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