el diablo) fijarte los ojos en el camino, sino quédate en el presente y manténganse los ojos en Él que te lleva y recuerda que Él (Jesucristo) es el salvador del mundo.

Así el llamado de Pedro para esforzarnos con “todo lo posible” (v. 14) es más fácil que distorsionar la realidad para estar cómodos viviendo en el pecado, porque no es nuestra esfuerza que ocupamos para caminar por el camino de paz.

Recuérdense el primero y último paso que tenemos que tomar por esto camino de paz es postrarnos dónde mismo que estamos, y allí mismo ya nos encontraremos a los pies del Señor. No porque hemos caminado ninguna distancia, pero porque Jesucristo sacrifico y venció todo para nosotros.

Él camino toda la distancia. ¡ya!


Aplicaciones practicables para esforzarse “con todo lo posible” sin esforzarnos:

  • Biblia
    • Los evangelios nos enseñamos a nosotros quien es el Salvador en quién podemos confiar.
    • Los salmos nos ayudan que no somos los primeros ni los últimos para experimentar sufrimiento y tentaciones en este mundo y nos enseñan como orar a Dios.
  • Formar amistades con otros que también desean crecer en el entendimiento de la gracia de Dios. Típicamente se hacen por participar en una iglesia. En seleccionar una iglesia, hay dos cosas que son esenciales.
    • La iglesia cree que La Biblia es inspirada por Dios, y que no hay error en este libro como fue escrito originalmente.
    • El segundo es que la familia de creedores cree que Jesús es parte de la Trinidad, y que solo podemos ser salvos por Él. Cuál es el contenido de esto mensaje entero.
    • ¿Se puede creer en Dios sin congregarse? Obvio que sí, pero Jesús nota que aun los demonios creen en Dios.
    • La pregunta mejor sería, “¿Puedo esforzarme ‘con todo lo posible’ para seguir a Cristo y aprender de la gracia que dios tiene para mí, y no participar en una familia de iglesia?”
    • La respuesta, de nuevo, es obvio. “No”. Eso tampoco significa que debemos medir nuestra madurez espiritual por cuantas reuniones de iglesia que asistimos por semana. Esto significa simplemente que Dios quiere que buscamos relaciones y actividades que nos desafían madurar en nuestros entendimientos de Su gracia.
  • Últimamente, hable con Dios. La oración no debe ser fijado en las palabras bonitas que adornan la oración, aunque imagino que eso puede ser bonito a Dios también, sino fijado en compartir los profundos de nuestros corazones con Dios. Eso típicamente toma tiempo y reflexión silente entre frases y oraciones.
    • Aun puedes buscar oraciones escritos de otros para ayudarse con cómo hablar con Dios.

Give Your Best Effort Effortlessly.

2 Peter 3:14–18 (NRSV)

14 Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also, our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 speaking of this as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. 17 You therefore, beloved, since you are forewarned, beware that you are not carried away with the error of the lawless and lose your own stability. 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

Peter’s call to “strive” is easier than distorting reality to make sin comfortable.

Why do we want to change the scriptures and create false teachings?

To distort reality so that living in sin is comfortable.

Who twists the truth?

The ignorant, lawless, and unstable. (vv. 16 and 17)

We all want to be at peace as described in v 14, and to enjoy the comfort peace brings.

Does Jesus want us to be at peace as well?

Of course. Jesus always wants the best for us.

What way does Jesus instruct us to find peace?

By “striving to be found blameless”.

Other Scriptures that refer to this striving, with everything we have, are:

  • Deuteronomy 6:5 (NRSV)  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.”

  • Matthew 12:30 (NRSV) “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”

  • Revelation 3:16 (NRSV) “So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”

In summary, this is the attitude of repentance.

Therefore, the scripture instructs us that the best way for us to “be at peace” is to have a wholehearted attitude of repentance, and not to do the sinful opposite which is twisting our perception of reality so that slavery to sin seems comfortable.

This may sound hard and be scary. We might be thinking, “How are we supposed to overcome these vices that have had such authority in our lives for so long?


That’s why it seems good to start with a better definition of “repentance”.

Firstly, there are two parts of “repentance”.

Confession and “striving to be found without spot of blemish” (v. 14).

Likewise, there are two parts to “confession”.

A lot of people focus on the obvious part of recounting one’s past sins to God, and miss what may be the more important point of confession.

This aspect is the confession that not only have we sinned in the past, but we also accept that our hearts are so selfish that we will return to sin time and time again, and that the only way that we are going to sin less is by growing in grace through personal experience of repentance again and again.

Therefore, when we are discouraged at the sight of the proverbial “road to peace” that looms ahead, it is important to remember that the very essence of this “striving” is not that we would walk the road alone, or even holding the hand of Jesus, but rather that we would humbly come to His feet and let Him pick us up and carry us down the road.

We are not “striving” (with our whole heart) to walk any distance at all. We are “striving” to prostrate ourselves right where we are. Jesus has already come to meet us and has been waiting.

This is what Peter means when admonishing us to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation” in v. 15.

Peter is admonishing us to trust in God’s grace for us as the first, and last, step we ever need take down this “road of peace”.


So then, what does it look like when we return to sin?

That would be like Jesus carrying us down the “road of internal peace” and us violently pushing ourselves out of his arms to explore a different road that is sin.

The more mature we are in grace, the more quickly we understand that just because we looked down this road, that doesn’t mean we are obligated to take it. Even if we take steps down the road, the speed at which we humbly prostrate ourselves may be a spectrum to measure growth in grace.

Yes, it was wrong of us to violently rebel against our master, but as we grow in grace, we more quickly realize that when we turn back to Him, we will see that He is already kneeling down in a position to receive us into his arms to carry us even further down the road of peace.

We know that God does not create evil, but that he can use evil, like our sinful rebellion, for good. Thus, every time we repent and experience grace anew, our understanding and faith in His grace is strengthened and that is how we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our savior” (v. 18).


Now that we have an idea of what it looks like to walk down the road to internal peace, let’s see what does it look like to walk down the road of sin, or to twist our perception of reality to make living in sin seem comfortable to us?

First, we note that he who lies to God takes scriptural truths “that are hard to understand” (v. 16) and uses uncertainty to create confusion. Many false teachings come from this confusion that prepare an “unstable” (v. 16) foundation ready for others to choose to build their own warped realities.

An example of how these false realities create false teachings:

  • Johnny is 18 years old and uses the passage of Jesus turning water into wine, recording in the beginning of The Gospel of John, to justify his addiction to alcohol and his love for being drunk.
  • This is someone warping their own reality.
  • A few years later a younger person, exploring the grace offered by the gospel, asks now-older-Johnny, “Why are you getting drunk all the time and still saying that you follow Jesus?”
  • Johnny responds, “Well you see, Jesus turned water into wine. Therefore, it’s ok get drunk.”
  • Now the false reality has become a false teaching.

Another way to describe this twisting of truth might be, “lying to God”. After all, lying is the opposite of truth.

So, where does this sinful lying to God lead us to?

“[T]heir own destruction” (v. 16).

So, how can we tell when we (or someone we love) are walking (living) in sin?

Do you remember that the act of repentance consists of two parts? Confession and “striving” with everything we have (v. 14).

A hint for us that we are living in sin is that our repentance is uncomplete. We may have only confessed our past sins, but haven’t matured in grace to understand that we must also confess that our very hearts are selfish and rebellious.

Or, maybe we have completed the first two pieces of the puzzle that make up confession, but we aren’t “striving to be found by Him at peace, without spot or blemish”.

Remember that the “striving” Peter references is “black and white”. Its either all in or all out. There is no “gray area”.

Therefore, this complete devotion to be blameless before God is not present in the heart of anyone who is not removing all known temptations in their lives.

For example:

  • If we confess getting drunk, but don’t dump our alcohol, repentance is not complete.
  • If we confess our struggle with gossip, but watch soap operas all day, we’re probably not “striving” in the sense that Peter encourages us.
  • If we confess that we have sex with our girlfriend/boyfriend and will not live separately until we are married, our repentance probably is not complete.
  • If we confess a porn addiction, but still keep pornography in the house or won’t seek accountability with our internet access, we’re not “striving” in the sense that Peter encourages us.

Therefore, when we are not “striving” with everything we have to attack known stumbling blocks in our lives, we are the very ones that peter is referring to who are ignoring, unstable, and lawless (who distort reality to make slavery to sin feel peaceful).


That presents some of us with a very severe ultimatum that leaves us looking down the “road of peace” with apprehension and fear.

Maybe we understand the general process now, but can’t think straight to take the first step.

The first step is always prostrating ourselves at the feet of Jesus in humility. Not just confessing our sin, but also that we don’t even have any hope in ourselves to take the next step without him showing us how and, even carrying us, down the “road of peace”.

Don’t let the devil scare you by focusing your eyes on the difficulty of the road. Stay in the present and keep your eyes on the one who is carrying you and remember that He is the savior of the world.

So, Peter’s call to “strive” (wholeheartedly) is easier than distorting reality to make sin comfortable, because the effort given is not our own, but Christ’s.

Please remember, Peter is admonishing us to trust in God’s grace for us as the first, and last, step we ever need take down this “road of peace”.


Practical applications for learning how to “Give Your Best Effort, Effortlessly”:

  • Learn about the character and strength of God by reading the gospels of the New Testament.
  • Learn how to pray by reading The Psalms, located in the middle of the bible. The Psalms are also helpful because they show us how others, biblical characters that we know God loved, go through trials and sufferings. We benefit from reading how they cried out to God.
  • Make friends with others who also seek to grow in their understanding of Grace. This is typically done by participating in church. When selecting a church, two traits stick out among the rest as essential.
    • The church believes that The Bible is inspired by God, and that there are no mistakes in this book as it was originally written.
    • The second is that the family of believers believes that Jesus Christ is part of the tri-un (trinity) God-head, and that we can only be saved through him. Which is what this entire message is about! J
    • Can you believe in God without attending church? Obviously, but as Jesus notes, “even the demons” believe in God.
    • The better question would be, “Can I give my all (do my very best) to follow Christ and learn about God’s grace for me and not participate in church?
    • The answer is, again, obvious. “No”. This also does not mean that we should measure our spiritual maturity by how many services they attend per week. It simply means that God wants us to be looking for relationships and activities that challenge us in our growth in His grace.
  • Lastly, talk to God. Prayer shouldn’t be focused on the pretty words that adorn the heart of our prayer, even though I imagine God appreciates them as well, but focusing on sharing the depths of our hearts with God. This usually takes time and silent reflection in between phrases and sentences.

Undiscouraged – October 2017

Good afternoon everyone, I’ll try to be as to the point as possible as there is a log to cover this month.

First off, the herniated disc in my back is feeling much better as we’re in the second week of therapy and medical treatment. The physical therapist has been showing me ways to help avoid a reoccurrence of the problem.

Iglesia de Cristo Capitán Thompson: Youth meetings continue to take place every Saturday evening with a peak in attendance two Saturdays ago. The attendance thus far has been something like 3, 2, 3, 8, 3. Members of the church are determined to get attendance up in an effort to reach out to the immediate community. One person promised to send their children and vowed that they had convinced to new youth to “promise” to come as well. That family ended up being in another part of Santiago, but what is interesting and even bothersome is that some members seem to be forcing their seventeen and eighteen-year-old children to attend. We suspect that there is at the least significant social pressure guiding the youth’s decision to attend… and to attend the Sunday worship services as well. Another participant has decided not to return as she feels too old for the group. While it is good that parents are trying to take responsibility for their children, forcing or manipulating anyone into seeking Christ is not the right way to go.

However, every week I get better at working with Daniela and Mike on developing important topics well for the youth meetings. And even though numbers are small, trust is growing with us that do attend. Miguel (the pastor) joined us for the second half of last week’s meeting and people seemed more trusting as they saw they’re pastor approve of the material being discussed. I will ask him to “pop in” spontaneously in the future to help with the trust building. The youth and I set up a time to play basketball, as I am trying to add dynamic to our relationships, but only one showed up. I’ll continue to reach out to the known youth of the community (those that have affiliation to the church through family) in this same way in the future until I am successful in reaching out to other youth in the community. A creative way to evangelize to the immediate community, especially youth, is also being brainstormed and developed.

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This is a picture of the youth meeting that had the highest attendance, thus far. 🙂 

Every Thursday evening members of the congregation gather together to pray for the youth of the community. It strikes me as odd that the members gather together to pray to God for the youth while not actually praying in unity or even listening to each other. Everyone prays at the same time, out-loud, and the person with the loudest voice is heard most. It doesn’t make sense to come together to share a time of prayer before God if we aren’t going to share the actual prayer we’re praying before God. With that in mind, I have asked for, and received permission from, Miguel to share a short update on what has and will be going on with the youth meetings in hopes of unifying us in prayer before God. The end goal is that we would all share a prayer, together, before God (taking turns speaking and listening to one another’s prayers), but those kinds of changes have to do with deeper doctrine and it will probably take time and trust before someone to be open to something that contradicts a religious belief they have held their entire lives. The good news is that with every week that passes, every youth meeting or worship service we attend, every extra activity we reach out with, we build trust. We ARE realistic, but we are NOT discouraged!

Inner-church Evangelistic Project: We moved forward with our first pre-scheduled meeting for studying evangelism, which consist of a series of classes, concerning or related to evangelism, taught by Luis Vejar (the Chilean pastor heading the group) or by Mike Boyce (president of the newly-formed Bible institute in Santiago). Over the next few months we may be part of this Chilean-developed and Chilean-focused evangelism project that reaches out to young people in Santiago and the broader country. The plan is to be merely supportive in this ministry. It is not part of my life goal and that has been communicated to those involved. The plan is to stay focused on doing a few things with excellence instead of doing a lot of things halfway.

People in need: Yesterday I had the opportunity to swing by my Haitian friend’s house, the one you’ve been reading about for the past half a year or so… He was under the weather, so I got so share some left-over meds with him and some healthy veggies I picked up for him and his family at the street market on my walk over. We always have such a good time talking and he and his family are even invited to Daniela and I’s wedding in January. Hopefully I’ll be able to get him a job interview at a factory where a friend is veteran employee in accounting. It’s usually best not to just hand out great opportunities like this to the first person you meet going through a hard time, but since our relationship has been developing for some time now and it is easy to see that my friend takes advantage of what he has, I hope this possible job opportunity will help him, his family and their relationship with our family as well. The friend who works at this company is also a minister and would be a great friend to my Haitian friend and his family. I don’t mean to single him out as Haitian, it’s just the best way to identify him without giving his name. LOL. J

Studying: I did have the opportunity to do some studying last week, although there is still much ground to cover to get caught back up. The stand-up desk I jimmy-rigged has been disassembled and now we’re hoping that I’ll be able to sit and study for decent periods of time by using the stretches and exercises taught by the physical therapist.

That’s a bit of a black and white informational update. Click the link below of the “Prayer Partnership” tab for more on how you can pray better for Cornerstone Chile Mission.

https://cornerstonechilemission.org/prayer-partnership/