My call...

Romans 10:13-14 (NLT)
For “EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What time is it?

I have addressed in other articles some reasons to worship God (Why do we worship) and the differences of worship styles (Putting an end to style wars); now the obvious question is “What do we do now?” “What time is it?”.

I think once again in the subject of worship, we can find the answer in Jesus’ words, in this situation particularly in the gospel of John 4:23“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.”

I’m not going to address in this article what it means to worship God in spirit and truth, since I believe you can find the answer in the articles mentioned above; but I do want to challenge you to reflect in the idea that the time to worship God in those terms is NOW.

Let’s consider first the fact that Jesus’ words took place while he was on earth (in this case while he was holding a conversation with a Samaritan women at a well in Sychar, Samaria), and that when he was declaring that the time was “now”, he was implying the day and time the conversation was taking place (the present time according to the meaning of the word in greek “nu/n”), which we may presume was probably around year 30 AC.

If we also consider the fact that as christians we believe Jesus hasn’t returned yet, and that the fulfillment of His Kingdom and spreading of the Gospel among the earth is still pending; then we can conclude that the father is still seeking for those worshipers, and therefore we are still in the time frame of NOW mentioned by Jesus.

I personally have 2 main reasons to be encourage and challenge by this verse, and to take the word NOW as my daily present and not rest in the possibility of tomorrow:

My first reason is that people are dying every single day without knowing and hearing about God’s love and God’s redemptive action of sending Jesus Christ. As I have mentioned in previous articles, through worship we narrate the whole story of love of God for humanity. By worshiping God NOW (in the terms He wants us, which implies integrity in the way we narrate the story and respond to it), people will be able to get to know, love and worship God.

My second reason is because I cannot assure myself that I will have another day tomorrow. I strongly believe that it is only God who knows when our last breath on this earth will be, and I do not want to take a chance not to worship Him now, under the false assumption that I may have a chance tomorrow. This reason it’s not based on fear of the consequences for not to worshipping God while on earth, but simply because of an honest response to the love that He has shown me.

NOW is the time to worship, and that is what pleases God.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Putting and End to Style Wars

When we talk about worship in our churches, it usually comes to the table the questions of “What style of worship do we like?” “Which style of worship is better?” or “Which style of worship pleases God?”.

If worship is the expression of our relationship with God in which we remember His story and we participate (through faith, gratitude and obedience) in the anticipation of His return; where does the “style” of worship fit in?

In a simple way and paraphrasing Constance Cherry’s definition of worship style, we can define “style of worship” as the way a congregation expresses the content of its worship as a result of its given context. It is vital to keep in mind that the “worship style” should flow from the context and not determine the context. In other words it should flow from the inside out, and not from the outside in. (I do want to make that clarification, since there are a lot of churches that try to preserve a style that does not fit their current context, or that try to adopt a new style that also does not match their context).

How then can we know which worship style should be used in our churches? I believe the question should be more like: “What kind of worship helps people encounter God in this worshiping community?

Currently in our churches when we talk about worship styles we talk about “Liturgical Style”, “Traditional Style”, “Contemporary Style”, “Blended Style” and “Emerging Style”; let me give a brief description of each style:

  • Liturgical Style = The order of the service is highly prescribed by the church (through a Book of Worship or a Prayer Book), they promote a strong sense of reverence, and are very strong spiritually based.
  • Traditional Style = Uses a rich heritage of content (like hymns and prayers), observes the primary seasons of the Christian year, and the primary instrumentation is provided by a piano and/or organ.
  • Contemporary Style = Fosters intimacy with God, promotes joyful worship (mostly led by a praise team with the use of modern instrumentation and technology), and it is more casual in appearance.
  • Blended Style = It’s a hybrid of traditional and contemporary worship services, and it may hold potential for intergenerational worship.
  • Emerging Style = It’s a style that is still in the flux of what is and where it is going, but it seems to try to take communities of faith into discovering their own way to connect to God, it appreciates new and old forms of worship.

I personally believe a particular community of faith CAN encounter God in a worship service in ANY of these styles; and I believe God does not have a preference in any of them, as He does not have any preference in the language, the culture, the generation or the customs we use. I think that what He cares about is for an integrity and authenticity in the style that we use in our particular church, which is represented in an acceptance and celebration of the type of people that we already are.

We do not adopt a particular style of worship “because that is what we have been doing for many many years; or because that is what everybody is doing now”; but because whatever style of worship we use, it helps us to naturally express ourselves to God and to have an encounter with Him.

What we do in our worship services, is of a greater eternal significance than how we do it. Be authentic!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why do we worship God!

We worship God because we were created to worship Him. In order to sustain this claim, let me use what Constance M. Cherry wrote on her book The Worship Architect that “Worship is the expression of a relationship in which God the Father reveals himself and his love in Christ, and by his Holy Spirit administers grace, to which we respond in faith, gratitude, and obedience”.

It is important to clarify then that God indeed created us to relate to us, to have a relationship with humanity. The book of Genesis says clearly that we were created by God, (Genesis 1:27 “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them”; Genesis 5:1 “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God.”), and it is in the book of Leviticus and Deuteronomy when God clearly instituted a relationship with the people of Israel with the intention to remain associated with them as their God and them as God’s people. (Leviticus 26:12 “I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” Deuteronomy 30:19b-20 “Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”) Lastly, it is in the Gospel of John in which we can found the assurance that the relationship that God intended with the ancient Israel, it is also intended to the rest of the world (John 3:16 “"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”, John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.")

Now then, we can move forward with the assurance that we were created to have a relationship with God, and now then lets attempt to sustain how that relationship should be expressed through our worship. I may suggest that Cherry’s definition of worship is grounded in two main elements: God’s revelation towards humanity and our response.

The first element, God’s revelation in love towards humanity it is manifest in its major expression in the form of Jesus Christ (his birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection). But it is very important to recall that God’s revelation in love towards us has been manifest since the creation, the fall, and the journey of Israel. Therefore, in worship we are remembering what God has been doing among His people, his saving acts in history, his mighty deeds and we are narrating His whole story. Remembering the powerful past keeps God’s community from forgetting God’s love and fidelity from generation to generation, and it is through “historical recitation and dramatic reenactment” that we are able to do that during our worship services.

The second element, is our response in faith, gratitude and obedience through the grace administrated by the Holy Spirit. Since God’s major expression of love is grounded in the life of Jesus Christ, and as Christians we are expecting for His returning, therefore our response in worship reflect our anticipation to the future. Through our worship we connect the past with the future by participating with God in the recasting of his original vision (the culmination of all history in the new heavens and new earth), which it should be what shapes our ethical behavior to reflect the kingdom ethics on earth. It is vital to recognize that it is only through the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit that we are able to move towards that direction in our daily lives and in our worship services, and that should be manifest in our expressions of faith, gratitude and obedience.

Therefore we may conclude that we worship God as individuals and as communities of faiths (corporal), because we acknowledge and remember God’s love in the past and crowned in Jesus Christ (Good News), and we are participates of the anticipation of His returning by responding through the grace of the Holy Spirit with our expressions of faith, gratitude and obedience.

This is just my interpretation, and I hope it may enrich your life.

Blessings, Rodrigo

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Bring it on......

Joshua 1:9 - Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

Two weeks ago I decided to join Karate classes with RJ. The main reason I decided to get him into this type of training/classes was to help him understand that life may get tough, and he’ll need to do something about it. I decided to get in the classes with him to show him also that I’ll be next to him, side by side as long as God allows me, to face the challenges together.

We are learning how to defend ourselves from attacks, but also how to attack when it is needed. Life indeed has a similar dynamic, we need to learn how to defend ourselves from attacks but also how to go out and conquer the blessings that God has poured out in front of us.

I’m having the time of my life by sharing these classes with my son (as you can imagine, he is hilarious), and I’m growing in confidence that he will be alright. The training is not easy, sore muscles, blood and bruises, and even broken muscles that may need to happen in order for us to achieve the “black belt” level, but it is achievable.

In the same way, I can imagine God desiring and craving to have a wonderful time with us as we share our lives with Him. Life will not always be easy, but those challenges are shaping us in order to achieve the “holiness” that is expected, and that is achievable.

It is my prayer that RJ can be totally confident that he shall not fear life and its attacks, and not because he knows karate, but because God is with him and that HE is his most powerful weapon. I’m also hoping you can develop the same faith!

Dear God, thank you not only because you protect us as we live and enjoy the life that you have placed before us, but also because you enable us to embrace the blessings that are truly out there for us.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Six years ago......

Genesis 2:24 - For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.

Six years ago in a day like today (July 31st) this was my schedule:

  • (8:00 am) I was having a massage in an SPA followed by a haircut, manicure and pedicure.
  • (12:00 pm) I was eating for the last time at my parent’s as a resident.
  • (2:00 pm) I was riding with my best friend and his girlfriend towards Kelly’s house to pick her up.
  • (2:10 pm) I was amazed and astonished by the beauty of Kelly in her bridal dress.
  • (2:30 pm ) I was with Kelly riding all over the city of Monterrey taking our wedding pictures.
  • (6:00 pm) I was signing before a judge, witnesses, family and friends my commitment before the state and law to be the best husband that I can.
  • (7:30 pm) I was standing in the aisle of my home church, tears in my eyes as I saw the most beautiful bride coming to stand next to me and have a moment together before God.
  • (8:00 pm) I was making a pact before God, family and friends to love Kelly for the rest of my life and to make sure she will feel loved my me.
  • (10:00 pm) I was dancing with my wife our first dance.
  • (12:00 am) I was sharing with my wife our wedding cake.
  • (2:00 am) I was heading with my wife, friends and family to some friends house to keep enjoying God’s blessing.
  • (4:00 am) I was having breakfast with my wife and friends as we keep celebrating our marriage.
  • (6:00 am) I was in my house showering, changing my clothes and picking my bags to get ready to go to the airport with Kelly for our honeymoon.
  • (6:30 am) I was dropped at the airport with Kelly by some friends and family.
  • (8:00 am) I was sitting in an airplane with my wife to get ready to fly to the Dominican Republic for our honeymoon.

Those were the most exciting 24 hours of my life, and I cannot thank enough God for the wonderful blessing that He gave me. Six years ago I did know that Kelly was a great person, women, girlfriend and fiancee. Today I can attest that she is also an amazing wife, mother and ministry partner.

Dear God, thanks again for those incredible 24 hours that you gave me six years ago, but now I also want to thank you for the ridiculous 52,560 hours that I have been able to enjoy shoulder to shoulder with Kelly.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Love and nothing less....

Matthew 22:36-40 - Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

Today it was a great and busy day at NBUMC. We started the day by washing cars at a temperature of 94F degrees; but after hearing what those little children of God are going through in Kenya, I would do it again even if someone would add another 100 degrees to the day.

Honestly, it should be embarrassing to try to think that I’m a “good” person because I sacrificed some of my time, resources or physical work for the goodness of someone else in need. The definition or evaluation of “good people” is based on our moral and social standards, and they not only change from region to region, or culture to culture, but they are not necessarily scripturally based.

Jesus didn’t encourage his disciples or followers to be good people; actually non of the prophets of the old or new testament ever revealed a word from God that instruct people to be good. Even those that instructed the people to obey the law didn’t use the term ‘good’. Jesus’ and God’s intentions for humanity is that we LOVE others.

2000 years after those words “Love your neighbor as yourself”, we as humans have created exceptions, rules, standards, qualifications and many other types of distinctions in order to love another human being. (This has absolutely been without biblical support). We have shifted those words and convinced ourselves that we may not need to love them, but just be ‘good’ with them.

We ended the day at NBUMC by hosting a banquet to our brothers and sisters of Restore and the Seminole Spirit Group. It was a great evening and a lot of volunteers from the church made that possible.

What really struck me during the reception, were the words of one of the members of Restore and probably a church member if not a constant visitor. His words were: “I’m thankful with this church, because as a difference with many other churches they accept us”. (For those that do not know what Restore is and what he was meaning; Restore is an organization that treats people that have suffered severe accidents and therefore have special needs).

Someone may think that we are “good people” because we have accepted the people from Restore and other churches don’t. First of all, our accountability to God is not measured by what other churches are doing, but of what we are doing according to our call. Secondly, we are not meant to accept, tolerate or be good with people, we are meant to love them.

Therefore, it was a great day at NBUMC because we as a church are moving in a direction based on loving people and not just simply reflecting that we are good people.

Dear God, please enable us to love others in the same way and measure that you love us, and nothing less.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

prosperity according to Him....

Mark 10:23-25 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Ever since I was a teenager I played bass on the worship team of my church in Mexico. My first bass was combination package that only cost me $120.00. After a while playing together, the worship team started getting better every time, and as a result we started being invited to play in several places in Mexico in conferences or churches. As we started getting ready as a worship team during months for a big national conference in Mexico City, I started working during high school to buy a new bass that cost $800.00. One month before the conference I was $300 dollars short, but my desire for that bass turned into an obsession. I borrowed money from my parents after convincing them that it was a need for better worship and a promised that I would pay it back, so I got the bass. (Just for the record, I did pay them back)

The first night at the conference, before the opening concert, all the instruments were settled on the stage. Without any explanation, my bass fell down from its stand and got a big scratch on the head (top part of bass; not sure of its real name). After 30 minutes of crying about my bass, God finally got into me to understand that the instrument (musical object) doesn’t matter; all that matters to him is my heart.

Today I still play the same bass; it works perfectly because has a “lovely scar” that helps me to remember every time that I play that what God wants from me is my heart.

As a musician I know that it is nice to play with good instruments and modern sound equipment, and I don’t believe God is against that. But I do believe that God is more worried about where my heart is and who I am playing for; he deserves every note I play!

In this passage we can see the same principle. God is not against the prosperity of his people. He even promises prosperity for us and an abundant life. But God’s concern is that as humans as we become prosperous we put our heart on material stuff.

The concept of “rich” in this passage it is not to define a person that has a lot of money; it is to define a person that loves and trusts the money more than everything. God wants to give us what we need and even more because he love us, but that will happen as long as we can be able to let him take it back whenever he wants.

Dear God, we do pray that you may prosper the fruit of our hands, that you may make us financially stable and even more according to Your will, but I pray to keep us away from being “rich”.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Facing attacks...

1 Peter 5:8 - Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.

On friday night I got a phone call from kelly telling me that somebody broke into the vans and stoled some of the personal stuffs of the mission team (ipads, iphones, ipods, bibles, books, clothe, medicines, etc), probably getting close to $5,000 in value. Later on that night, they couldn’t spend the night in the hotel where they had their reservation, since the van’s incident delayed them and the hotel give away their room. Although they find a place to spend the night, and the break in incident is part of the history now.

Who can imagine or think that when a group of kids and adults decide to go to serve God in a mission trip something bad would happened to them?

Actually that question has an obvious response; the Devil....we don’t really talk about him in churches or in regular conversations, and in some degree I can understand that, since why waist the time talking about him when we can be praising the one the defeat him. But....

In the bible we can read many stories of those men and women that decided to follow and serve God and in many times during their journey, they faced the attacks of the enemy. Jesus warned us about him and encouraged us to remain behold in His promises, as we can read in the gospels. Even the history of the church has shown us that at the same time that God is the King of the universe, Satan is the principle of the world (not for more longer)....but it is until we start facing those troubles when we are serving God that we put all the dots together.

Our faith as Christians is not grounded in the fact that we would not face troubles or attacks from Satan, but that in the midst of those attacks God is with us, and if He is with us, we shall not fear. And is Satan is attacking us, it is only because we are giving him a good reason, which is always great!

Dear God, we lifted you up our mission team as they are serving you in South Dakota, and we know and believe that you are taking care of them; and we declare that the greater the attacks that they are facing, it is only because the greater the impact they are making in your Kingdom.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Humbling Experience...

Matthew 7:1 - "Do not judge, or you too will be judged.

A couple of days ago I got a phone call from a member of my congregation. She called to tell me her brother was in jail because he was driving without a drivers license and he would be deported to Mexico the following week. She asked if I would be willing to go and see him and give him a letter from her.

Within the next hour I went to the Roswell Detention Center and in the entrance I discovered they have a new policy about clergy visiting the inmates. Now clergy needs authorization from the chaplain of city hall to enter the jail and visit inmates. After several attempts to convince the guard to let me in due to the urgency of my request he refused and sent me to the chaplain's church.

I drove to the church and as I entered the huge church I saw in front of the offices the reserved parking spot for the Senior Pastor, Dr.... with a $70,000 car parked in the space. I walked into the office to the secretary and requested to speak to the pastor. She sent me to wait for him inside his office. (Note: His office was the size of the entire fellowship hall of my church with a humongous fish tank and really expensive furniture.) As I was waiting for him I sadly was judging this pastor and his life of apparent luxury.

The pastor walked into his office and listened to my situation and dilemma and I was amused by his response. He told me that the process of authorization is long and could not get done that day; suddenly he picked up his phone and called his secretary. He told her to cancel all his appointments for the day because he was going to the jail with me. He rode with me in my car and took me inside the jail with him and he sat next to me for almost 2 hours as I spoke in Spanish (which he didn’t understand) with the inmate.

I felt embarrassed about my judgement and I apologized to God and to him. I was encouraged that there are still people, in the midst of their successful lives, who can put their lives on hold and go to serve the lost, the last and the least.

Dear God, thank you for loving me in the midst of my mistakes, and thank you for shaping me little by little.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

what a week....loving week!

Mathew 25: 37-40 "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?' "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'

This week we host in out church our annual VBS. With over 320 children, over 50 youth helping and over 50 adults leading the program the church was completely full of joy. I honestly think that there are only a few more excited things that seeing close to 500 people learning, sharing and worshiping God.

One of my bigger task this week was driving a church van a pick up and take home 26 (hispanic/latino) kids that wouldn’t were able to come to VBS if transportation wasn’t provided for them. As I was walking in the halls of the church with over 20 little ones following me as I was taking them to the rooms, my first prayer was to not loose any one; secondly I was praying that this week would impact their lives in such a way that it would create curiosity in their parents, so that can become an area of opportunity to present the gospel.

As I was driving the kids the last day, and as I was asking them what did they learned that day, one kid respond me something that I’m still grasping in my heart and mind. (He respond me with another question) he said: “Pastor, why the people of your church love me?”

A 7 years old little boy that doesn’t recall to be love by family or friends, is wondering how in the world some strangers can just come to his life and love him.

I honestly believe that is the perfect example of what being Christian should strangers, we should interfere in peoples lives (in the midst of their daily lives ‘no matter how messy or “perfect” they may look’) and LOVE them... is not a matter of knowing how to explain certain doctrine or theology, is not a matter of having skills to talk to people, is not a matter to having or not resources or a budget, is not a matter of agreeing or even understanding peoples choices in life, it’s just a matter to LOVE them how they, where they are, and with what we have.

Dear God, thank you for your inexplicable love to us, it is my prayer that you would help us to love others in the same way.