Monday, August 24, 2009

En Vivo #1 – Love Squared – Tuesday, August 18, 2009

[The main event of our week here at El Pozo is what we call El Pozo “En Vivo” (which means El Pozo “Live!”), our Tuesday night all-community Bible study. It typically comes complete with preaching, music, videos, skits, free food, the whole deal. After each En Vivo, I hope to blog briefly about the night – what we taught, how it went, etc.]

Our first En Vivo of the semester was an interesting night…

The teaching theme was “Love Squared”, and so in lieu of a skit, we ran up to the talk with a simple math quiz competition … or so I thought. I pulled up one guy and one girl to compete in answering some basic math questions that I found on the Internet. I had six questions prepared, and I asked them one at a time. First one to turn in the correct answer got the point. If he/she was wrong, the other person got 30 seconds to try to come up with the correct answer. Let’s just say that this event went over like a lead balloon. It seemed like everyone BUT the two people up front knew all of the answers. For example: “Karen and Steph are playing a game. They both start on the first space. Karen moves forward six spaces. Steph moves forward four spaces. Karen then draws a card that forces her to move back three spaces. How many spaces apart are they?” This is easy – the answer is one. But neither person got it right! I guess I forgot to factor in the enormous pressure from the fact that lollipops for the entire winning gender were on the line. The competition, after six questions, ended in a 1-1 tie. I declared everyone losers, thanked the two brave souls who volunteered, and we moved on quickly to the talk.

Love Squared was meant to be a vision-casting talk for the semester and the entire academic year. The basic lesson of the night was that overriding purpose behind EVERYTHING we do at El Pozo can be summed up in “the greatest commandment” (and with it the second greatest commandment) of Jesus, found in Mark 12 and Matthew 22: “The most important [commandment],” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” I told a very brief version of the overarching biblical narrative (which we rarely get the chance to do and about which many students are surprisingly ignorant), pausing two times to talk in more detail about the Ten Commandments, and later the greatest commandment of Jesus. I pointed out something that has really helped me to remember, understand, and apply the Ten Commandments to my own life – that they can be organized in two groups. One through four are the “vertical” commandments, relating to our relationship with God. Five through ten are the “horizontal” commandments, relating to our relationships to each other. (Side note - author Rob Bell points out that #5 can actually be included in either group...) So the Y-axis and X-axis on the big white dry erase board helped them to understand the concept of love squared. Then we moved on through the narrative and came to Jesus’ words, in which he challenged all of the religious folks who had fallen in love with rules and regulations but were missing the point to just LOVE GOD and LOVE PEOPLE. We talked briefly about what those mean – for example, Q: Who is my neighbor? A: Everybody! Or, whoever is in my path. – but mostly just stuck to the basics. That was the whole point. It all boils down to loving God and loving others. Then we ended with some words from 1 John (4:7-12, 19-21) and the image of the cross being drawn over top of the X- and Y-axes on the board, a reminder that for the ultimate sign of love, and the ultimate example of how to love God and love other people, one need look no further than the cross of Christ.

We had two “take-homes” for the night (other than the vertical and horizontal axes morphing into the two beams of the cross). The first was pushing the free Bibles that we always have available, along with chronological reading plans and small group sign-ups. We strongly encouraged folks to take a Bible, to actually read it, and, even better, to read it with a small group of friends with which they could discuss their questions and lessons learned. Our second take-home was the image of two hands (one vertical, one horizontal) making a “time out” signal. I quoted my high school basketball coach’s frequent words – “Keep it simple, son!”, and told about how, during the many times in my life when I’ve been confused, overwhelmed, or unsure of what to do, I have gone back to the basics. In those moments, I have learned to basically say to myself “OK, Nathan, just love God and love people. Forget everything else, and just do that.” Taking that spiritual time out has always helped me to refocus and remember my true priorities, and things get better from there.

Overall, it was a great night. We had several things go wrong – microphone failure, temporary projector outage, broken bass string, etc. – which I chalk up to some combination of first week rustiness and straight-up spiritual warfare, but at the end of the day, God’s word was spoken and heard and lived out. And we had a lot of new folks (15 or 20 first-timers!) who seemed to really enjoy themselves. (Side note, our team can tend to focus on the negative sometimes, so in our staff meeting on Wednesday, we started out by naming fifty things we were thankful for from Tuesday night before even beginning to get into what went wrong / needed to change / could be done better next time.)

So, in summary, En Vivo #1 brought with it many great moments, such as: the appearance of a guy named Ramón who we haven’t seen in a year or so (and he brought a friend); the fact that our buddy Viri FINALLY doesn’t have class on Tuesday nights; the great attitudes of the staff as they rolled with technical difficulties and stayed positive; the passion of the guys in the band to really step it up this semester; the buena onda (great vibe) afterward when everyone was sitting around and eating and laughing together; the girl who we spotted singing the praise songs for the first time; the homosexual guy who showed up because he was pleasantly surprised when he found out that one of our exchange students was a Christian and she still wanted to be his friend; Federico, who has been around for five years and always brings a bunch of friends; the way the grass/driveway project from last summer is holding up nicely; students like Yuyo who continue to grow and can always be counted on; intern Abril’s awesome energy and positive attitude; and much more. But I have to say that my favorite moment on Tuesday night was the excitement of Ireri (second-year student) over being invited to be a part of our leadership group. She said “This is what I’ve been waiting a year for!” and that she considers it an honor – which is exactly how we want them to feel about that!

En Vivo #2, coming up soon. Topic: “Holy Ground”. Thanks in advance for the prayers!

Oh and I’ll end with a few quotes related to the talk that you guys might enjoy:

“Loving God and loving one’s neighbor are really the same thing.” – Brother Lawrence

“All we really need to survive is one person who truly loves us.” – Penny to Desmond at the end of Season Two of LOST (and we all have this, thanks to Jesus!)

“You only have to have two loves in your life – for God, and for the person in front of you at any particular time.” – pastor Eloy Cruz


  1. Nate! Can't wait for more of these - LOVE the recaps. My heart leapt up at the X-axis and Y-axis making an appearance. I think God hearts math. I know He hearts En Vivo. Mikey and I do, too! Can't wait for news of Baby Girl!

  2. You must be a GT grad to think that Math activities work. Let me tell you as a math major turned pastor, I have a 100% failure rate with math related games, jokes or illustrations.

    But that doesn't mean I stop trying.

    What did the calc student say to the other calc student on the way to party the night before a big test?

    Don't Drink and Derive.

    Seriously though,
    Sounds like a great night. If you want ideas for other unsuccessful math activities and illustrations for non-math people in a Christian context I have tons. They are all field tested and have demonstrated their ability to confuse the audience and fail to make their point. :)

    Love ya man.


    Ps. Just to be clear, I keep trying. I used the difference between the mean and the median in a sermon last year. Three people out of 3000 understood. In fact I have a math joke I am considering for my next sermon.

    Pps. I will say though that math illustrations are better than Dungeons and Dragons illustrations. I preached a powerful sermon on grace about how Satan was lawful evil and Jesus was chaotic good and no one - I mean no one - understood except my brother who listened to a recording of the sermon later and loved it.