Friday, March 25, 2011

I'm not Ashamed of the Gospel - the simplicity of the gospel.

The message of the Gospel is simple. It's simplicity is such that it can be covered in one verse, as it is the case with John 3:16 and Romans 10: 9.

Seeing this, we can be tempted to unnecessarily complicate the message, and in trying to add to the message of the Gospel, we can be diluting it's essential message, and unfortunately, its power.

Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:18: "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God" (NIV). Its power lies not in the complexity or sophistication of its message, but on the living Word, which is Christ Himself.

Paul also said: "When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified." (NIV). Again, its power lies not in its "eloquence" or "superior wisdom" but on the power of Jesus Crucified. This was demonstrated in the ministry last night.

In our meeting we shared the story of Christ's passion. The message was simple and clear to them: Christ took our place, took the punishment we deserved, and we are forgiven of our sins by his sacrifice. The guys were on fire! One young gang member even repeated the simplicity of the message with great enthusiasm, telling us how we are forgiven by God.

One guy told us that this marked the first week since he quit smoking weed. Last week he asked for our prayers to help him change.

Ideas on how to improve the ministry and how to spread the word about it were being shared by them.

Curiosity about the Gospel arose. They started to share the Gospel by themselves while the discussion raged. The fire and power of the Gospel was clearly on display last night, in all its glorious simplicity.

Photo Credit: Peat Bakke.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Conversion is a Slow Process...

Our path to the cross is one decision away, but it takes
a lifetime to traverse.
Reading the Acts of the Apostles, one is tempted to think that conversion is a one time event. It seems that we, as responsibles of Jesus' Great Commission, must simply preach the Gospel and expect great numbers of converts. Most often than not, this is not the case.

I remember when I started to get involved in youth ministry with Comunidad San Dimas more than 4 years ago and my almost naive expectations of the ministry. I thought that we would just preach the Gospel, call for repentance, and see mass conversions. Unfortunately, this has not been the case.

I remember having a conversation with a member of Comunidad San Dimas, seeing my disillusionment with the lack of conversions. She told something like this: "You never know what's the end result". This is especially true in some aspects of our ministry, as we go and share the Gospel in prisons, and we don't see what happens to most of them after they go out of jail.

Conversion is a painfully slow process. Change doesn't happen overnight. Conversion is a gradual step, a perpetual construction where God, our Architect, is constantly working in areas where we allow Him . While I'm not saying that miraculous conversions don't happen anymore (as it had happened in the ministry, and I will share one story of such conversion in a later post) most often than not it doesn't happen overnight.

Let us look at our own conversion stories for evidence. I'm sure most of us didn't convert to God overnight. By golly if you did, I want to hear your story!

And so, as I and many other work with these "kids" (as we like to call them, as an endearing term of course), or with any other population, it is important to remember that conversions is a process so slow, that it last a lifetime. Indeed, all believers are in this process, a process of constant repentance and change, a process that last until we die.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New Blog Changes...

I have made some important and major changes to my blog that I want to explain. The changes are not merely in the design, but changes will also come in the content of the blog. So many things will change that this can be considered a brand new blog. Random thoughts is no more...

So what are the changes?

  • Content: I thought that Random thoughts covered too many topics. While there is nothing wrong in taking a holistic approach to blogging, I think it's better to narrow down my topics, and concentrate on a niche. Content, from now on, will concentrate mainly on the ministry that I work in San Francisco. The blog will retain its personal aspect, however.
  • Design: I had worked somewhat in improving the look of Random thoughts, and never felt satisfied with it. It seemed too simplistic. I think the new design is better and fits perfectly the new theme of the blog. Of course, I will work on improving the design as the blog progresses.
  • Posting: Random thoughts was my first serious attempt in getting somewhat serious in blogging, but it was nothing more than a hobby. The blog was neglected, and there was time that I paid little attention to it. This will change, as I will try to be more constant and serious in my blogging. After all, I want to glorify God in this blog, so while the blog will retain its personal taste, its main focus will be God and the ministry.

I want to dedicate this blog to the glory of God, and while my feeble attempts can't add nothing to His perfect glory, it is my desire that He will be glorified through this blog. It is my humble prayer that this blog will be under the patronage of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. John Bosco St. Thomas More and St. Dominic Savio; please pray for us!

P.S: Yes, the title of this blog is inspired by the song "God of this City" by Chris Tomlin, one of my favorite songs. If you haven't listened to it, here it is:

Monday, March 14, 2011

I Strongly Feel God is Calling me to be a Saint...

I remember my conversion 9 years ago. I remember the refreshing air that seemed to surround my atmosphere. This fresh air brought winds from a new creation. This is the best way I can describe what I was feeling in those days: the joy, the peace, and the incredible desire to be a saint.

But, as the years started to go by, and life's experiences brought me back to even where I was before I converted, that feeling started to "die" slowly, so slowly, that I was unaware of its own death.

I tried to revive this feeling, and while I made some progress in terms of devotion, the feeling was hard to resurrect. It seemed that no matter how hard I tried, the feeling remained dormant, with little hints of it surviving. Until now...

These past events in my life, including the current storm, has brought me into an intimacy with God. "I feel" I told my spiritual director once "I feel as if God and I are in a honeymoon at this moment". This intimacy has gradually increased with time, and as the tribulations rise, His love is even more abundant.

Even though I don't feel God is calling me to be a priest or a religious, even though I'm probably headed to marriage, in despite of all this, I feel so strongly in my heart that I must be a saint, and nothing else would suffice. I feel God is tugging strongly in my heart, this sense of tranquil urgency; I must be a saint, there is no way out of it.

But I believe all of us are called to be a saint. We must receive this calling in our hearts as well, while we are looking for Him, our Beloved, in prayer. Will I fail? If I trust in my own strength, in my own habits and humanity, I will surely fail. With God? I cannot fail.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I like being busy, but I hate being tired!

My life has changed substantially in the past few months. I now find myself trying desperately to adjust to a difficult schedule. I'm sleep deprived, tired, and best of all busy.

I have to admit, I like being busy, but as of late, I'm starting to dread being tired. I have noticed that my emotional level goes down considerably when I'm tired. I tend to dwell more on pessimistic thoughts, my faith gets bombarded by doubts, my anxiety betrays the sense of peace I thought I had. In a nutshell, everything seems to simply suck when I'm tired!

I'm working 32 hours per week and studying part time. On paper this is not a disagreeable situation at all. Only that I have to work the graveyard shifts on Mondays and Thursdays. Mondays (and consequently Tuesdays) are the worst days because I have to go to school the next day in the morning, getting off from school in the late afternoon, to finally go home and rest! As I shared in a Facebook update not too long ago, despite the fact that I'm walking around campus as if drunk, and my biggest academic achievement is to stay awake during classes, I seem to be managing well!

Thursdays are a bit more manageable. I go to school almost all day, then head off to the youth group for ministry, and finally end my day by working the graveyard shift right after the youth group. We usually have some time for fellowship after the youth group, which I unfortunately am obliged to miss because of my work schedule. This is rather unfortunate, given that this fellowship is essential in establishing relationships with the young people who attend. And since the ministry deals with gang members, this relationship is even more important in order to gain their trust and share the Gospel in a personal way. Friday morning I have to commute back to my house, which is 50 minutes away from where I work. Staying awake during this commute is a massive undertaking!

But I'm getting used to this schedule. Staying awake seems easier. And while I like being busy, I'm still getting used to being tired.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Still Struggling in the Storm.

It's been 2 months since I received that letter. To tell you the truth, yes, I'm still in pain. Besides the pain, there are some other things that I'm still struggling with, which I'll share briefly in this post.

I have a desire to pursue marriage sometime in the future, but this desire comes not without its struggle. I feel called to full time ministry, and I'm worried that If I get married, my ministry would suffer. There is also a sense of guilt over leaving seminary, even though I don't feel called to the priesthood or the religious life. But as the anxious person as I am, I'm constantly thinking of the repercussions that this decision can have in my ministry and life. Would I be able to serve the youth in my full capacity, without the status that a priest or a religious person enjoy? All these questions, given their hypothetical nature, are difficult to answer in a personal level. But, despite the emotional struggle that my decision brings, I still have peace over it.

I'm also struggling with my grieving over this girl. My feelings for her have not changed, and at times, seeing her is painful. She is part of the same ministry I work with, and there are many opportunities to see her. In dealing with past disappointments, I would simply detach myself from that person for a good period of time, until the memories lost their painful aftertaste. I have asked God permission to leave the ministry for a while, but I keep getting the same answer: He doesn't want me to leave. He is giving me the strength to deal with this situation, and by His grace alone I have been able to continue in the ministry. He keeps telling me to trust Him and to leave everything in His hands, even my future with her. I don't understand exactly what He is doing, but I'm putting my trust in Him, even though I have to admit, it is not always easy.

But not all is gray and sour! God has blessed me immensely! I finally have a job and things are going well. Studies are going somewhat smoothly. There are many blessings that God in His infinite mercy has bestowed upon me. And, even in the middle of the pain, His joy and peace are there to remind that indeed I'm not alone, and I will never be alone.