“La Navidad: Segundo acto”

Extracto del artículo original:

Lo emocionante de la Navidad es que sucede a la mitad de la historia: ni es el principio ni es el final. “Ocurre en el clímax de la historia de la redención” (Larry R. Helyer). “La guerra no había terminado, ni mucho menos, pero la batalla decisiva se libró cuando Dios entró en acción en la persona de su Hijo eterno”.

La estrategia del Creador rebosa de sorpresas. En lugar de alzarse en armas en contra de los rebeldes, como cabría esperar, se alza en armas por ellos. Podría haberles arrollado con su vasto poder en una campaña de terror y pasmo; podría haberles intimidado con amenazas de castigo, o podría haber apelado a sus sentimientos de codicia o egoísmo – la misma vieja historia de las estrategias de poder del mundo. Sin embargo, no hizo nada de eso. Tenía la mira puesta en algo más radical que el acatamiento de un juego de normas. Su objetivo era cambiar a la humanidad desde dentro.

Con ese fin, el Creador vivió entre los seres humanos como otro ser humano, ejemplificando la vida que él hace posible y enseñándoles cómo vivirla. Pero necesitaban algo más que enseñanza. Necesitaban la clase de vida que habían perdido y que ni siquiera echaban en falta. Para hacer posible que la recibieran, el Creador habría de dar su propia vida por ellos. Lo hizo muriendo y volviendo a la vida. Este es el clímax de la historia, que encontramos narrada en los Evangelios del Nuevo Testamento.

Este es el punto álgido, pero no es el desenlace… La historia sigue, y se sigue escribiendo… Experimentamos un cambio de paradigma cuando nos damos cuenta de que la historia desarrollada en Belén continúa en Madrid y Dakar y Mumbai, solo que en puntos diferentes de la trama. Si aislamos la Navidad de sus precuelas y secuelas, las personas en la historia pierden su identidad como discípulos compañeros nuestros. Dejan de ser como nosotros y, por lo tanto, dejan de ser ejemplos. Se convierten en extras, cameos y actores.

Resulta inesperado y un poco desconcertante darnos cuenta de que formamos parte de la misma historia que María, solo que más adelante en la trama. Lo que le pasó a ella, a José, a los pastores y a los magos es parte de nuestra historia. Nos hace falta tener la misma fe en Dios, el mismo valor ante el peligro, y la misma entereza en días turbulentos que ellos. Nuestra historia es una emocionante secuela a la suya, pero no es el último episodio. Ese aún queda por delante, cuando el rey que vino regresará; no como bebé esta vez, sino como vencedor. O, como lo expresó el autor de Hebreos: “no para cargar con el pecado, sino para salvar” (Heb. 9:28).

A través de la maravilla de la gracia, estamos unidos a los héroes de la fe – Abraham y Moisés, David y Jeremías, María y José, Pablo y Timoteo, y muchos otros que aún no conocemos pero que han desempeñado papeles en esta historia que sigue en curso. Nosotros también tenemos papeles que desempeñar, caracterizados por la misma confusión y resolución – y gloria – que ellos conocieron. Y todo por esa invasión sobrecogedora, cuando Dios se unió a nosotros, vivaqueado en pañales y escondido en un pesebre.

El resto del artículo, para los angloparlantes, se encuentra aquí: https://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2018/december-web-only/christmas-act-2-bible-context-prequels-sequels.html

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God With Us

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said; 
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; 
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.

H. W. Longfellow

In a world such as ours it is often difficult to feel hopeful or merry. Some are passing through deep, dark valleys of grief or illness or loneliness. Some suffer the devastation of war, oppression or persecution. This Christmas Day, may we be reminded of, re-grounded in, and re-kindled with the wonderful truth that God himself came to us in the flesh, abides with us and walks with us by his Spirit, and will return to us in the flesh. Our blessed Immanuel.

A Merry Christmas to you all!

How To Be a Good Cult Member

While it is very important to recognize abusive behavior in leaders/ministries, it is no less important to recognize and avoid enabling behavior. They are two sides of the same coin. There is (and I quote a friend) the danger of those who are driven by the compulsion to dominate and manipulate, and there is the danger of those who desire order to such an extent that they will allow themselves to be dominated and manipulated.

In his article, “Someone Like Me: Anatomy of a Cult Member,” Steve Smith talks about what made him an excellent cult member for 25 years. Being a blind follower. Being a rule-abider/legalist. Seeking belonging. Having low self-esteem. A lack of critical thinking. Being performance oriented.

This is the kind of behavior that gives abusive people their power, but unfortunately many Christians are taught that being blindly obedient and submissive is virtuous and godly, and that critical thinking is rebellious and dangerous. We need to break away from these false notions and work on developing genuine Christian character, which would include sagacity, strength and nobility.

Steve gives us a lot to think about. Here’s the link to his article:

Whistleblowing in the Church

After a friend shared some articles about the ongoing situation with James MacDonald & Harvest Bible Chapel – one of which contained a charge from one of the (resigning) elders on his staff concerning cult-like behavior – several people threw their hands up in horror at hearing the word “cult” associated with a church.

It may come as a surprise that even evangelical churches can become cultic groups. But so it is. Quoting Steve Smith :


Can a group affirm the Bible and still be a cult?
Yes.
What makes some groups destructive is not their doctrine but rather their practice. Jesus said, “By their fruits you will know them,” (cf. Matthew 7:15-20), and destructive groups have a way of twisting scriptures and practicing coercion which results in damaged followers. Ironically, groups like this are often intensely concerned about the fruits of salvation in their followers, yet their own fruit is rotten.


In his paper, “Cult Formation“, Robert J. Lifton, M.D. listed three primary characteristics of a cult as follows:

a) A charismatic leader [or, I add, nucleus of leaders] with no meaningful accountability,

b) A process of coercive persuasion or thought reform, and

c) Economic, sexual, and other exploitation of group members by the leader and the ruling coterie.

When the whole Harvest situation came to my attention, and I read MacDonald’s version, members’ testimonies and Roys’ investigation (which I did, not out of morbid fascination but because James MacDonald is a familiar name and several of my friends follow his ministry), what stood out immediately to me were those basic cultic characteristics.

Some people are taking exception to the fact that the situation is being made public, and that Christians are sharing links to the investigation on the social media, something they call “participating in a smear campaign”. They think we are bound to only speak well of other Christians, protect their reputations, overlook facts and cover up any sin in the interest of love & good testimony.

But reputations are not sacred – in fact, as Rebecca Davis pointed out in her outstanding article, “The only thing a person deserves when it comes to reputation is to have his reputation match his character.” If Christian leaders or groups are engaging in cultic behavior, they SHOULD be exposed – in the interest of all. Those being wronged should be helped. Those wronging should be stopped, and they should receive the opportunity to repent.

Silence (the no-whistleblowing policy) is not always the spiritual option – not when:

It replaces truth-telling;

It is inspired by fear;

It keeps wrong unchallenged;

It covers up harm;

It enables harmers.

There are situations where Paul’s directive applies: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather EXPOSE THEM” (Eph. 5:11).

Thou Shalt Protect Thy Neighbor’s Reputation

In two recent blog posts (here and here), Tim Challies expanded the ninth commandment (“you shall not bear false witness”) to include the deliberate protection of names and reputations as part of our Christian duty. Are we – he asked – committed to preserving and promoting the good name of our neighbor, and enhancing the reputation of others (especially other believers) in everything we say and read online?

My answer would be to ask him, in turn, how he reacts to serious accusations of misconduct or harmful teaching in the church. Does he think he is bound by the ninth commandment to protect (even to promote – or enhance!!) people’s reputations without investigating the facts? Are reputations sacred? Should we cover up for people whose behavior or teaching would disqualify them for ministry (possibly even land them in prison)?

As Rebecca Davis says in her outstanding article (really worth your time), “Here’s the thing about reputations… Reputation should match character. The only thing a person deserves when it comes to reputation is to have his reputation match his character.”

The apostle Paul was pretty unequivocal: “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather EXPOSE THEM” (Eph. 5:11).

And let’s not forget:

motorbike hd image

Liderazgo 101

Intento no dejarme enredar en esos debates tipo agujero negro, los que arrancan con preguntas como: “¿Pueden los cristianos beber alcohol?” o “¿La iglesia necesita liderazgo femenino?”. Pero a veces cuando voy mirando la sección de noticias de Facebook me tropiezo con comentarios tan memorables que no puedo soslayarlos.

“Muchas mujeres” – leí una vez – “poseen las cualidades morales y espirituales para el liderazgo, pero por ser mujeres carecen de la cualidad biológica para liderar”.

Tómate tu tiempo desovillando eso.

Más abajo, alguien había escrito: “Incluso los hombres no son lo suficientemente autoritarios para ser buenos líderes”. Y ese, precisamente, es el problema. Pensar que el liderazgo en el reino de Dios es cuestión de estar al mando.

El Señor ya dejó claro en su momento que ni de lejos lo era. Les dijo a sus discípulos con bastante contundencia que el liderazgo entre sus seguidores no iba a parecerse al del mundo: un ejercicio de poder. Iba a ser un ejercicio de servicio y de entrega.

Y ese es un ejercicio al que están llamados TODOS los miembros del Cuerpo de Cristo.

Leadership 101

I try to keep away from these Black Hole discussions that start with “Can Christians drink alcohol?” or “Does the church need female leadership?”, I try, but sometimes when I’m scrolling down the newsfeed my eye gets snagged. 

“Many women,” (I read), “possess the moral and spiritual qualities of leadership, but because they are women they lack the biological quality for leading.”

Take your time unpacking that one, you’ll need it. 

Farther down someone had written: “Even men aren’t authoritarian enough to be good leaders”. Ah, and there’s the problem right there. The idea that leadership in the kingdom of God is about being in charge.

You would think that our Lord had made it clear enough that it wasn’t, by a far cry. He did tell the disciples pretty plainly that amongst his followers, leadership was not to be as it was among the worldlings – an exercise of authority. It was to be an exercise of service and giving. 

And that’s an exercise that ALL members of the Body of Christ are called to.