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We have big news. Remember that on the last letter we told you about a two-year job/training opportunity? We’re going to Kansas City next May!

The church is called Christ Community Church and it has four campuses in the Kansas City area (on the border of the states of Kansas and Missouri). It is a very healthy, gospel centered Evangelical church.

This is going to be my first real pastoral position, my job will include specifically cross-cultural aspects, such as helping design programs and supervise the church’s global and local mission partners. It will also involve more “typical” pastoral stuff like teaching, planning, visiting people in need, etc.

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I will be a part of their fellowship program. They select 2-3 people a year to work under a pastoral staff. In addition to getting the work done, a key component of my job will be processing what I am learning with the main pastors and the other fellows in the program. The aim is to provide a healthy environment where we can practice, fail, process, and try again with a serious support structure. This church has a passion for helping young pastors-to-be to develop in a strong church before they are launched out to (often) work on their own. This also means that, during this time, part of my job will be to start thinking about and plan our steps after these two years. They are intent not just to train us, but also to help us to get to the next destination where God is calling us: Spain!

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Feel free to ask us for more details about the upcoming shift in our life, we’d love to share more! Also, check out my last sermon in a church up in Racine here.

Please, pray with us

  • That God would give us the stamina to finish this year well, not forgetting the importance of day-to-day faithfulness.
  • For our involvement in our current church (Crossway), particularly in “Exploring Christianity,” where we are both serving this year.
  • For my Spanish documentation process. In May my residency expires and I need to figure out how to get it renewed before then so that I can go back later!

With love.

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For Christians, prayer is our way of communicating with God, in the broadest sense of the word. This includes, but (ideally) it is not limited to, asking God for things. Often our churches teach – directly or indirectly – that getting a positive response from God depends on the requester’s amount of faith. This leads to the think (1) that getting what we want is, at the end of the day, our merit, and (2) that God’s will is subject to ours. Like a genie in a lamp, if we have enough faith, God has no other option than to give in to our desires.

Stemming from this, a faith hierarchy emerges in churches, where the more spiritual types are those who receive positive answers from God. So, often, we end up making up stories, and finding answered prayers everywhere, thanks to our faith. We turn prayer into a sham, where having faith means predicting the future. If you don’t “confess” what you want out loud, you don’t have enough faith. We affirm that the miracle will happen, as if saying it makes it more probable, or as if we can blackmail God: “Now that I’ve said it, you have to do it to not look bad.” The Christian Circus results from all this irresponsibility: we cross the line that separates faith from superstition. We turn prayer into a magic formula. When it doesn’t work, it makes us look ridiculous, which wouldn’t matter a bit if it didn’t also ridicule God.

This “faith-itis” is often founded upon Bible verses taken out of context, like Mark 5:34 (your faith saved you), Matthew 21:22 (whatever you ask for in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith), Mark 9:23 (all things are possible for one who believes), and many others. Christians, especially those of us coming from more Pentecostal backgrounds, love to allegorize with the Bible. Ignoring its spatial-temporal dimension, egocentic as we are, we pretend that it is only all about us, here and now. Please don’t misunderstand me. Just as it says on my Bible’s cover, I do believe that God speaks today. However, there is a reason why the Bible was written the way it was: the order of the stories (and I’m not referring to the book order), the words that were chosen… Each author was trying to communicate something very specific. This is why they wrote books rather than a collection of aphorisms that we can interpret as we choose, and accommodate them to our own interests. If we really believe that the Bible is the word of God, we should be TERRORIZIED at the way we manipulate it.

This is how we end up exalting an abstract faith. “YOU MUST HAVE FAITH!” Sure, but faith in what? Faith in God, or faith in our own faith? Are we teaching faith in God (all powerful AND sovereign), or faith in what, in our opinion, God should do?

Prayer is not a faith contest, it is our communication channel with God. The Bible states that God is omniscient and that he already knows what we are going to ask him for before we do it (cf. Matt 6:8). So, why do we pray? By praying, we recognize God’s sovereignty. We recognize our inability to resolve our own problems. We recognize his power. We recognize who’s the boss. When we place our petition before God, we give it to him, trusting in faith that he will do what is best with it, not whatever we want. If God did everything we asked him to do, it wouldn’t be us having faith in God, but God having faith in us. Since we aren’t God, we trust him and his decision.

No matter what Joel Osteen says, faith does not consist in believing in something with enough persistence to make it happen. Faith is surrendering into God’s hands, regardless of what happens, just as Jesus did when he taught his disciples to pray: “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10), or when he prayed to the father, “if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42). We do not believe that God will do something, but that God himself, who could do anything, will do what he wants, because he is God. Faith is believing that his will is best. Our faith is not in a capricious God, but in one who loved us so that he created us, despite knowing that he was going to have to sacrifice when we messed it all up. Our faith is in the God who left his throne, made himself the least privileged of men, and died in order to reconcile us with God the Father, even while he knew that many would reject his sacrifice. This is the God we believe in and that we pray to. This is our faith.
Marta

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A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of preaching at the First Evangelical Free Church of Racine, Wisconsin, with marquee and all. They asked me to preach on Psalm 40. I’m really fond of all the psalms, but this one I had memorized some months ago, so it has been a privilege to be able to go over it again and again to take out what it has to offer.

You can listen to it below or download it here (right click, “save link as”).

PSALM 40
For the director of music. Of David. A psalm.

1 I waited patiently for the Lord;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
and put their trust in him.

4 Blessed is the one
who trusts in the Lord,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, Lord my God,
are the wonders you have done,
the things you planned for us.
None can compare with you;
were I to speak and tell of your deeds,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire—
but my ears you have opened[c]—
burnt offerings and sin offerings[d] you did not require.

7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.”

9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips, Lord,
as you know.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help.
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.

14 May all who want to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!”
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who long for your saving help always say,
“The Lord is great!”

17 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
you are my God, do not delay.