Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

I had the unique experience this past Sunday of being the pastor of a small church’s Children’s Christmas Pageant. We celebrated the birth of Christ and the worship of the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men of Emmanuel (God With Us).

Christmas has become a time of celebrations and parties. Recently I had some time to “kill” and I went out an average mall in our area of the country. The place was packed and there were people everywhere. The one thing I noticed was that no one seemed to be in a celebratory mood. Worrying over how they were going to pay for their Christmas gifts and concern for their jobs or losing their houses.

I spoke with one lady who’s husband had has hours cut back and was worried about what she was going to get her twin teenage daughters. They wanted the new touch screen ipods even though they owned ipods. Mom was perturbed because they wanted the latest and greatest.

We all fall into this trap of wanting more and more of the same tings we already have. We have been inundated with a culture of materialism. We are not satisfied unless we have a more. I am reminded of the answer J. Paul Getty gave when asked when would he have enough money. He said “When I have just a little more.”

Materialism is like that. We are never happy until we get just a little more! Only to find that we still need just a little more after that and a little more after that… and on and on it goes.

The creator of the universe when he came the first time came in a borrowed stable and had a borrowed manger for a cradle. When He died he was laid in a borrowed tomb. He asks us to follow him and be willing to give up anything that hinders us from doing so.

I wonder, could I give up everything to be obedient in following Him? Would I at least be willing to be willing? And how would I feel if I couldn’t get the latest ipod that I needed to gain “true” happiness?

This year as we celebrate Christmas, let’s not forget who’s birthday we are celebrating and remember to give Him the gift of our life to the one to whom we owe everything!

Jesus incarnated into this world to show us how to gain back a relationship with our Creator. When He left this world we became His horizontal incarnated body (think Church) to show this world what a relationship with the Creator looked like.

How’s that incarnation coming?

Merry Christmas

Pastor Val

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Fear Not

The angel appeared to her and said “Do not be afraid!”

Really? Are you kidding me?!!!

Don’t be afraid!? God sends a messenger to give you a special message; a life changing message and his first words are “Fear not!”

I have to tell you, I personally would be anything but fearless in that situation. Speechless, perhaps; moist, most likely; full of wonder, probably; awestruck, definitely, but certainly not fearless.

Yet this is the announcement that comes with almost every message from God. Some people with way too much time on their hands actually counted and found 365 messages from God recorded in the Bible that include a similar phrase in God’s communication with humankind.

Obviously God understands that encounters with His messengers can be a fearful thing. But during this Advent season we anticipate the coming of Christ and we are reminded that when He comes as followers of Christ we have nothing to fear. We are to await, to anticipate and prepare to celebrate His return.

What do you fear today?

Is it the loss of a job, the death of a loved one, the sale of your house, the loneliness of this season, the fear of the future?

Even in this time of economic uncertainty, and financial downturn when the future is so uncertain for many of us, God wants to speak peace into our lives.

Regardless of what you fear, God tells us not to fear but rather to trust in Him. Yeah I know it’s so much easier said then done. “Fear not for I will be with thee, Your rod and staff comfort me. In the presence of my enemy You prepare a feast for me. You promise to never leave me nor forsake me.”

Often His plans don’t coincide with ours. His plans are far different then ours, but they always lead to peace even when the storms are raging.

In the interlude between the two comings of Christ are we willing to allow for Him to break into our lives and to interrupt our plans with His plan? Are we representing His kingdom faithfully? Are we working to do His will by being His horizontal incarnation here in this world?

As we prepare to celebrate God’s silent invasion some two thousand years ago, let’s remember that as Christ Followers we have nothing to fear for His has over come the grave, death and hell. We should be longing for the hope of His return and the final re-creation of this world back God’s original intent and plan.

Until then, Fear Not

Pastor Val

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Who Stole My Church?

Recently an entire Russian Orthodox Church was stolen brick by brick. I first saw the article on line. You can check it out at Apparently the village people (no not the iconic singing group) stole the entire church gilded icons and all. Apparently in rural Russia people often steal building materials to help finance their alcohol and drug additions.

This thought of being able to steal an entire church got me thinking. I wonder how often we steal God’s church here in America. We take what isn’t ours and use it for our own causes. God says to care for the widows and the fatherless and we are more interested in profit. God’s plan if for the recreation of a fallen world and we choose to advance a political agenda (whatever side of the political spectrum you’re on). God says that the meek will inherit the earth and we would rather abuse the earth.

We foist our own schedule not only on our own congregations but often we attempt to do the same thing to God. As thought we could! We exist to glorify God not ourselves. We exist to serve God and His greater good, His greater plan, His greater Kingdom.

We have the opportunity to live for something much bigger then you or I could ever imagine and yet as C. S. Lewis said we often settle for mud pies in our backyard when we’ve been offers a holiday at the beach

So stop stealing His church and using it for your own purposes and your own kingdom! And start doing what you were designed to do “glorify God by enjoying Him forever!”

Enjoying Father

Pastor Val

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Plea

Upon occasion I run across something that needs repeating. A friend of mine Kent Straith recently wrote an open letter entitled "A Plea." I was moved by his comments and thought that all of us would benefit from his thoughts. So with his permission, I have copied his passionate plea for your consideration.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 10:00 pm
As I type this, it has become clear over the last hour that Senator Barack Obama has been elected the 44th President of the United States. Minutes after the polls close on the west coast, there'll be an official call, and later on tonight, there’ll be an acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago, and a concession speech at a hotel in Phoenix. What’s on my mind, though, is tomorrow. And the next day, and the day after that. And the appeal I’m about to make is not to everybody on my list…rather, you’re only getting this if I know you to publicly call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ.

After some early promise, this has turned out to be an unpleasant campaign. A wrenching, divisive, long ordeal that makes me wonder what could possibly be on the news now that it’s over. My hope is this: Now that this longest campaign in history exists now only in our history, I hope that followers of Christ…His Church…can come together in a spirit of inclusion and acceptance and humility and be a force for reconciliation in this country. Mark Twain famously said, “a lie can get halfway ‘round the world while the truth is getting its shoes on.” Admittedly, my heart broke a little bit for Christians every time I saw a video posted on Facebook which called Barack Obama a Muslim or a Marxist or questioned if he was an American citizen or compared him to Osama Bin Laden, but there was a contest going on, and politics in this country has become war, and war is hell. But the battle is over, and there is an unarguable winner, and I just pray that we don’t see any more of these videos or see any more of these e-mails. I hope I never see a bumper sticker like the ones which so shamefully declared that President Bush was “Not My President!” Not from us. We have a higher calling.

The Bible promises us that God holds the heart of the king in His Hand, and what happened Tuesday has happened for a specific reason. For believers, we have a simple choice: We can either make our voices heard and hold the President’s feet to the fire on the issues we disagree with him on, and remain respectful and Christ-like in doing so…or we can engage in a whispery, shadowy, sniping, bitter smear campaign over the next several years. We can treat President Obama like we treated President Clinton, and how the other side treated President Bush…or we can follow the advice of Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said tonight, “tomorrow morning, we can all become Americans.”

Eleven weeks from today, the President-elect will stand on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, raise one hand, and place the other on a Bible (not a Qu’ran). He’ll take an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. The United States is a country that has existed in its present form for 220 years, and in those 220 years, been ruled by forty three men, soon to be forty four. Many of those men have been ideological opposites, and many have hated each other personally…but in all of those years, not a single bullet has ever been fired in those transitions of government. This is, indeed, the most magnificent country in history. It’s a country that runs IN to melting skyscrapers. It’s a country that gives to the needy in numbers that leave the rest of the world speechless. We can take this opportunity to raise the level of debate in this country…a country that God we worship clearly has His Hand on. Tomorrow, let’s be better than the campaign we’ve just witnessed. Wednesday morning, and in the days and weeks and months to come, let’s try to make Him proud of us.

Kent Straith

Thanks Kent for sharing your thoughts.

At the end of the day we are not only Americans, more importantly we are Kingdom Citizens who are called to advance our King's agenda and not a particular political party.

Horizontally representing Christ to the nation

Pastor Val

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Musings from a liberal conservative, democrat, republican, libertarian, independent, green party Christian.

Today is Election Day here in the USA and regardless of what political party you belong to I hope you voted your conscience.

Regardless of who wins the presidential election probably about half of our country will be disappointed. Some will be downright mad, especially Christians on one side or the other.

You see for the past generation or two something strange has been happening to Christians here in the US we have bought into the concept that we can legislate morality or better yet God’s will by the voting box.

If you are a conservative evangelical Christian there are two issues that become your litmus test for who you will vote for in an election.
Gay Rights
Right to Life (Abortion)
These two issues are the rallying cry that every good evangelical stands firm on. We prove our commitment to God by our commitment to the conservative agenda on these two issues. And you know what, they are serious issues that the Bible does address.

If you are a liberal main line Christian or one of the few evangelical who are of the liberal persuasion then you also have two main issues that become your litmus tests for who you will support with your vote.
The Poor
The Environment
These two issues are the major rallying points for your social agenda. And you too prove your commitment to the cause by your devotion to these issues. And again the Bible does speak to both of these issues, too.

Interestingly enough the Bible speaks to all four of these issues and many more. So why is it that the two parties have chosen these as their hot buttons? Why do we have to choose which camp we are in and why do reject out of hand the other issues?

Who gave us the right to decide which issues are more important to God then the others? As I have been studying the Bible I see a God who commands us to be good stewards of His creation. Who calls us to help the poor. Who loves life and commands us not to sacrifice our children on the altar of our own self interest. Who commands us to love the sinner (regardless of the category that we place the sin in) but to hate the sin.

Isn’t it interesting that when God lists sins He includes the sin of lying (slander), idolaters, thieves, greedy and homosexuality together as all sins that God detests? (I Corinthians 6:9-11)

Why do we pick and choose what our personal agenda will be? Why is it that we become partisans to a political cause to the exclusion of those who disagree with us politically but are still our spiritual brothers?

The only answer I can come up with is that we are still embedded with the sin nature. We are not yet what our God calls us to be and because of this defect in us we are prone to sinning against Gods command to show our love for God by our love for each other.

I was reminded of the 12 disciples that Jesus chose to represent Him as His Apostles. When we read the gospel accounts we learn a lot about these men. We learn many of their occupations and we even learn about two of these men who were from different political worlds. Matthew was a part of the establishment and was partner with the Roman government and would be considered on one extreme of the political party line. His contemporary and political opponent was a guy named Simon (not Simon also known as Peter). Simon carried a descriptive name to distinguish him from the better known leader of the disciples. This Simon is always identified as a zealot. Zealots were on the other extreme of the political spectrum from tax collectors and collaborators, like Matthew.

Isn’t interesting that Jesus choose men on both extremes? Isn’t even more interesting that both of these men chose to give up their respective political positions to take on an even greater position as representatives of the Kingdom of God?

While I’m concerned for who will be running the government here in the United States for the next four years, I’m more concerned about advancing the Kingdom of God and seeing His shalom spread throughout a world that knows no peace that knows only conflict, wars and hunger both physically and spiritually.

Let’s live beyond our means, using God’s means. And let’s show to the world what Kingdom living is all about.

Won’t you join me as together we seek to live as citizens of the kingdom that is now and not yet.

Pastor Val

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Two-by-Four Effect

How does one determine God’s will in a matter as compared to simply following our own path?

I’m reminded of Balaam and his ass (to use a KJV expression). (You can read about this account in the Bible in the book Numbers chapters 22-24) Balaam is a prophet hired by an enemy of Israel to curse Israel so that they could be defeated in battle. Balaam first resists but he is eventually convinced to curse Israel. On his way to the cursing his donkey stops on the path three times each time the donkey sees what Balaam is incapable of seeing, the Angel of the LORD with a drawn sword blocking the way. After enduring three beating for Balaam the donkey is miraculously enabled to speak and basically chastises Balaam for being so blind as to miss the Angel of the LORD standing in front of him.

It was one of those “DUH” moments in the Greek it’s called an ‘agogic” moment when we slap ourselves on the head and say something like “How could I have been so blind?”

I had one such moment recently. As you know, I became the pastor of Grace Community several months ago. Even before coming here I had a list of “goals” I wanted to see accomplished here at Grace. One of those goals was the creation of a prayer team to pray for the worship services and any specific prayer requests while the services were going on. In my mind this was an important goal but was a ways down the list of my priorities.

A new friend of mine who recently joined our grace community had been telling me about such a ministry he had been involved with at a former church and he was excited to share this with me and encouraged me to think about starting one immediately. I thanked him and assured him that it was on my list and I hoped to get around to it soon. (After I dealt with some other goals I felt were more important – at least in my own mind)

A couple of days ago we met again and over lunch he again brought up the prayer time and this time I was a little more receptive. I told my friend that I would be bringing it to the elders that evening at our elders meeting. My friend sent me some information that he had used when he developed this ministry at his previous church and that afternoon I made copies for the elders and stuck it in my folder for the meeting.

Our elder meeting run based on an agenda and the pastor gets an early slot for anything he deems necessary to share. I shared some things but decided to wait on the prayer meeting idea until later in the meeting depending on how time went.

The next item on the agenda was a discussion of how our latest series was going and if we needed anything to help bolster the series. One of my elders said that he had been praying this past week and the Lord had impressed on him the necessity of more prayer for our Sunday messages and he felt compelled to start some kind of prayer service for the messages!

Some people believe in chance encounters when it comes to spiritual things. I’ve come to believe that with God there are no chance encounters but God encounters.

I threw my hands up and said “OK God we’ll do it on your time table and not mine!” I told the elders about my meeting with my friend and showed them the material I had brought to the meeting.

We have not yet officially established the prayer time but we are off and running and in the process of creating it.

Sometimes God gives you an elbow nudge, sometimes a shove and sometime he brings out the 2 X 4 and smacks you upside the head to get our attention.

Here’s hoping that you learn to recognize the nudges of God

No one likes the 2 X 4!

Pastor Val

Saturday, October 18, 2008

I'm Sorry

Recently I guest lectured at a men’s nondenominational Bible study and the passage I was asked to deal with contained three doctrinal hand grenades. Each was potentially incendiary depending on one’s particular faith tradition. I thought I had managed to negotiate the mine fields rather successfully speaking truthfully about the various views and stating them accurately and then giving just a short explanation about why I felt that one view was most likely correct.

I was dealing with the last issue regarding Jesus and the possibility of siblings. I came to the end of the issue and stated that being a man I could not believe that Joseph would live his life married to Mary and continue to be celibate. I mentioned that while I had accepted the invitation to speak that my wife had come in to visit me and that I was anxious for the meeting to end because I was looking forward to spending the rest of the evening with her.

I heard a week later from the facilitator of the group that the following week about 10% of the men were offended that I had told them that I was anxious to get back to my wife so I could “be with” her (as an aside, I wonder who they think I should “be with” if not my wife)

The entire lecture was negated in the mind of these men because of a comment attempting to explain that the natural course of a marital relationship included something that God had hard wired into every man’s DNA including Joseph.

I asked the facilitator if he had suggested to the men if they should speak to me about the situation which would be the correct way of handling the “offense” but to date none of the men have seen fit to do so.

So I have decided to blog my apology for the world to know.

I’m sorry for offending you and hope that you will forgive me! My intention was righteous if perhaps inappropriate.

Wow that felt good

Maybe I should get some more things I sorry for off my chest, too.

I’m sorry that I had to follow Matthew 5’s teaching to go to the men I offended so that I could worship on Sunday.

I’m sorry that these men have yet to be obedient to Matthew 18 in coming to me to discuss the situation.

I’m sorry that my house has not yet sold and I only get to see my wife every few weeks.

I’m sorry that in an attempt at being authentic you were uncomfortable

I’m sorry that I can’t live as a celibate!

I’m sorry that in an attempt to be transparent it was discovered that the pastor “has no clothes!”

I’m sorry that because of my brokenness Jesus had to pay the penalty for my sin!

I’m sorry that I have not yet come to the level of maturity that I should be at after being on the journey of spiritual maturity for almost 50 years.

I’m sorry for being a sorry person!

But I’m thankful for a Savior who loved me enough to die in my place

I’m thankful for a relationship with a loving and caring God

I’m thankful for a God who gives second chances.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to grow and continue to mature.

I’m thankful that God didn’t wait until I sought Him but came after me when I was broken

I’m thankful for a congregation who puts up with a less then perfect pastor

I’m thankful for YOU reader, for taking the time to read this blog.

So, what are you thankful for?

Drop me a note. I’d love to hear some of the things you are thankful for, too.

A sorry excuse for a pastor (just ask my critics)

Pastor Val

Friday, October 3, 2008

My Kingdom Go

For years I had heard and often repeated the prayer “Thy Kingdom come” without ever giving much thought to what I was asking God to do. A couple of months ago I read the book IT: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It by Craig Groeschel. He quotes Alan Redpath who said “Before we can pray, ‘Lord Thy Kingdom come,’ we must be willing to pray ‘My Kingdom go.’”

Wow did that quote really strike home for me over the last few months. I moved to a small town where to pastor a church that was involved with a community of churches from many different tribes. Those of you who know my background I’m sure are surprised that I would be involved with churches from different tribes. But then those of you who have followed my evolution won’t be surprised by my change and acceptance of those who come from different traditions. Perhaps it can be blamed on my doctoral studies or my post-modern spiritual bent or maybe God has just been doing a work in my heart and it’s starting to show to the outside world.

Over the last few years I’ve come to realize that different does not mean heretical. While I know that there often legitimate differences theologically and doctrinally, I also know that God’s plan for us is unity even in our diversity.

17 Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and a house divided against itself will fall. Luke 11:17 (NIV)
Richard Baxter, Seventeenth-century Puritan minister once lamented “Is it not enough that all the world is against us, but we must also be against one another? O happy days of persecution, which drove us together in love, whom the sunshine of liberty and prosperity crumbles into dust by our contentions.”

As leaders we must be Kingdom minded and His, not our own personal kingdom. Kingdom minded people are more interested in the advancement of the Kingdom then our own personal agenda. Kingdom-minded people are generous and eager to partner with others in order to accomplish more for the Kingdom. It’s about Jesus – no other name under heaven is more important – not even yours! Or mine!

It’s all about Him (or at least it aught to be)!

Several weeks ago I was reviewing my message for the coming Sunday (yeah I try to plan ahead) and I was struck by the passage in Genesis on Abraham and how he lived open handedly and gave a tenth of his wealth to the King of Salem who was a gentile and also the high priest of El Elyon (God Most High). Abraham was the one God promised to father many nations and was the one through whom all of the world would be blessed and yet he practiced living open-handedly.

I was going to be teaching on this subject and I thought, “Won’t it be great if we could put actions with my words.” And sitting in my favorite Chinese Buffet it struck me exactly how we could practice living open handedly and promote unity of the Kingdom of God. We had a neighboring tribe (read church here) that was having a Miracle Sunday in two weeks. They were on their final push to raise funds for a new building. And I thought wouldn’t it be grand if a neighboring tribe we contributed to their building drive with a love gift expressing our unity amidst our diversity.

So after my elders gulped a few times they prayed about it and agreed that this was a God thing. I announced my hair-brained idea to our congregation. Their first though was what about our building fund. And I explained how God’s plan was for his servants to meet the needs of others and that God promised to meet our needs when the time was right.

We gave and I went across the street to deliver our love gift to our neighboring tribe and was very warmly received by the pastor who blown away that we would give to their needs.

Their big Miracle Sunday was a huge success for them and they far exceeded their goal for the day. The interesting thing was that the church sent over a delegation to our church during our morning service to thank our people for our love gift.

They were blown away our people were moved by God to practice what we were learning from Scriptures and healing between our two congregations was begun. God was honored and unity of the body was promoted in a tangible way.

Here are some of the lessons that I’ve learned from this experience

God wants to stretch our faith
God’s kingdom is a very big place.
God will bless us with more responsibility for being obedient
When we share Kingdom unity emerges
We are extending His Kingdom when we are obedient to His leading
We model true Kingdom stewardship
We need to encourage others to radical generosity
We really don’t know what the final outcome will be, because God is not done with us yet.

John Wesley once said: “Do all the good that you can. By all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”

Learning what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom

Pastor Val

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Bonehead Faith

When I was in my undergraduate program at Bob Jones University we had to pass a proficiency in English before we could graduate. If we failed the proficiency test we had to take a refresher course in English grammar. We unofficially referred to this course as “Bonehead English.” Well you guessed it failed the test and had to take the course. My big problem was two fold. I am not a great speller (I thank God for spell checker, if it would only verify what I was thinking as well as the letters that went on the page.) I also learned two ways of doing grammar. My senior year in high school I pulled an “A” in grammar but I had to learn another way to do grammar when I got to college thus setting up my dilemma when it came to commas.

Needless to say when it comes to grammar I often have no idea which punctuation mark to use or how often. I just guessed, hoping that my choice is close to being correct. Yeah, I know, I have an earned doctorate that required lots and lots of writing. I had some great help from my proof reader- I call her Becki, she’s my wife!

The other day I was sharing with a member of Grace Community about how I hate it when God decides that I need refresher courses in faith and patience. After I “coined” the phrase I made a mental note that the phrase might be worth mulling over.

The more I mulled the more I realized how this process was a lot like my refresher course in grammar. We are often in need of being reminded who we have placed our faith in and the fact that our faith is tested it is for the purpose of building patience into our lives. (See James chapter 1)

According to the writer of the book of Hebrews we are constantly in need of not only solid food but also liquid food (milk), the basic things of our belief system as well. We all from time to time need restoration of our earliest understanding of our faith.

So often we don’t mind gaining faith as long as we can get it right now. I’ve recently taken a new ministry in Smalltown USA. The pace here is a little slower and traffic is lighter. I’ve been learning to slow down and appreciate some things I often overlooked in my suburban lifestyle. And I’m realizing again that my ministry is to people not just preparing a Sunday message. I’m hoping to learn the lesson extremely well this time. It would be nice if a lot of time passed before I needed another refresher course in patience.

But Lord in the mean time could you bring a buyer for my house soon? My patience is starting to wear thin!

Dr. Bonehead - Val

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Full Of It!

Have you ever been to a church that had “it”? I can’t describe it. It is not the Holy Spirit, since all followers of God have the Spirit. But there is something indescribable about it when you find it. I’ve attended only one church that had it. When I walked through the door, I knew that they had it!

Like a former Supreme Court Justice said referring to pornography “I don’t know how to describe it but I know it when I see it!”

I’ve only been involved in two ministries that had it and both only had it for a little while. It appears that while it is capable of being “gotten” it is just as easy to lose it.

I’m reading a new book entitled “IT: How churches and leaders can get it and keep it.” Craig Groeschel, pastor of is the author. I hate to recommend this book because if you read it you will realize that this guy has it and sometimes I fear that I will never get it!

My prayer is that whatever it is that the church where I now serve gets it. Tonight I was walking the streets of the small town where I now reside and begged God that I would get it and be able to share it with our people.

Oh how I desire for our people to get it and that the folks that are starting to visit will experience it when they enter our door. How I fear that I might hinder people from getting it. I pray that I will be able to get out of the way of it and let it happen. Because once you have experienced it you never what to be without it.

God grant my prayer that we experience more of you and less of me in the services tomorrow. Let your people experience it in a new and refreshing way.

May we always crave more of it!

Pastor Val

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Lord Of The Dance

Well it's been a week since I moved into the Annex at Grace Community (while we wait for our house to sell) and I'm starting to get a routine. Routines are important. Have you ever noticed how routine and a disciplined spiritual walk are similar? The first few days I had to struggle with finding time for my personal time with God.

Oh it wasn't that I wasn't studying but the time that I needed for God to speak to me and the time I needed to be spiritually refreshed were simply not there because I was so busy with "more important things!" I'm sure that you know what I mean. After all we have all been there. But when I was able to reestablish my time with God I sensed a reconnection with Him and the eternal dance that He invited me to join with Him so many years ago.

This dance is one in which the God of Creation, Lord of Salvation and the Spirit of Comfort have been doing before time began and He has invited us to participate with Him in this joyous event already in progress. When we do, we join with all of our brothers and sisters, past, present and future in communing with Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.

This description of community, love and obedience is what the ancient Greek fathers of the 4th & 5th Centuries used to describe the Trinity and the ongoing relationship that God calls us into with Him.

I've been blessed to join with a new community of believers in Trenton IL and together we are learning to take our signals from our eternal danced partner. They have been gracious to not laugh too much as I've been learning their version of the dance. I hope that they will be blessed and challenged by a few new dance moves I've been teaching and will be teaching in the future.

Now I must warn you that as we learn some new moves there will be occasional bumps, falls and a few toes that will be accidentally stepped on. I hope you will make allowances for my clumsy attempt to dance.

I know that Father enjoys my efforts and occasionally I bring a smile to his face and a chuckle to His heart as I stumble and fumble a new dance step or even forget an old one He taught me years ago. So when you and I get down and mix up the cadence at times, just remember that we are all learning to dance together.

Dancing as fast as I can
In the service of the Lord of the Dance

Pastor Val

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Almost 30 years ago I first heard this reading in a patriotic musical and it stirred my heart back then. It still does today.

In the years since then, I’ve become more concerned about my other citizenship and the advancement of my King’s agenda. But every time the 4th of July rolls around I still swell with pride at what our forefathers were able to conceive and create.

Philadelphia! 1776! Fifty-six men met together and signed a new document. That parchment was to stand forever as a partnership between the living and the dead, and the yet unborn. We call it the DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

There is a price tag on liberty. You will recall the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence states: "We must mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, our sacred honor." The fifty-six signatures on the Declaration of Independence were kept secret for one half year because the gallant fifty-six who made that promise knew when they signed that they were risking EVERYTHING! If they won the fight, the best they could expect would be years of hardship in a struggling new nation. And if they lost ... they'd face a hangman's noose as traitors.
Now these were men of means, well educated. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants; nine were farmers and owners of large plantations. But they signed the pledge and they did indeed pay the price.

In the Pennsylvania state house, now called Independence Hall, the best men from each of our colonies sat down together. On June 11th, a committee was formed to draw up a Declaration of Independence. We were going to tell our British fatherland, "no more rule by redcoats."
Thomas Jefferson finished the draft of that declaration in seventeen days. Congress adopted it on July 4, 1776. That much is familiar history.

Now here is the documented fate of the heroic fifty-six who signed the Declaration of Independence:

Of the fifty-six, few were long to survive. Five were captured by the British and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes looted or destroyed by the enemy. Nine of the fifty-six died in the war from its hardships and its bullets. Wealthy planter and trader Carter Braxton of Virginia saw his ships swept from the sea in battle. To pay his debts he sold his home and all his properties. He died in rags.

Thomas McKean of Delaware was so harassed by the enemy that he was forced to move his family five times in five months. He served in Congress without pay, his family in poverty and hiding.

Thomas Nelson Jr. raised two million dollars on his own signature to provision our allies, the French Fleet. After the war he wiped out his entire estate paying back the loans. He was never reimbursed by the government. He died bankrupt and was buried in an unmarked grave. Thomas Nelson Jr. pledged his life, his fortune, his sacred honor.

John Hart was driven from his dying wife's bedside. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves and returned home after the war to find his wife dead, his children gone and his property worthless. He died a few weeks later of exhaustion and a broken heart.

John Hancock, one of the wealthiest men in New England, stood outside Boston one terrible night of the war and said, "Burn, Boston, burn! Though it makes John Hancock a beggar, burn!" He too lived up to the pledge.

I don't know what impression you had of the men who met that hot summer night in Philadelphia, but I think it's important that we remember this about them: They were not poor men or wild-eyed pirates. They were basically rich men who enjoyed ease and luxury in their personal living. They were not hungry men - they were wealthy and prosperous. But they considered LIBERTY so much more important than security that they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They fulfilled the pledge ... they paid the price ... and freedom was born!

Adapted from WHAT PRICE FREEDOM by Derric Johnson

I hope that after reading this adaption from this musical you will ask yourself: “How much am I willing to give to keep our country free?”

Finally, let remember to thank God for the men and women who have voluntarily stepped up to the task of serving in our country’s armed services.

Happy 4th of July!!!

Dr. Val

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


I found this article on a website recently. It was reported that at the Enterprise 2.0 conference Don Burke and Sean Dennehey from the CIA gave a talk on Intellipedia, the CIA’s internal wikipedia. As part of their talk, they cited a manual, including, I’m told, this from page 28:

(1) Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.

(2) Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of per­sonal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.

(3) When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and considera­tion.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible — never less than five.

(4) Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.

(5) Haggle over precise wordings of com­munications, minutes, resolutions.

(6) Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.

(7) Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow-conferees to be “reason­able” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.

(8) Be worried about the propriety of any decision — raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

Their point was that these instructions come from a 1944 manual on how to sabotage a business.

Another blogger saw this same article and commented that these same eight points could also be used to sabotage a church from the inside out.

I got to thinking about my 25 years of ministry experience and realized that he was right. I’ve dealt with leaders who couldn’t lead people out of a paper bag. They would refer every decision to a committee. I’ve experienced windbags who loved to hear themselves pontificate. Every time they opened their mouths you knew that they had a speech to make and often an ax to grind, often bringing up irrelevant issues causing the committee to spend the meeting rabbit trailing for much of the meeting.

I remember one church where decisions were never settled (even after a vote) unless certain people got their way. If they didn’t, you could count on the issue being brought up again and again until they finally got their way.

At a recent ministry hours and hours were spent working on wording for memos and memorandums in an attempt to “get it just right!” Some people advocated reasonableness over a willingness to seek God’s way and to step into the way of the numinous where human reason is often set aside in favor of doing things God’s way that seems foolish and unreasonable to man.

The final group of leaders I call handwringers. These people are always worried about the appropriateness and “rightness” of their decision. This constant worry causes these leaders to stall every decision until they were sure that everyone was on board. A church could die waiting for their leaders to lead.

Is this sabotage due to human frailty, or human intrigue? Is it possible that there are spiritual dimensions in the sabotage of our churches?

The answer to all of these questions is – yes!

Leaders, we need to lead our flocks and follow our Leader

Dr. Val

Monday, June 16, 2008

Happy Father's Day

Yesterday was a special Father’s Day for me. I celebrated the day in Jacksonville FL with my dad and my entire family. June 15th 2008 was a unique day for me. First it was Father’s Day, as I mentioned, it was my youngest daughter’s 24th Birthday (Sorry honey, I probably shouldn’t of mentioned that part), and yesterday I was officially hooded at my doctoral commencement. And that’s why the whole gang was in Florida at the beach this weekend.

I am thankful for a Godly dad. One who loves the lord and wants to see his son excel in the ministry to which I’ve been called. I’m thankful for my family, a wife who has put up with a lot of years of schooling and proof-reading thousands of pages of my writing, and two daughters who (admittedly drive me crazy sometimes but also make me proud of where they are going in life.

And I’m thankful for God granting me the grace and strength to finish my schooling. What a great way to celebrate with a graduation, fellowship and participating in a Eucharistic meal with my family, knowing that all of them have made professions of faith in our Lord.

I know how difficult it is for many people today to feel comfortable celebrating Father’s Day because they have never had a human father who they could look up to or love them, someone who could help them catch a glimpse of what our heavenly Father is like and how much he loves and cares for us and is there for us regardless of how often we blow it, chafe under His correction or reject His loving embrace.

This is one of the difficult challenges that our Christian community faces when we attempt to speak to this generation about a father who loves them. Many of them have had absentee fathers all of their lives. Many have never experienced a father who loves them or cares for them.

We need to express a love for those who have never had a human father love them. We need to love them into the Kingdom. This means that even when they are unlovely we still need to love them. (I know it’s harder to do than say)

God grant us the grace to love the lovely and the unlovely, to be Father’s representative to a lost world who need to experience God the Father’s love.


Dr. Val

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Honoring Our Fallen

This weekend as a country, the United States of America, has set aside a time where we remember those who have fallen in the defense of our country. Unfortunately instead as a country have made it a holiday where we are more interested in celebrating the unofficial beginning of summer. Where we concentrate on grilling, opening our pools, taking our motor homes out to the lake, and getting our boats in the water.

I want to take a minute to thank those families both past and present who gave us their sons and daughters to serve in our armed forces and especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their lives in defending our country.

Thank you for the ultimate gift!

One of my best friends is a chaplain in a VA home in Illinois. He is charged with the spiritual welfare of those men and women who faithfully served our country and who are now in need of physical care. We are a country who takes care of our wounded, sometimes not as well as we could, but usually better then the church does.

I read with interest this week the response that a church gave to the arrest of one of their ministers. This church is considered a mega church with over 40 ministers on staff and one of them attempted to arrange a “date” with a n underage girl on line. When he showed up for his assignation he discovered that the girl was in fact a police officer.

He was arrested and the church promptly fired him (as they should have) All of the interviews that the church gave out would have been considered politically correct. Concern for the flock, concern for the community reaction and condemnation of the fallen minister.

What I did not hear was concern for the fallen minister and any concern for his restoration.

Galatians 6:1
Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

Now in all fairness neither you nor I know what is going on behind closed doors. So the church should be given the benefit of the doubt. But it would not surprise me if this man were simply cut loose and condemned to Protestant purgatory for his failings. I don’t know if he could or ever should be placed back into the ministry, but I’m sure that God has not abandoned him and neither should his congregation.

Christians have often been guilty of being the only army that shoots their wounded. This weekend as we “celebrate” Memorial Day, lets remember that we are to bind up the wounded and help to heal the broken hearted.

Pass me another hamburger,

Dr. Val

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Spring Cleanup

As many of you know I have spent the last month preparing my house to put it on the market. I have accepted a senior pastor position in Trenton IL about 30 miles east of St Louis. And I am getting ready to move in a couple of months.

The spring is a traditional time for us to catch up on neglected projects from the winter (and for some of us ignored projects from years and years of neglect).

For the last four weeks, I’ve built a new fence and gate on the north side of the house, helped my wife spread 6 cubic yards of mulch and re-stain the deck (she really did most of the work). I laid a new floor in the front foyer, kitchen, breakfast nook, back hallway, half bath, and laundry room. I’ve also had to install a new toilet and replace a number of valves and calk the main bathroom. I though I had fixed everything there was to fix in this home and had called to have a real estate agent out to view the house and put it on the market. Unfortunately, the agent was unable to make our appointment due to a family loss and we rescheduled.

The next day I was looking at my breakfast nook ceiling and noticed a wet spot on the ceiling. I can tell you that wet spots on the ceilings bode no good. I went upstairs to check the main bathroom and found that the valve on the toilet had gone bad. So this weekend instead relaxing and enjoying the fruits of my labors I was replacing the valve, calking some more places and repainting the nook’s ceiling.

I was not real happy about my “extra” labor but I realized that I had a tendency to treat my Christian life like my house. I worked really hard to get it in shape and then wanted to sit back and relax for the next 5, 10 or even 20 years and do nothing. In the mean time the house was quickly falling into disrepair. Instead I need to set aside some time to do maintenance on a regular basis. I also need to schedule regular maintenance in my Christian life as well. Checking the foundation, the outside and the inside and then repairing the problems that develops from daily wear-and-tear.

How about you? Have you done a walk around to see how your Christian life is doing? Are there things that you need to repair and refresh? How has your time with God been going? Are you spending time communing with Him? Do you need to reprioritize your schedule?

I think I’m about caught up on the neglected repairs, but now I need to concentrate on some daily maintenance. Maybe you need to rework your schedule, too.

Handyman Val

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Missing An Important Holiday

Have you ever forgotten an important event? I did one time. A number of years ago I remembered that my parents were celebrating they anniversary. I had planned to call them that day but forgot until the next day, it was cool conversation, to say the least.

As a follower of Christ, many Christians also forget every year to commemorate a very important date as well. In fact most evangelical Christians neglect one of the most important days of the year.

The birthday of the Church! Pentecost Sunday.

Perhaps in America we don’t celebrate it because it often interferes with a civil religious holiday – Mother’s Day. (This year specifically Mother’s Day and Pentecost are actually on the same day, May 11th, 2008.) Now I’m not saying that we should not honor our mothers, but isn’t interesting that as followers of Christ we choose to honor one and neglect the other. But it seems possible to do both if we tried really hard.

Perhaps we disregard our birthday because one or two specific tribes have chosen to rally their tribes around a name and the rest of the tribes are fearful to be associated with these tribes.

Perhaps we are just ignorant of our past and don’t remember the story of our birth. If you would like to check it out you can find the story recounted in the New Testament of the Bible in the book The Acts of the Apostles in chapter two.

The birth was a big event. There was wind, lots of noise and fire and people talking in all sorts of languages and people shouting and praying and becoming followers of Christ. What started with 120 people in a room on an upper floor of a house (although there were over 500 believers according to the author Paul in his book 1 Corinthians) soon became a movement with over 3000 pushing 4000 people. All of these people were born into the Church Family on a single day in a single place and time.

Perhaps the leadership of our churches just don’t care. I’ve talked with a few that don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I suggest to those of you in this camp try neglecting important family days in your house and see what happens. Try neglecting your spouse’s birthday or your anniversary or one of your kids’ birthdays and gage their reaction and then tell me that celebrating important dates and events aren’t important.

So this weekend while you are out with Mom at dinner -

- don’t forget to wish the Church a Happy Birthday!

(She’s not looking to bad for being almost 2000 years old!)


Dr. Val

Friday, May 2, 2008

It’s All The Same

I have been reading through the second book of the Bible, the book of Exodus. This is the story of the struggle for freedom and the journey of faith towards the land promised by God to the nation of Israel.

While there are many things this ancient book teaches us the one thing that has make an impact on in my thinking is the variety of topics that God covers with Moses when giving Moses the Law.

God states The Commandments (By the way if you haven’t read them in a while I suggest that you re-read them I was surprised by the depth of some of the commandments. We tend to shorten them up a bit and lose some of the details when we list them that way) and then God does the strangest thing. He goes from discussing Ten Commandments to discussing employer-employee relationships, personal property issues, relationships with neighbors and then back to our relationship with God Himself.

If I had been composing this list of laws I would have cataloged them and listed them by topic. (You know God, people, things, etc.) But it dawned on me that God had a reason why He listed the laws the way He did. He was pointing out that all of the issues addressed in the Law are all interrelated and connected to Him. It’s all about Him and not about us. There is no difference between the secular and the sacred. For God it’s all the same thing – Sacred!

So today just remember that everything that we do, think and feel are all related to how we are responding to God and His creation!

Dr Val

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

In God’s Waiting Room

As a pilgrim who is on his way home, I sometimes feel like an immigrant sitting in the waiting room. For a number of years I have known that God had a new direction for my life. Often I’ve been impatient for Him to reveal this new path to me. I’ve often told others that it’s like being in the waiting room in the doctor’s office. Waiting to be called into the examining room.

At first the waiting is OK and you flip through a few old magazines. But as time goes on you get tired of the old magazines and you’ve read through the kids’ books. The other patients seem to be coming and going but there you wait. Eventually your frustration gets the better of you and you go up to the window and check to make sure that your name is still on the list and that they haven’t bypassed you. You start hanging out at the admittance window asking about the delay. There are other sick and broken people who seem to be getting help but there you sit broken and feeling alone.

Ever been there?

I have been there with medical doctors and for the last couple of years with the Great Physician, too. It seems that I’ve hung around the waiting room hoping to get a chance to hear the prognosis for my heavenly doctor and not seeing the opportunity I’ve been given to observe the human condition all around me. I wonder how many times I’ve missed the opportunity to do triage in the waiting room while I waited my turn.

Perhaps I’ve missed some real blessings to be the horizontal incarnation of the Great Physician and Good Shepherd while I “waited” on His time and for His plan. Maybe I missed some great opportunities to serve. Recently I was in having some cloths altered at a men’s clothing shop and I had the opportunity to triage a store manager who asked about what I did and after she found out asked me to help her learn what truth is and where she could find it. I would have missed that opportunity if I had left God’s waiting room. A couple of week later I ran into her and found out she had purchased one of the books I had recommended and was reading it. She also asked me to suggest other books for her to read.

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. James 1:2-5 (NIV)

3 Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Romans 5:3 (NIV)

7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Psalms 37:7 (NIV)

These are all great verses; the problem is that we often have a hard time living what we know.
I’m still in God’s waiting room but I’ve moved up the list a bit. I know not only what God wants me to do, I also know where He wants me to serve. Now I’m just waiting for the God’s time.
So I’m now the official pastor-in-waiting for the Grace Community Baptist Church in Trenton IL. I’ll be starting my “official duties” August 1, 2008.

If I’ve learned anything from this past waiting period, it’s that I’m moving from the front of one queue to the back of the next one. God’s not done with me yet but I’m becoming closer to what he wants me to be.

How about you?

How’s your waiting game??

Dr. Val

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Most Popular Book In America

I am always amazed when the list of the most popular books is announced.

When it comes to literary pursuits in the United States most people agree on
at least one thing -- the most popular book is the Bible, according to a new
It came in first in a Harris Poll of nearly 2,513 adults but the
second choice in the survey was not as clear cut.
"While the Bible is number
one among each of the different demographic groups, there is a large difference
in the number two favorite book," Harris said in a statement announcing the

You can check out the entire article on line just go to

I guess Americans buy more Bibles then any other book and for that I’m thrilled as I’m sure that many of you are, too. I guess what disappoints me most is that while the Bible is the most popular book in America it seems to be the most ignored book in America.

Think of the 10 Commandments – now think of how many we break everyday.

Think of the two Greatest Commandments (Love God and Love Others) – now think of the last time you chose to demonstrate your love for God by loving others, after all loving others includes your neighbors (read enemies).

Think of the Great Commission – now think of the last time you helped to develop a disciple (read apprentice)

I could go on and on but I realize that each time I add to the list I realize that I’m as guilty as anyone else of failing to be the Christian I want to be. Paul talks about this in Romans when he tells us that he know s what is right and he knows what he wants to do, he just can’t seem to do it.

So while we continue to claim to love the Bible we just have a hard time applying what we know is right. And why not? After all none of us can do anything without God helping us. Why is it that so often we are willing to “allow God to save us” but we are unwilling to let him change us. We mistakenly think after we are “saved” the living of the Christian life is up to us!


It’s just like a sinner to assume that after the foundation is laid, it’s up to us to finish constructing the house ourselves.

Well I guess, we should be glad that Americans still know where to get the answers to life, even if we fail to read the Bible to learn the answers to life’s questions.

Why not take the 10-minute challenge with me? For the rest of this month let’s each read the Bible for 10 minutes each day. I suggest that we start with the Gospel of John in the New Testament. Let’s see what happens when we spend time reading God’s message to each of us!

Good reading!!!

Dr. Val

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Autistic Christianity

I recently read an article in the March/April Edition of the Discipleship Journal entitled “Overcoming Spiritual Autism.” It caused me to think about the two grandnephews that I have who have autism and how their condition points to the condition that many Christians find themselves in.

These young guys are wonderful and yet a challenge. They use language functionally only in areas where they have a high interest that motivates them to communicate. They have a hard time looking at you face to face and often look at you out of the corner of their eye. Often change, crowds, noise, and a lack of clear boundaries (at least in their minds) can send them into fits of frustration trying to process all of the data swarming around them. Routines help to make their worlds more manageable.

Since learning about autism and the many forms it takes I’ve noticed a correlation between my autistic nephews and my own relationship with God the Father. It seems that my Heavenly Father desires to have me look full in His wonderful face. Unfortunately, I spend most of my time glancing at Him from the corner of my eye.

In Autism, Aspergers, Steven Gutstein, autism researcher and clinical psychologist differentiate between two different forms of contact, static and fluid communication.

In fluid system most people create temporary lines of communications that flow like liquid. These lines of communication include not just words, but also inflection, non-verbal (like body language and facial expressions) as well as volume. Think of how we relate with friends when we shoot the breeze at a coffee house or while watching sports.

On the other hand, in static communication there are clear boundaries. These boundaries allow you to communicate in a comfortable way. Everyone knows the rules and no one is required to converse outside of a predictable manner. Once could say that the relationship is purely functional. This type of communication is most often seen when we get in a line to order at a fast food restaurant or get in a queue at the bank. There are limits to our involvement with the people in line or even the person at the counter. We don’t need to really communicate anything other than our specific request.

Often our relationship with our Heavenly Father can best be described as a static system: “clinging to routines, uncertainty about what God wanted or how he spoke, confusion and fits of frustration when a pattern changed and I didn’t get what I expected.” Our relationship with our Father is often out-come based where I stand in line waiting to communicate my requests and desires to the person at the counter, while desperately longing for a deeper relationship. I never delve deeper into establishing a true relationship. Our relationships can be defined as a series of choreographed routines, unable to communicate our deep longing to know and be known by another. Yet God has been calling me to break the static routine and enter into a fluid relationship, to be loved and to love in a face-to-face relationship with Him.

I need to cut through the static of the world around me so that I can hear the voice of Father. When I hear His still small voice I need to learn to respond to His voice. I need to grow in knowing Him not just knowing about Him.

Needing an authentic relationship with the God of this universe, I’m

Dr. Val

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Here’s Your Sign

Do you remember “playing post” office as a kid?

This is the game in which involved a group of kids who start off whispering a story to the person next to you and so on around the circle. At the end of the circle the last person would tell the group what they heard and the first person would tell everyone what was actually said. It’s always a stitch to see how the message morphed.

Unfortunately “post office” happens in real life much to often.

Usually it happens in “well-meaning” gossip. What happens is someone questions something that they heard, saw, or read and instead of going to the source and clarifying the situation they share it with another person and that person shares it with the next person and so on and so on. Ultimately we have a mountain that was simply a molehill and potentially a life or reputation is ruined.

Number of years ago a pastor friend of mine was doing research on the Internet searching for some resources on Christian body life. He was studying in his office and at his computer he typed in the phrase “the tie that binds” and hit search. What he found was a list of websites that were S&M sites. He was mortified and absolutely scared that someone would find out and accuse him of surfing the Internet for porn.

He told me the story in confidence some ten years ago and has since said it was OK to pass this story along.

The fear has long since died down but the humor has not passed.

We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies. 2 Thessalonians 3:11 (NIV)

A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends. Proverbs 16:28 (NLT)

Suspicion and lack of trust runs rampant in many churches and reputations can be ruined and ministries affected by the loose lips of well meaning people. We are all prone to doing foolish things that can take on a life of their own.

As Bill Ingval would say “Here’s Your Sign!”

Dr. Val

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Eight Days A Week

The Beatles had it right whet they sang this song. The ancient church father explored the eighth day of creation during the first 3 centuries of the church. You see God created for six days and rested on the seventh. But two thousand years ago He recreated a new creation and the New Adam when Jesus Christ rose on the first Easter Sunday the eighth day of the week.

Yeah I know there are only seven days in a week. But the creation of the cosmos and the new creation are not antagonistic to each other; we do not have to leave the physical world in order to participate in the new creation in Christ. The first day of the week and the eighth day, or second first functions much like an eight tone harmonic scale. The first note and the eighth note are the same note just an octave apart. They resonate in harmony just like the first and eighth days resonate with each other. The first is the foundation of the second first. Christ’s resurrection resonates with the truth of the first day of creation. This second creation is spiritual but will one day recreate this physical world into the creation that God originally intended it to be.

Time is a concept and a dimension that God created. As creator he observes outside of time and yet can enter time at His discretion. So when the time was just right God sent His Son to enter the world to redeem the world by recreating all things and making a way back to the Father.

In the symbolism of numbers (Numerology) the number “7” signified completion or Creation but 8, extends beyond 7, and is the number of redemption. This concept of redemption is referred to in the letter that Peter wrote to believers who were scattered throughout the Middle East due to the persecution that they experienced in Jerusalem. He says: “who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water,” 1 Peter 3:20 (NIV) and we see the ark as a picture of redemption just as the cross became the symbol of our redemption.

Father is the God of the second chance. With Christ’s resurrection we have the beginning of the New Creation, the New Covenant, and the New Adam. We have a new way back to Father, a way that allows us to relate to Him in a new way with a new courage to come into His presence.

We worship as a body of believers because Christ rose on the first day of the week. This established for us the importance of the first day of he week

The church’s first day and eighth day recalls not only the formation of the universe but also the inauguration of the reign of God in Christ in the resurrection. So for Christ followers one and eight are synonymous with the celebration of our Lord’s resurrection!

Thank God for eight days a week!

Have blessed Easter for He is risen indeed!

Dr. Val

Friday, March 21, 2008

God and the Gallows

I owe today’s posting to David Brickner from Jews For Jesus and his recent email about Purim (a Jewish holiday that celebrates the God’s providential rescue of the Jewish people because of Esther’s intercession with her husband the king of Persia) You can read all about the events that led to the establishment of the holiday and the actual holiday itself in the Book of Esther found in the ancient Jewish writings (What we now refer to as the Old Testament of the Bible).

This Friday we have the convergence of two important holidays Purim and Good Friday. Both of these events revolved around a gallows a place of death and punishment. There are a number of interesting parallels between each of these events.

Both events took place in the Middle East
Both events were preceded by a triumphal entry into a city.
Both events centered around a plot to kill an innocent man
Both events malignant leaders who co-opted weak rulers
Both gallows were constructed out of wood
Both gallows were designed to kill those were hung on them

There are some dissimilarities, too

Executing Mordechai was part of Hman’s plan to destroy God’s people
Executing Jesus was part of the devil’s plan to destroy God’s Son

Haman’s plot was thwarted by Queen Esther’s denouncement of his plan and
the subsequent hanging of not only Haman but also his sons on the gallows he had
built for Mordechai

The devil’s plot was thwarted not just by the death
of Jesus but also His subsequent resurrection

On Purim, God worked behind the scenes
On Good Friday, God brought salvation
to the entire world to all who would receive it and on Easter Sunday Christ
became the firstborn of the dead, the New Adam and the author of the New
Covenant in His blood.

I’m sure that there are more similarities and contrasts that could be drawn between these two events. What we can say for sure is that both days attest to the fact that God remains constant and He never changes. Whether His activities are hidden or open for all to see, God is a God who saves and can be trusted to save His children.

In the end God always wins and His justice and righteousness will have supremacy in this world when His Kingdom is fully established here on earth.

As we look to the past and how God has overcome evil with good, we can trust Him for the present and for the future, too.

Have a great Easter season

He is risen…

…He is risen indeed!

Dr. Val

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Empire Building

The “Preacher" tells us that there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9b) And yet we continue to think that what we have created is unique to our time, our culture, and us. This latest creation is the mega church and yet in the 1960’s-70’sI grew up in a mega church of 3000 in attendance before the term was even thought up. In fact the first church had between 8000 and 20,000 members within the first month of its existence. Over the last couple of years the concept of mega churches has taken another step in its development. But the satellite and main campus is not a new concept.

In church history the main campuses were know as either metropolitans or dioceses and the satellites were known as parishes. About a year ago I was in a meeting with a church that was considering merging with a mega church to become one of their satellites. A question from the floor asked the question: “What is the plan for the mega church? How big is big enough? And are you considering starting a new denomination?” The senior pastor laughed off the question and went on to the next question. This church seems to struggle being able to articulate a vision beyond adding to their property, or their attendance numbers.

I’ve had the opportunity of seeing this question answered by other mega churches and I applaud their willingness to share their vision. One such church has espoused the dream of 40 multiplying churches and 10 campuses reaching 250,000 churches by the year 2020. In reality they are expecting 80 churches (Each of the 40 churches planting 40 daughter churches who will also plant daughter churches). Now that’s a vision!

This church is well on their way of achieving their goal. They have planted almost 20 churches in the past 10 years and 3 satellite campuses. They have seen the birth of at least one granddaughter church and are developing a church plant is New York.

No hiding their vision, no keeping all of their resources for themselves. No worry about birthing a daughter church and fearing that God will fail to supply their needs at the mother church. They live open handedly, understanding that the financial resources that they have are in reality God’s. They realize that they are stewards of His wealth and resources.

Some churches are more concerned with their survival that they are willing to thwart or slow down the advancement of the Kingdom if it threatens their continued existence.

So what are some of the positives and negatives of mega churches?

Positive: Provide
Conferences created and shared with other churches in the area, region, nation, or even international
Programs that are better due to size
Resources shared with others
Encouragement of smaller church pastors and staff
Less duplication of facilities and staff
More money for ministry

Negative: Mirroring of American culture
Size - Bigger is Better
Monetary - Resources horded
Fame (or false humility) over true servanthood
Influencing of area churches
Siphoning of Expertise from smaller congregations
Drivenness to achieve rather than conformation to Kingdom living
Show over Substance of services and ministries.

Like most things that we humans put our hand to, the results of our efforts rise and fall on our integrity. What do you find in your position? How will you use it? For who will you use it? To further your desires or God’s Kingdom?

Learning to live open handedly,

Dr. Val

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Growth vs. Death

I’ve been talking with people from a couple of churches over the last month or two. During a number of conversations I’ve been asked repeatedly various forms of the same question. Boiled down to its simplest form the question is:

“Why do some churches grow and others die?”

I’ve tried to answer this question several different times but I think each time I’ve failed. I’ve talked about a consumer mentality and the pros and cons of developing a church around this modernity model. And this seems to be more confusing then helpful.

I have been thinking about how to answer this all-important question and I’ll take another swing at this I’ll try to answer this again.

Jesus Christ took on flesh and dwelt among us. Theologians call this the vertical incarnation of Jesus Christ. After He rose from the dead he told us that we were to be his representatives here on earth until His return. We are called the body of Christ, with Christ as the head. As the body of Christ here on earth until His return we are the horizontal incarnation of Christ. It has been said that we are the only Christ that some people will ever see on this world.

As such the reason that some churches grow is because they embody Christ here in this world. While the churches that are dying have forgotten how to be the body. Oh they are still going through the motions but their focus is inward and not outward.

What is the difference?

Inwardly focused people are usually busily fighting each. Quite often these believers are fighting and dying on a mound of nonessentials. (Think worship styles, dress codes, Bible versions, carpet color… you fill in the rest of the blanks)

Outwardly focused believers are willing to die on the mount of nonnegotiables. They are willing to be Christ to those who are the disenfranchised and the people who need the touch of Christ’s love.

Learning to be the Body of Christ,

Dr. Val

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Starbucks Venti Into Retraining

It seems that Starbucks baristas don't know how to make a decent latte any more. Far from its roots as the reliable place to get coffee perfectly made, the chain has lately become famous for its automatic machines and the hit-or-miss quality of its products. Checkout the links below for the full story.

You see nationwide for three hours on Tuesday, February 26 every Starbucks will close for retraining. Starting at 5:30 p.m., baristas in the coffee giant's 7,100 stores will learn how to do things better. They'll learn how to make a perfect shot, how to steam milk, and hopefully how not to burn coffee. While it's doubtful that three hours of training will reverse years of gathering mediocrity, it's certainly symbolic of a company that wants to get back to basics like quality coffee and superior service.

If retraining is important for companies (especially companies that focus on retail) how much more important is it for the church to retrain and refocus on the essentials, love God and love others.

Jesus practiced this technique of training, sending, regrouping for further Kingdom work. Take a look at Luke 9:1-11. He sends out the twelve and when they return Jesus takes them away for m ministry for debriefing and further training. Their time of retraining only lasted for a short time. Just like Starbucks’ customers, the crowds couldn’t handle Jesus and his disciples being unavailable and they followed Jesus and company out into the country. This set up one of Jesus more dramatic miracles, the feeding of 5000 (men). This event continued the twelve’s additional training as they learned that Jesus was provider as well as healer.

I know that the disciples could not have been all that happy having to go back to serving the masses, especially since that had just experienced the power of God in their ministry. They had preached, taught and performed miracles themselves and I’m sure wanted to swap war stories and talk about their past experiences. Instead they were asked to put the past into focus and get busy with the present ministry needs. Jesus forced them to be outwardly focused when they were still busy celebrating the past. I’ve known churches that still revel in telling the war stories of bygone days and then wonder why no new ministry is taking place.

Sometimes we are so inwardly focused that we forget our reason for being here in earth is to go and make disciples. Often God calls us to Go where we are, other times God calls us to leave and go. Regardless, this is not a one-time event but rather a lifetime of experiences. Matthew 28:19-20.

Going where I am,

Dr. Val

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Institutionalism vs. Organizationalism

Previously I addressed the difference between an organism vs. organization. Today I’d like to share a few thoughts about organizations when compared to institutions.

Organization (def.) - an administrative and functional structure, characterized by complete conformity to the standards and requirements of an organization.

Institution (def.) a place for the care or confinement of inmates. A well-established and structured pattern of behavior or of relationships. Any established law or custom, a familiar, long-established person, thing, or practice, a fixture.

If I could distill these definitions down it would be rigid and more rigid. Recently I was considering the difference between endoskeletons and exoskeletons. Organisms that have endoskeletons are more flexible and capable of change. But organisms with exoskeletons are much more rigid. The former can be messy, giving, flexible and outward focused, while the later is ordered, ungiving, inflexible, fixed, and inward focused.

A community that is inwardly focused has developed entropy and will ultimately fail. While an outwardly focused community, while at times messy, is full of life and ultimately organic. The opposite of organic is inorganic, inert or just plain dead.

Our Lord did not die to establish a group of believers who would solidify into an institution with an exoskeleton with a hard shell for protection. A body of believers who were ungiving with their time, talents and treasures, nor inflexible in their attitudes toward a world who did not acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, nor a group of people who’s only focus was inward and what this church could do for them, personally.

No, rather Christ gave His life to develop a church that was messy but vibrant, giving and compassionate, and outwardly focused on advancing the Kingdom and loving others. A body with an endoskeleton is soft on the outside with just enough skeletal integrity to hold up the structure and allow it to function as it was designed. This type of structure allows others to get close and to establish relationships.

What a great God we served that he would choose to use broken people who are willing to morph into the people of God he wants us to be.

The entire body working together to fulfill Father’s purpose on earth.

Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,

Dr Val

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Too Mcuh Ifno

For those of you who know me, I figure that you think I did it again. I forgot to do a spell check on this article. But you would be wrong. Did you read the title to read “Too Muck If No” or “Too Much Info”? Chances are your mind fixed the “typos” and you breezed through to the body of the article. Now if you were like my wife, you would have struggled with the title.

We have a tendency to skim when we read. Do you question that statement? Well just read on: “Aoccdring to rseearch at an Elingsh uinervtisy, it deosn’t mttaer in what order the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoantnt tihng is that the frist and lsat ltteer is at the rghit pclae, The rset can be atoatl mses and you can still raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tish is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.”

I know the above was a bit much but it goes to prove the point that we tend to read the whole and not the part. I have grown to rely on spell checker and auto-correction programs in Word to get me through.

I have found that I often have the same non-attentive attitude when it comes to listening. I don’t listen word by word. Rather I anticipate the whole sentence and preempt the speaker. I’m sure that many of you do this with your spouses, family or good friends. It often works but sometimes we anticipate (guess) wrong. It can be quite embarrassing when that happens. We are so concerned about what we are going to say, or we get impatient with those who speak slowly that we skip ahead and try to beat them to the punch.

Sometimes I think we do the same thing with God. We jump ahead instead of slowing down to hear His Word. We try to dominate the conversation with God so that we end up with a monologue of our thoughts and hear nothing of His heart on the matter.

Yet the writer James in the book titled with his name tells us that we have two ears and only one mouth so we should be twice as likely to listen and a lot less likely to speak.

James 1:19 (NIV) 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,

Maybe we should all consider slowing down and taking our time to listen to each other and more importantly listen to what God wants to tell you. By doing things God’s way we will be a lot less likely to get angry and a whole lot more likely to be conformed to His Son’s image and way.

“Let him who has an ear, let him hear”,

Dr. Val

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Second Fiddle

A friend of mine – Dr. Jim Hart, president if IWS recently wrote that we need to be ". . . developing, teaching and modeling a more intentional leadership style in our community, one that is characterized by humble service without compromising biblical convictions." And, in our emphasis on forming leaders in worship renewal we need to explore the ". . . hard, sacrificial, sometimes surgically necessary kind of formation that is often painful and exhausting, but capable of bearing the weight of glory. And all accomplished by grace."

Leonard Bernstein was once asked, “What was the hardest instrument to play?” His answer: “Second Fiddle!”

The life of an associate minister is one of sacrificially giving up your rights, dreams and goals to support, and champion the dreams and goals of your senior pastor, all the time trusting God to meet your needs, wants and dreams.

A recent Willow Creek magazine has an interesting article about life in the second chair. It is a series of interviews with second in command and how they have learned to support the dreams and visions of others. Being a second banana has its benefits and its challenges. A major benefit is that you chose to hook your wagon to someone else’s bandwagon and thus someone else takes the hits. The challenge is that you are often asked to play someone else’s hit man.

I have played second fiddle for most of my ministry life. It is a unique position to be in. It has correctly been said, “one can accomplish almost anything, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” I have personally found it to be true. The most difficult situation is when you have a senior pastor who has no vision, or if he does, he is incapable of communicating it.

I’ve seen good ministries that have failed and almost closed their doors because the staff and the congregation were going in as many different ways as there were people.

If you read some of the different versions of the same verse Proverbs 29:18 you will get a glimpse of what happens when leaders fail to lead

Proverbs 29:18 (NIV)

18 Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18 (NASB77)
18 Where there is no vision, the people are unrestrained, But happy is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18 (MSG)
18 If people can't see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves; But when they attend to what he reveals, they are most blessed.

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV)
18 Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

The specific truth that we can grasp from reading this verse is that our people need a clear vision and goal if they are going to succeed. Without a game plan the game is lost and without clear vision of God’s leading people will do their own thing. They certainly won’t be attending to or happy about doing God’s will for their lives.

Judges 17:6 (NLT)

6 In those days Israel had no king, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.

To paraphrase the verse above
“In those days the church had no leadership, so the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.”

Pray for your leadership
Pray that they are listening to God’s voice and are sensitive to His leading
Pray that they will cast a vision that God has given them
And pray that you will be willing to listen and follow

Prayerfully submitted

Dr. Val

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Amazing Universe

I am always pleased when “Science” and the Word of God end up saying the same thing. It is always amusing when scientists end up sounding like Scripture.

Don’t you think?

In an article that went out over the AP wires that can be found on the web at

We read some of the latest discoveries that astronomers have made. I’ve excerpted the article below:

"It's an odd universe we live in," said Vanderbilt University astronomer Kelly Holley-Bockelmann.
"This is the glory of the universe," added J. Craig Wheeler, president of the astronomy association. "What is odd and what is normal is changing."
Just five years ago, astronomers were gazing at a few thousand galaxies where stars formed in a bizarre and violent manner. Now the number is in the millions, thanks to more powerful telescopes and supercomputers to crunch the crucial numbers streaming in from space, said Wheeler, a University of Texas astronomer.
Scientists are finding that not only are they improving their understanding of the basic questions of the universe—such as how did it all start and where is it all going—they also keep stumbling upon unexpected, hard-to-explain cosmic quirks and the potential, but comfortably distant, dangers.
Much of what they keep finding plays out like a stellar version of a violent Quentin Tarantino movie. The violence surrounds and approaches Earth, even though our planet is safe and "in a pretty quiet neighborhood," said Wheeler, author of the book "Cosmic Catastrophes."
In the past few days, scientists have unveiled plenty to ooh and aah over:
—Photos of "blue blobs" that astronomers figure are orphaned baby stars. They're called orphans because they were "born in the middle of nowhere" instead of within gas clouds, said Catholic University of America astronomer Duilia F. de Mello.
—A strange quadruplet of four hugging stars, which may eventually help astronomers understand better how stars form.
—A young star surrounded by dust, that may eventually become a planet. It's nicknamed "the moth," because the interaction of star and dust are shaped like one.
—A spiral galaxy with two pairs of arms spinning in opposite directions, like a double pinwheel. It defies what astronomers believe should happen. It is akin to one of those spinning-armed flamingo lawn ornaments, said astronomer Gene Byrd of the University of Alabama.
—The equivalent of post-menopausal stars giving unlikely birth to new planets. Most planets form soon after a sun, but astronomers found two older stars, one at least 400 million years old, with new planets.
"Intellectually and spiritually, if I can use that word with a lower case 's,' it's awe-inspiring," Wheeler said. "It's a great universe."

Sounds strangely like

Psalm 8:1-9 (NAS)
For the choir director; on the Gittith.
A Psalm of David.

O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth,
Who hast displayed Thy splendor above the heavens!
2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast established strength,
Because of Thine adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

3When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers,
The moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained;
4What is man, that Thou dost take thought of him?
And the son of man, that Thou dost care for him?
5Yet Thou hast made him a little lower than God,
And dost crown him with glory and majesty!
6Thou dost make him to rule over the works of Thy hands;
Thou hast put all things under his feet,
7All sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field,
8The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

9O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Thy name in all the earth!

Psalm 19:1-14
For the choir director.
A Psalm of David.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
2Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
3There is no speech, nor are there words;
Their voice is not heard.
4Their line has gone out through all the earth,
And their utterances to the end of the world.
In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
5Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
6Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
And its circuit to the other end of them;
And there is nothing hidden from its heat.

7The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
9The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
10They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
11Moreover, by them Thy servant is warned;
In keeping them there is great reward.
12Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
13Also keep back Thy servant from presumptuous sins;
Let them not rule over me;
Then I shall be blameless,
And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
14Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.

What else can we say?


Dr Val