Thursday, September 30, 2010

Can You Swim? by Jan-Derick Nel

We are afloat in a virtual ocean of relationships every day.  We have to be able to swim to truly live in this world.

Some float by in their life jackets. Others use boats to ride by without getting wet. Both miss experiencing the ocean - the danger, the excitement and the joy of real relationships.

Good relationships are key to a successful society.  Here I not only refer to good business relationships or stable political relationships, but in fact the intimate relationships that have been disappearing steadily - relationships between man and wife, brothers and sisters, and friends.  Our value systems have become corrupted by the subjective post-modern era we live in – we are now all rebels without a cause!

We don't want to waste time swimming through relationships that might keep us from realizing our own potential.  We would rather start the engine on our power boat and cut across the surface, i.e., use people to get where we want to go.  This has become the pragmatic approach to relationships.

On the other hand there are those who realize that even such things as the economy are based upon relationships.  In spite of people setting their own goals and using other people only when they need them to fulfill these goals, there are those who recognize the need for authentic people to know one another and work together.  No longer can we afford to simply interact as if self-interest is the only driving factor, but we must see that the lack of intimate relationships is partially responsible for the current economic crisis.

Perhaps it is difficult for you to make this connection, but think about it...  It was people who made the transactions that fueled the sub-prime mortgage crisis.  Money in itself is simply a symbol of agreement.  When I walk into a shop and offer to buy an item, both the shop owner and I have to agree that my money holds a certain value.  If we cannot agree on this, there will be no transaction.

The same applies to buying a house.  The question is what went wrong in the relationship that allowed so many people to get into so much debt.  Perhaps, if the transaction had been based on relationship, one of the people would have said, “No.”

If we are truly concerned about the effect of our actions on a global scale, never mind on our next-door neighbors, we should consider how we relate to the other swimmers in this ocean and how our actions will affect their reality – what the relationship is between our actions and them.

It is time we get out of our boats and get wet so we can face how relational interaction affects who we are and how we should live together.  Perhaps we would discover that relationships can become a very real, but different, form of transportation that could carry us through the stormy seas ahead.

Principle Based Evaluation: Meaningful relationships require investment. Relationships are not a means to an end but an end in themselves.  Furthermore, policy makers should recognize that the economy serves relationships, not the other way around.

For more information on the author, Jan-Derick Nel, go to:

The Agents of Change by Dr. Patti Amsden

Beliefs – the stuff of which civilizations are formed.  Beliefs – the catalysts from which movements are spawned.  Beliefs – the causes for which men live and die.  Differing beliefs about the nature of reality, ethics, and values lead to differing behaviors.  The dominant belief of a collective people or of the leaders of a country will drive that culture.  All of life grows from, is maintained by, and bears the fruit of mankind’s beliefs.

For example, a Marxist worldview gained a standing in the arena of ideas via the writings of Karl Marx in the late 1800’s.  Marx postulated that the group in power propagated oppression upon those not in power.  The elite authoritarians were charged with societal and fiscal evils.  Liberation of the underprivileged working class, the proletariat, became the goal of the Marxist mindset; and those ideological axioms gave rise to systems of government, commerce, and various social structures.

Marxist belief generated communistic cultures including Leninism and Trotskyism in Russia or Maoism in China.  Although the economic application of Marxism, with its materialistic worldview, failed to produce strong financial systems as it had promised, the ideology stills augurs its viability.  The belief did not crumble with the Berlin Wall.  It lives today codified as ‘multiculturalism’, ‘political correctness,’ and even ‘cultural Marxism.’

The basic belief of class warfare between the have and have-nots, the aristocratic and the hoi polloi, the rule-givers and those proles governed by the privileged continues with a present-day cultural emphasis.  Minority groups such as women, African-Americans, Hispanics, and homosexuals fall under the category of those oppressed while groups identified as male, white, Euro-centric, heterosexual, capitalist, and even Christian become labeled as the oppressors.

Social Marxism has the same goals as Economic Marxism:  a cultural revolution to dethrone the ruling class who propagate traditional ideas, liberate the common class with promises of equality and utopia, and inaugurate change under the title of social liberation.  Marxism is a belief that manifests in actions.  Beliefs do not remain isolated in academia nor are they only specimens to be examined under the microscope of rhetorical or philosophical meanderings.  If social Marxism is alive in the United States, then a cultural revolution is the goal of those who embrace that maxim.

Anyone who announces that they are committed to being an agent of change is proclaiming that they will dismantle one set of axioms and replace those presuppositions with opposing and contradicting beliefs.  The promise of change is prevalent on the American political and societal landscape.  The discerning citizen must ask which belief will be outdated and which ideology will provide the infrastructure for the new world.

Not all beliefs are equal.  There is an elitism of ideas because some are superior to others.  The question begs to be answered:  if fiscal Marxism did not work in Germany or Russia, will social Marxism work in the States?  What our nation believes will determine the nation we will become.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Why Protocol? by John Paul Jackson

When my two sons were very young, I learned that one of the most difficult things to instill within a child is the ability to know when it is time to play and when it is time to be gentle.

Playtime is often the easiest to initiate. Wonderful things happen in intimate moments of tickle time and storytelling. Likewise, we bond with our children as we walk with them through times of difficulty, disease, heartache and sorrow. We hold them when they are sick in bed and wish that we were sick instead of them. We experience incredible disappointments with our children, and we experience hopes and dreams-come-true and the best of memories with them.

What does all of this have to do with God and protocol? There are times when God wants to have “tickle time” with us, and it is good. There are times when we roll on the floor and can’t catch our breath, when we feel glued to the ground and couldn’t get up even if we wanted to. In those moments, everything is sublime. It is amazing what God can do and heal and fix and impart during “playtime.”

There are other times when we are broken, and in a wholly different way, those experiences are just as impacting as tickle time.

But we often have trouble knowing when it is time to play with the Father and when it is time to be quiet in His presence.

Sacred protocol
God outlined specific protocol that was to be followed in the Temple and Tabernacle. He told Moses what He wanted to be done and when He wanted it to be done. As he made his rounds, the priest had a highly defined routine that included the outer courtyard, the inner courtyard, the Holy of Holies, the brazen altar, the table of shewbread, the altar of incense and so on. There were seven different places where the presence of God would come and meet with him.

Many of us are asking God to take us to the next level in Him, but our experience has been mostly limited to the outer court, and we don’t yet understand how to act in the Holy of Holies. If He were to grant our request, they would be dragging us out by a rope! What was allowed by the priest in the outer court got him killed in the Holy of Holies.

Someone could argue, “The Bible says that we are to come boldly before the throne.” Absolutely. But coming boldly has nothing to do with protocol. It has everything to do with the blood of Jesus covering our sin. When we do not treat the protocol of Heaven with reverence, our spiritual perception deteriorates, and we don’t know what God wants to do next. When we lose sight of His protocol, we lose our boundaries, and we don’t know how to proceed: what is right, what is wrong, when it is time to do something, when it is not time to do something — and gradually, an indifferent generality spreads to every value system we have. If we continue down that road, we can end up calling the holy things profane and the profane things holy, because our relationship with God has become centered around what we want to do and not what He wants to do.

Protocol is intimacy, not more rules
I believe there is a coming presence of God that will require us to act differently. We will need to have His Spirit written in our hearts so that we will be able to keep His protocol.

However, here is what I’m afraid of. Contrary to traditional assumption, the practice of heavenly protocol does not equal following the rules for the sake of following the rules. I came out of a very staunch, very stiff Pentecostal movement, and we were known for everything we couldn’t do. It seems to me that whenever people focus on “what not to do,” it is because they think there is nothing better to do! We were not created to be mechanical rule-keepers; we were made to be the sons and daughters of God, reflecting His divine image and joy. We were created to be so wrapped up in the life and freedom found in hearing God’s voice and living in His presence and performing miracles that we don’t spend our time studying “what not to do.”

Protocol is a form of worship. It is a form of honor and praise and reverence: We know how to treat the King when He comes.

I believe that God wants to give us more of Himself than we have ever had before, but it is His grace that keeps it from happening — because He loves us too much to give us something that He would later have to judge us for. We are not ready for the adulation that would come with greater power, but He is ready to release it.

The Body of Christ needs to be willing to embrace the protocol of Heaven and come to God on His terms, knowing when it is time to laugh and when it is time to be silent, honoring what He honors — in other words, respecting the Father.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Roberts Quotes for the Week (#15) by Robert Ricciardelli

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Adversity Molds a Champion by Robert Ricciardelli

Adversity can turn those who are weak into victims, even so, adversity can turn those who are strong into over-comers and champions in life. We have been empowered by God to be strong and not weak, and to be strong in our desire to do good. If you have been a victim through weakness, stand up for your redemption is here. Go forward in His victory and His strength, for He is the Champion for your victorious life.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Empowered by God's Grace by Robert Ricciardelli

There is always an opportunity to harbor bitterness when we have been wronged. We must not miss God's grace by allowing bitterness to take root as a consequence to pain. We may become imprisoned or spiritually dead inside, and you cannot accept grace and bitterness at the same time. Choose God's grace and He will empower you to forgive and release the snare of bitterness in your life, and the freedom to move forward.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ask For His Best Road by Robert Ricciardelli

I have found it best not to ask for an easier road but to ask for a strength that allows me to finish the race well. God in His wisdom has chosen to allow difficulty to invade my path, and then work within me to empower me to overcome every obstacle I face. I grow strong in rising above all challenges, I get the victory as I endure with Him and overcome, and God gets the glory because without Him I can do nothing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Rewards of Painful Endurance by Robert Ricciardelli

God often allows for pain to forge purpose filled resolve in us. The testing of our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance works in us to make us more mature and complete in Him. We may endure painfully, but we become thankful for the endurance that brings us to greater fullness in Him. Let God reveal to you the secret things He has planned for you as a result of the crisis you are in or have come through.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Labor Produced Harvest by Robert Ricciardelli

The miracle of growth that comes from the seeds of your life to the harvest that God desires is not produced through dreams or affirmations. Dreaming, writing, planning, and affirmations are all very important, but until you do the work necessary, the harvest will remain in a dream and seed state. Abundant fruits in the harvest of life comes only from doing the work the Lord has set before you. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Submitting Our Temperaments by Robert Ricciardelli

Our temperaments are often fixtures of our personalities, but how we handle our temperaments on a daily basis can vary greatly. We gradually learn to put our temperaments towards serving the Lord and others as we submit ourselves more fully to God. God can then lead us to show great zeal for the Kingdom, be at peace during conflict, silent in worship, or creatively sharing His passion with others.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Spirit and Emotion Working Together by Robert Ricciardelli

There are distinctions in our emotional and spiritual lives, and yet they influence one another profoundly. Our feelings often give us an indication of where we are spiritually. If fear has gripped us, we may wonder about our faith, and when we feel peaceful and "centered," we may become more aware of who we are as God's child. And finally, our faithfulness and prayers indicate the presence of His Spirit within us.
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How to Get in On What God is Doing by James Ryle

“that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Most people who are reasonably acquainted with the Bible will readily recognize certain passages. Take for example Paul’s words from Romans, known and loved by all Believers alike –

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1-2).

This provides us with timeless access to get in on what God is doing. Here is how it works.

First, Present Yourself to God. When this happens a change will occur – your thoughts will shift from being fashioned after the world’s way of thinking and living, and your mind will be renewed. You will no longer be conformed to this world, but will become more and more the person God has intended for you to be.

Then, and only then, will you be able to PROVE for Yourself  the ever growing circle of all the amazing possibilities which are found in God’s purpose for your life. It is what Paul call “the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.”

Instead of merely doing what everybody else is doing, or even settling for what seems right to you – aim high. Don’t settle for anything less than the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.

Good, better, best. Never let it rest until your good is your better, and your better is your best.

As you examine your life today, ask these question of yourself.

    Am I conforming to this world in my thoughts and actions? Is there a difference in my life between the general consensus of the popular ideas that most people embrace without a second thought?

    Am I by steady diligence and faithful pursuit of God proving what is good for my life? And, am I pressing on beyond the good to find that which is acceptable? And do I have what it takes to move beyond what is acceptable until I find and live in the perfect will of God for my life?

This, my friend, is how we each can get in on what God is doing. And that is the secret of a full and richly fulfilling life. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Find the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God will usher you more and more into that life.

Visionary Advancement Strategies Newsletter September 26, 2010

       Visionary Advancement Strategies Newsletter and Weekly Articles
Founders - Robert & Joyce
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Some may give a monthly or one time donation below -
One other way to support us and  connect with us and othersis to join CZN as a preferred partner at $14.95 monthly. This will also become a blessing to you as you'll find many relationships, resources, and ways that will assist you as a member. You can join as a preferred partner below - Preferred Partners
God bless,
From the Ricciardelli's and the growing CZN team.           
We want to thank all of you!

Joyce and I have been on this journey for 12 years in ministry. We want to thank all of you who have supported us and continue to support us to make this possible. We all have invested in technology and services that are literally impacting nations. We do not despise humble beginnings and are thankful for everything the Lord has done, even in difficult times.
We now have even a fuller and more personal view of the quote - "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness."
We are thankful that truly "All things work together for good"  to those who love God and serve Him. Thank you for your continual love, prayers and support of our lives. It warms our hearts to call you friends and family for all eternity. We thank God for each of your lives daily, as we walk together with Him and each other in the name and glory of Jesus Christ and our Everlasting Father. ~ Robert & Joyce

And finally, the official announcement of our first grandchild, Aleksandra, born August 25th to our son Anthony and his wife Aga in Seattle. We were thankful to be there for the birth.
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Pondering Quote of the week -
Adversity Molds a Champion by Robert Ricciardelli
Adversity can turn those who are weak into victims, even so, adversity can turn those who are strong into over-comers and champions in life. We have been empowered by God to be strong and not weak, and to be strong in our desire to do good. If you have been a victim through weakness, stand up for your redemption is here. Go forward in His victory and His strength, for He is the Champion for your victorious life.

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The Antioxidant Myth

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The Challenge of Trust by Dudley Hall

      The young farmer had barely survived his first experience of a freeze-out, eternal winter.  It had lasted so long that his family had to use some of their seed corn to eat.  Spring was around the corner, but snow was still patchy on the ground and there was a chill in the air.  It was time to till the ground and plant for fall's harvest, yet the young farmer felt paralyzed.  This seed was so precious, and burying it in the ground was a huge risk! His family could make bread out of the seed and eat for several weeks.  What if the seed didn't grow?  What if the blight got it?

      The farmer was facing the challenge of trust.  He knew that if he didn't start to plant soon, there would not be a harvest.  On the other hand, planting the seed meant that he couldn't use it for his family's immediate well-being.

      Many in today's economy are paralyzed.  They are holding back the resources they would have given away in previous years because they aren't sure when things will get better. Fear has produced the lie that they have to hold back to protect their resources.  Actually, the safest and surest strategy is to give even more.  The God who established the order of created things has enforced the plant-cultivate-harvest cycle since Noah got off the ark.  The farmer knows it is his only hope. The believer knows God is faithful.  Those who confront their fears and plant during challenging times will be providing bread for others soon.

     We are not of this world, though we live in it.  This is our opportunity to show the superiority of the kingdom we represent.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Run With Your Vision by John Belt

Run With Your Vision and Invest Yourself in Eternal Treasures

Our lives are filled with opportunities every day to sow into eternal reward. All of us want to enter into that day with joy to hear Jesus say, "Well done, good and faithful servant!" When we get to Heaven we want to see the eternal treasures that we have been storing up. We don't want to see our heavenly vault empty.

The Spirit Inspires

2 Corinthians 3:5-6 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

The law kills but the Spirit gives life or inspires us. Many people try to accomplish God's desires through keeping the law, creating new laws or just trying to keep a list of "to dos" to please God. This never works. Others are so afraid of missing God that they never do anything at all. Their perception of God is that He will punish them if they miss it on anything. Most people in "church circles" have heard it said, "Brother, you better make sure that is God before you do anything. You don't want to do anything in your flesh."

Maybe you just had an inspired idea or finally got motivated to do something in the Kingdom and then someone decides to give you their most holy opinion. Instead of being blessed by what God is showing you to do there is an attempt to shut it down.

Our Perception of God

Matthew 25:24-26 Then he who had received the one talent came and said, "Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed. And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours." But his lord answered and said to him, "You wicked and lazy servant, you knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not scattered seed."

Our perception of God will make us or break us. If we don't see God for who He really is then everything that we do or don't do in life will be the result of our view of Him. One view that religion can hold of God is that He is a "hard man." If we believe that God is "hard" on us and others, we will be the same. This view of God brings an expectation of "punishment" if we miss it with God. This is what has happened with many Christians. Because of this, they end up doing nothing at all; they become lazy, self-consumed and cannot see any bigger than themselves. They cannot take on a "Kingdom Mindset" because they are so worried they will blow it, miss it and God will punish them for it. Notice that "the Lord of this servant," who is a picture of God, did not excuse his fear but called him a "wicked and lazy servant." Fear produces laziness because it just makes you want to hide away somewhere. God is good.

Don't Bury What God Has Given You

Matthew 7:11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in Heaven give good things to those who ask Him!

God has given all of us "talents," whether they be spiritual, natural or all of the above. God has given us the gift of life. Don't waste it! Don't bury it. Seek the Lord. Get a vision from God and step out to do something with it. Don't be like the wicked and lazy servant who can't see beyond himself – and how God is going to punish him for missing it. We must get a vision for things that are bigger than ourselves and require God to accomplish them. If you can do it yourself you don't need the Lord to help. We want Him involved. That is why we should always dream big beyond our natural abilities.

Sow to the Spirit

There are no limitations to us in God's Kingdom. He has put an unlimited potential within us by His Spirit. Don't think about what you can't do. Think about what you can do through Christ. Every day there are multiplied opportunities to "sow to the Spirit." In your actions, your words, your creativity, your worship, your meditation, your prayers, your decrees, your communion, you can sow to the Spirit and experience a place in God of absolutely no limitations. They key is in continually sowing to the Spirit and reaping the life of the Spirit.

Get your vision and run!

John Belt
Live In His Presence Ministries

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Warning Shot? by David VanCronkhite

Many of you have already read and digested the interview between prominent author Anne Rice and Christianity Today published last month. If you have not, I highly encourage you to read it. Rice is a woman of words who can express the hearts of so many who just can't get the words out.

She appears to have no cause or agenda to promote, just a telling of her personal story and continuing journey of faith. Her story, though, is a reflection of the hearts of untold masses in the United States, especially the South, and, therefore, a warning worth pondering. She hits a vein that could explode at any minute in a world no longer looking for the right answers but figuring out the right questions. It's a world hoping to find the lost God who is worthy of demanding our awe and receiving our love.

As you may recall, there was much hurrah ten years or so earlier when this atheist writer of vampire books "became a Christian." Now we have to decide what to do with her recent announcement: "Today I quit being a Christian. I'm out. I remain committed to Christ as always, but not to being 'Christian' or to being part of Christianity. It's simply impossible for me to 'belong' to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I've tried. I've failed. I'm an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else."

With one Facebook posting, the author has seemingly invited the wrath of organized evangelical religion and the cause-oriented, church-growth focused, denominational systems. In one fell swoop she has declared that there is nothing relevant, endearing, or authentic in the religious system to hold her in.

"I wanted my readers to know that I was stepping aside from organized religion and the names Christian and Christianity because I wanted to exonerate myself from the things organized religion was doing in the name of Jesus," she wrote. And I wept when I read that.

Oh, the things we do in the name of Jesus that must make Jesus weep. I envision a perplexed Son looking over to the Father with huge tears rolling down his cheeks saying, "Dad, I don't understand it. It's in my name they say those things, do those things, hate those people, build political parties and systematic theology that try to prove which people I love and which people I hate. And all I ever taught was that they should first love you and then love their neighbor. I even explained that the real indicator of being my follower was wrapped up in loving your enemies. What happened to my followers being known for love?"

Rice says, "Christians have lost credibility in America as people who know how to love. They have become associated with hatred, persecution, attempting to abolish the separation of church and state, and trying to pressure people to vote certain ways in elections." This last statement will hurt, but if you look deep within our religious systems you know she is right. And she says, "I wanted to make it clear that I did not in any way remain complicit with those things."

The interviewer from Christianity Today asked Rice, "What will it look like to follow Christ without being a part of the institutional church?"  She responded, "The most important thing Christ demands of all of us is to love our enemies as much as our neighbors. That is the radical core of his teaching. If we do that, we can transform our lives.

"Christ reaches out to us individually. He's saying, 'Come, follow me; I am the way, the truth and the life.' These are beautiful things. I read Scripture every day, I study it every day, I'm mindful of it everyday. I don't claim to have the right interpretation of every passage, but I wrestle with it, and that's what I think he wants us to do...I feel called to declare that I am a believer. I have my bible, and I'm deeply committed to Christ. I don't contest people who do it the other way...I affirm my faith in Christ every time I get the chance. It's what transformed my life. I've affirmed it over and over again. I get occasional e-mails from people who say, 'How can you turn away from God?' But they just haven't Goggled."

I heard from a noted and internationally recognized theologian regarding this article and the comment was, "This might well be the shot fired across the bow." I would say we should heed the warning story of Anne Rice. Notice its timing and significance. This could be some of the best news we've heard in a long time for today's environment of change, where kingdoms are truly clashing, and the world is awakening to the reality that maybe the organized institutional church doesn't truly reflect the heart of Jesus' message and God's intent.

Maybe it's time to stop trying to be right and pretending that we are not sinners because we have passed a moral litmus test. Maybe it's time to admit we are in great need of a God who stirs an awe within us, a God who is love; a God who is faithful and loves each of us beyond our limited human comprehension.

Whether Ann Rice's letter is a warning shot across the bow of organized Christianity or a shot that will be heard around the world, or maybe even the cosmos, I am again filled with hope that the world can, through His Church, discover the Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. A Kingdom that is supernatural, experientially relational, and where all the Law and the Prophets hang on loving God and loving man.

David VanCronkhite

Ámame Donde Estas por Francis Frangipane

He descubierto que, al buscar a Dios, nuestr0s periodos  más difíciles pueden  transformarse en  maravillosos irrumpimientos hacia el amor de Dios. Para mí,  una de esas estaciones ocurrió durante los años 1979 a 1981. La asociación de Iglesias con la cual yo estaba alineado había caído bajo engaño espiritual. No solamente  sus doctrinas medulares estaban más y más sembradas con influencias de la Nueva Era, sino que la inmoralidad había entrado sigilosamente, y líderes claves comenzaron a dejar a sus esposas por otras mujeres.  No pude mas quedarme callado. Como resultado, en 1979 deje mi congregación  en Detroit, Michigan, donde había pastoreado y viaje a las oficinas regionales de la organización en Iowa. Yo vine a  suplicar por arrepentimiento, sin embargo,  luego de reunirme con los líderes principales, se me pidió que abandonara al grupo.

Asique aquí estábamos - habíamos dejado nuestra iglesia, no teníamos dinero, con cuatro chicos pequeños y no podíamos afrontar ni siquiera  un alquiler  básico.  Desesperados por algo, finalmente encontramos una vieja granja en la zona rural de Washington, Iowa. La casa tenía más de cien años, pero en realidad parecía más vieja.  Luego de negociar con el propietario, nos dieron un año  libre de alquiler  a condición de que yo hiciera reparaciones básicas a la casa, tales como limpieza y pintura.

Incluso así, la casa necesitaba mas de lo que  yo podía proveer. La calefacción no funcionaba bien, asique instalamos un horno a leña en la cocina.  Aquel primer invierno, resulto ser, uno de los más fríos en la historia de Iowa.   Escarcha se formo en las paredes internas extendiéndose a un pie o dos alrededor de cada ventana; las ráfagas de viento alcanzaron los 60 grados negativas, y aun mas, en varias ocasiones.Para mantenernos abrigados cada noche, toda la familia se acurrucaba en un colchón grande sobre el piso del comedor,  que distaba aproximadamente  18 pies del  horno de leña en la cocina. Un ventilador detrás del horno nos tiraba aire tibio.
Mi proyecto nocturno, por supuesto, era lograr suficiente calor en el horno que nos mantuviera abrigados hasta la mañana.

Mientras trabajaba el fuego, también oraba y buscaba a Dios. El quemador se volvió en una especie de altar para mí, porque cada noche al orar, ofrecía a Dios mis sueños frustrados y el dolor de mi aislamiento espiritual. Sí, yo sabia que el Señor estaba consciente de nuestra situación.  Aunque virtualmente no teníamos nada, El se nos revelaba en muchas pequeñas formas. Yo simplemente no sabia que quería El de mí.

Al ir y venir las estaciones, otro niño nació y luego adoptamos a una joven niña de Vietnam, dándonos estos seis hijos. Todavía, mientras la familia crecía, la pequeña área alrededor del horno se volvió para mí en un lugar santo. Incluso durante el verano, me sentaría en la silla junto al horno, oraría y adoraría.
Me gustaría decir que encontré el gozo del Señor durante este tiempo, pero en verdad, aunque gradualmente me ajuste a mi situación, sentía una perdurable miseria en mi alma. Nuestra profunda pobreza era un tema  (yo apenas generaba $6000 al año), pero mas que eso, yo sentía que había perdido al Señor. Mi oración continua era,  “¿Señor, que quieres de mi?”

 Tres años de buscar a Dios pasaron, y todavía yo cargaba un vacio interior. ¿Cual era la voluntad de Dios para mí? Yo había comenzado un par de estudios Bíblicos y predicado unas pocas veces en Iglesias, pero estaba tan identificado con ser un pastor que hasta que no estuve comprometido  en un ministerio de tiempo completo, temía haber perdido contacto con el llamado de Dios en mi vida.

A pesar de este vacio concerniente al ministerio, en realidad estaba  creciendo espiritualmente, y especialmente  en áreas previamente no cultivadas.  Me fui a  los evangelios hambriento por estudiar y obedecer las palabras de Cristo.  Antes, inconscientemente  había definido un ministerio exitoso como algo nacido de mi desempeño. No obstante, durante este tiempo,  el  Señor me redujo a ser simplemente un discípulo de Jesucristo.

Ciertamente, mucho de lo que yo pensaba que era bíblico descubrí  eran solamente tradiciones religiosas. El Señor quería que yo hiciera un inventario de mi corazón y examinara aquellas pocas verdades por las cuales yo estaría  dispuesto a morir. El dijo que las verdades por las cuales yo moriría, por ellas  viviría.

Francamente, cosas como el tiempo del arrebatamiento o matices sobre el estilo de adoración o los dones espirituales cayeron en sus propias prioridades, aunque todavía las considero importantes.   Elevándose  por encima de todo en mi enfoque había una pasión por ser un verdadero seguidor de Jesucristo – por obedecer Sus enseñanzas y enfrentar la vida no solamente como un crítico, sino como uno quien alienta a otros.  Asimismo me encontré a mi mismo con una creciente libertad para disfrutar y aprender de cristianos de otras corrientes y perspectivas.

Aun así, estos cambios, a pesar de prolongados y profundos, ocurrieron lentamente, casi imperceptiblemente. Estaban ocurriendo silenciosamente en mi corazón y  solamente a posteriori vi lo que el Señor había hecho. A lo largo de  este tiempo, estaba preocupado con sentimientos de haber sido apartado  de la voluntad de Dios.  Mi oración por conocer el plan del  Señor para mi continuaba diariamente.

El Irrumpimiento

Un día,  mientras estaba de pie en la despensa de la cocina, repetí otra vez mi perdurable oración, “¿Señor, que quieres Tú de mí?” En un momentáneo destello de iluminación, el Señor respondió.  Hablando directamente a mi corazón, El dijo, “Ámame donde estas.”

En este tiempo y época, recuerde, yo no era un pastor o ministro.  Era un reparador de televisores haciendo extraños trabajos a fin de proveer para mi familia.  Yo odiaba lo que estaba haciendo.  En mi iglesia anterior había enseñado en contra de la TV, y ahora estaba “imponiendo manos” en televisores y ¡resucitándolos de los muertos!  La respuesta del Señor atravesó  mi corazón. ¡Yo estaba maravillado ante su simplicidad ! Pregunte, “¿Que te ame donde estoy? Señor, ¿es eso todo lo que quieres de mi?” A esto El respondió, “Esto es todo lo que alguna vez requeriré de ti.”

En ese momento eterno paz inundo mi alma, y fui libre de la falsa expectativa de un servicio conducido al ministerio.  Dios no estaba mirando  lo que yo hacía para El, sino en quien me volvía para El en amor. El asunto en Su corazón no era si yo pastoreaba, más si Lo amaba.  Amar al Señor en cualquier estado en que me encontrara – incluso como un reparador de televisores – ¡esto yo podría hacer!

Una profunda y notoria transformación ocurrió en mi. Mi identidad no estuvo más en ser un pastor, sino en convertirme en  un verdadero amante de Dios.  Habiendo establecido mis prioridades, increíblemente, solo unos días  mas tarde fui invitado a pastorear una iglesia en Marion, Iowa.  A pesar de toda mi ansiedad  previa sobre volver al  pastorado, no salte ante la oportunidad. Porque había encontrado lo que el Señor realmente deseaba de mí. Aunque eventualmente acepte este llamado, mi enfoque no estaba meramente en liderar una iglesia, sino en amar a Dios

Lo Que Dios Busca
 Mas que nuestro ministerio, Dios busca nuestro amor.  Su gran mandamiento es que Lo amemos, por encima de todo con toda nuestra mente, todo nuestro corazón, y toda nuestra alma y fuerza. Si Lo amamos, guardaremos todo lo que El requiere de nosotros (ver Juan 14:15). Y es al amarlo que El orquestra todas las cosas para que ayuden a nuestro bien (Rom 8:28).

Amado, amar a Dios no es difícil. Podemos cumplir cualquier deber – mecánico o ama de casa, doctor o estudiante de universidad – y todavía complacer grandemente a nuestro Padre celestial. No necesitamos títulos ministeriales para amar a Dios. Ciertamente,  Dios mide el valor de nuestras vidas por la profundidad de nuestro amor. Esto es lo que El requiere de cada verdadero buscador de Dios: Amarlo donde estemos.  

Señor Jesús, la revelación de Tu amor me ha conquistador. Señor, Tu me has atraído y Yo corro tras de Ti. Maestro, incluso en las mundanales cosas de la vida, yo expresare mi amor por Tí. Consúmeme en Tu amor.