Friday, December 24, 2010

Prince of Peace

Tonight we celebrate the birth of Jesus called the Christ. His birth was foretold by prophets of old and announced to shepherds on a hillside. Many were longing for the coming of this child and most missed his arrival. Yet he came as promised and he brought with him the promised peace that Isaiah spoke of in his prophecy.

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)

Peace is an amazing gift and one that is often misunderstood and perhaps under-appreciated in this day. We believe that it is the cessation of work or war or economic strife or personal turmoil. Yet with the coming of the Price of Peace we still have these things. Could it be that because his kingdom of now and not yet has not fully been established that we don’t have the peace we so desperately long for? Or is it that we don’t understand the full implications of the peace that Christ brought to us? I believe the answer is yes!

The full implementation of the peace of God will not fully be implemented until our King returns and his kingdom is fully established. But I also know that he has given us peace that we don’t understand and I hope today to help each of us understand it a little better.

When Jesus left after his resurrection he gave us peace 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 (NIV)

So what does this peace look like? The promise of God’s peace is wrapped up in our understanding the Hebrew word shalōm. This term has a wide range of connotations (well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, completeness wholeness, harmony, and salvation) and could apply to an equally wide range of contexts: the state of the individual (Ps 37:37; Prov 3:2; Is 32:17), the relationship of man to man (Gen 34:21; Josh 9:15) or nation to nation (e.g., absence of conflict—Deut 2:26; Josh 10:21; 1 Kings 5:12; Ps 122:6, 7), and the relationship of God and man (Ps 85:8; Jer 16:5). Additionally it is still used as an expression of greeting (peace and grace), farewell (peace be with you) and in church settings as a benediction (go in peace).

The nature of this gift of peace brought by Jesus may be easier to explain by stating what it is not. It is not an end to tension, an absence of warfare, domestic tranquility, nor anything like the worldly estimation of peace (Luke 12:51–53; John 14:27; 16:32, 33; although with the full implementation of the Kingdom all of these will be true). Currently its presence may, on the contrary, actually disturb existing relations, being a dividing “sword” in familial relations (Matt 10:34–37). Jesus’ gift of peace is, in reality, the character and mood of the new covenant of his blood which reconciles God to man (Rom 5:1; Col 1:20) and forms the basis of subsequent reconciliation between men under Christ (Eph 2:14–22).

Peace is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22), which is the goal of the Christian’s dealings with others (Rom 12:18; 14:19; Heb 12:14, etc.), and marks our identity as a “child of God” (Matt 5:9).

This is the greater peace our King came to bring us and this is the peace that is available to all who are willing to accept this gift from God.

Merry Christmas

May you know the true peace of God this Christmas Season!

Pastor Val

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Private Personal Sermon

This past week I prepared a sermon twice that ultimately I gave it to myself. I hadn’t planned it that way but that was what God intended it.

You need a little background before I share the story and what I learned from the message. I am currently between official ministries but I teach a house church via the internet each week. Since there are so few of us there are times that the group chooses not to meet due to a family or two being unavailable. I had been looking forward to this message because it was my Christmas story. For the past few years I have been telling the story of Christmas from various characters’ point of view, you know Joseph, Mary, etc. This year I was focusing on the shepherds.

Now back to the story. I had prepared this message and was fairly happy with the direction the message had taken. I had saved the message on one of my computers but had failed to send it to the other one or back it up on my external drive. (Don’t get ahead of the story. Let it play itself out.)

When I prepare a message I make several files: research, sermon, sermon notes, and sermon notes with blanks. All of these file have similar names but the last words are different. Saturday I had been doing some electrical work and had to turn off the power and in the process I accidentally shut off the power to my computer. Now that wasn’t the problem because when I fired up the computer and opened Word I had all of my open files waiting for me as recovered files. I made the mistake of saving them “just to be safe” and in the process of saving these files the program suggests the first line as the file name. Now we come to the fun part! The file that contained my sermon notes was saved as my sermon file due to the first line being the sermon title.

So there I was Saturday night at 11:30 PM realizing that I had lost my sermon but I had several copies of the sermon notes that my congregation would be using in the morning! Fortunately I had done all of the study and had all of my research still available. About 1:00 AM I finally finished my rewriting of my message and crawled into bed.

Sunday morning I got a call from the folks at the church letting me know that a number of folks were not going to be able to make it for the Sunday service so we decided to cancel the service.

Now another man might have been angry and another man might have been sad but I believe that God was telling me that the message was for me. After all I had not only studied the passage extensively but I had also written the sermon…twice! Apparently the message was meant for me!!!

So what did I learn from the message?

The most significant point for me was that the Price of Peace is my sovereign and in the service of my King I could find my well-being, security and completeness in Him!

Look for my next post to expand on Jesus as our Price of Peace

Merry Christmas

Pastor Val

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Holiday Diet

This is the season that my wife makes soups and stews every week. And I love soup! I like all kinds of soup but I especially like hearty soups. Given the opportunity I will eat soup until I am so full that I am uncomfortable. It’s rare that I ever say “Oh that’s enough, I’m satisfied I couldn’t east another spoonful!” Even that happens I always wish I could eat more! I’m rarely stated when it comes to soup! And don’t get me started about Thanksgiving and Christmas Feasts!

I wish I could say the same thing about God. I would love to sit here and tell you that my appetite for God is rarely sated, that I desire another helping and another until I am so full of God that I’m uncomfortable and have to share Him with those around me.

Truthfully, I have to admit that there are times I am more than satisfied with as small of a portion of God as I can get away with.

I don’t want to be a glutton when it comes to God or his things or his will. You see I’m on a God diet. I don’t want to become a heavyweight when it comes to spiritual matters. I practice portion control! Unlike John (known as the Baptiser) my prayer is not more of Jesus and less of me. Rather Its a rousing chorus of more of me and less of you, Oh Lord. And God could you re-align my vegetable intake just enough to keep me healthy and my doctor happy?

My gluttony problem is me!

The portion control I need to be practicing is less of me and the things I want – my school, my job, my spouse, my house, my money.

This holiday season perhaps I need to go on a diet of me and you do, too! When we do I think we will develop a taste for God.

9 Reverence for the LORD is pure, lasting forever. The laws of the LORD are true; each one is fair.
10 They are more desirable than gold, even the finest gold. They are sweeter than honey, even honey dripping from the comb.
Psalm 19:9-10 (NLT)

Please pass me some more

Pastor Val

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Living Openhandedly

God commands Christ Followers to live openhandedly

8 Rather be openhanded and freely lend him whatever he needs.
Deuteronomy 15:8 (NIV)

11 There will always be poor people in the land. Therefore I command you to be openhanded toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land.
Deuteronomy 15:11 (NIV)

Learning to live openhandedly is not always easy to do, especially when the recipient of our generosity is ungrateful for the gift. When this happened I’m tempted to close my hand and hang on to God’s provision. It seems like I have to keep relearning the lesson that my obedience is not predicated on the obedience of others.

In another century, when I was in college, I had a roommate who was there on need based scholarship. He was in need of a textbook for a class and didn’t have the money for the book. God laid it on my heart to meet this need and I did so anonymously. Imagine my feelings when my hard earned money was spent for a weekend of partying and the following week he still needed the textbook.

I learned several valuable lessons from this experience. First, if I’m going to give a person a gift to meet a need don’t give them cash give them their need. The second lesson I learned was that while it was my responsibility to properly respond to God’s prompting, it wasn’t my responsibility for someone else’s actions or misdeeds done with my gift. Their actions were between God and them and not me.

This lesson has been especially helpful when dealing with church members who have chosen not to continue to give to their church because they didn’t agree with how the leadership was using the money. Voice your concern, pray for the leadership and depending on your church don’t vote for the leadership if they come up for a vote. But always remember that these people are answerable to God for their leadership and their responsibility is to follow the leading of God same as yours.

On the other hand ungratefulness is a sin. The nation of Israel was ungrateful for God’s deliverance from Egypt. They were ungrateful for the manna that God graciously provided from heaven and water from the rock. Upon reaching the Promise Land they were ungrateful for God’s blessings and provisions. Each time they were ungrateful God would eventually judged them. They suffered plagues in the wilderness, persecution and the confiscation of their harvest by foreign invaders. Eventually they were taken into captivity because they were ungrateful and failed to be thankful and obedient turning their back on God.

Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times, after all 2 Timothy 3:1-5 seems more true each passing day.

2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV)
1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days.
2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy,
3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good,
4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God--
5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

I guess in the end all we can do God leads is to continue to love openhandedly and worry about being obedient to God’s prompting. And let God deal with other people’s response to his leading.

With open hands & empty pockets

Pastor Val

Monday, November 8, 2010

No Ordinary Person

I’m not the most compassionate guy. Now I’m not saying that I’m totally insensitive but when God was passing out the compassion gene I think I was off reading somewhere.

Now it’s possible to be too empathetic at times. In fact this is one of the issues that the Psalmist deals with in Psalm 15. I remember having a member of one of my former churches who was compelled after many of my sermons to knock on my door Sunday afternoon to express his “concern” and disappointment over something I had said in a message that day. He would share with me how I had offended this person or that person in my message. By the end of our one-sided conversation I would despair over my calling to be a pastor.

I would go to the “offended” person to ask their forgiveness only to discover that they had not been offended and couldn’t believe that I would think that they had been offended. It soon became clear after a number of these meetings that either the person expressing concern was looking for problems or was busy picking up someone else’s offense. When I finally realized what was going on with this member it made my afternoon scourging (I mean meetings) slightly easier to bear!

That being said - we all need to be careful what and how we say things – we need to season our speech with grace.

Recently I heard about a pastor who spoke on David and how David was no one special, just an ordinary man that God chose to use in an extraordinary way. I fully agreed with this pastor’s assessment of David being an ordinary person, at least from an outward point of view. After all humans look on the outward appearance but God looks at the inside of a person – God sees their heart. (1 Samuel 16:7)

This ordinary guy had an extraordinary heart – after all he is considered a man after God’s own heart. (Psalm 27:4)

This ordinary guy was chosen by God for a special task that only he could perform. Just like every one of us has been specially equipped and created to do some extraordinary thing for God, something that only you can accomplish for God in your unique way.

Each of us has been fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14) created in the image of God and therefore made and fashioned in the image of perfection. Yes, because of sin we are not a perfect reflection of the God who created us. But for Christ followers we are on the journey to become like Christ as we reflect His glory in our lives both today and someday (when Christ returns) we will do so perfectly.

Ordinary? Well only by the perception of an imperfect human – but in God’s sight –

You are no ordinary person!

Pastor Val.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Holy Cow!

I recently came back from a mission’s trip to India, the home of the sacred white cows. The picture that I’ve posted was taken in Rajahamundry India, home to more than 3.5 million people.

Walking through the downtown market place is one of the sacred cows that can be seen everywhere in India. These cows are considered sacred in the Hindu religion. They cannot be killed or eaten. They are allowed to wander everywhere and eat whatever looks tasty. It has been hypothesized that these bovines are part of the cause of poverty and lack of food in one of the most populous countries of the world.

These sacred cows have become symbolic of issues that need to be address but are untouchable because they are considered sacrosanct. A couple of years ago I asked the leadership of a church if they could identify their sacred cows. I was assured that they didn’t have any. I told them that all organizations had them especially an organization that had been around for over a 100 years. I told them not to worry that I was sure I would find their sacred cows if I became their pastor.

Boy did I!

Often sacred cows grow as an organization ages. Traditions and liturgy (the way that we do things) can become codified over time and the result is that we get locked into the past because it either it previously worked or it gives us comfort due to its familiarity.

The problem is that it chokes out creativity and the saps our ability to meet new challenges. Much like the sacred cows of India our hands are tied to the past and we starve for lack of nutrition, even though there is plenty of beef to go around.

Perhaps it’s time to hold a sacred Bar-B-Q!

Please pass the sauce

Pastor Val.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Taking a Walk on the Wild Side!

Have you ever been challenged to do something greater than you have ever imagined, or caught a vision of a life of purpose and significance beyond your wildest imagination? For many of us we have either experienced this or at the very least dreamed it.

But what happens when after the vision or dream the reality of the next day sets in? Where does our passion go in the ensuing days? So often we drift away from the plan that God has for our lives. We exchange the bold, wild and incredibly satisfying for the tamer, safer life of mediocrity.

What do you think God feels about our playing it safe?

When the nation of Judah had drifted away from the heart of the torah (the way) of the Lord, God spoke to the nation through the prophet Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:10-17 (AMP)
10 Hear [O Jerusalem] the word of the Lord, you rulers or judges of [another] Sodom! Give ear to the law and the teaching of our God, you people of [another] Gomorrah!
11 To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me [unless they are the offering of the heart]? says the Lord. I have had enough of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts [without obedience]; and I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs or of he-goats [without righteousness].
12 When you come to appear before Me, who requires of you that your [unholy feet] trample My courts?
13 Bring no more offerings of vanity (emptiness, falsity, vainglory, and futility); [your hollow offering of] incense is an abomination to Me; the New Moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot endure—[it is] iniquity and profanation, even the solemn meeting.
14 Your New Moon festivals and your [hypocritical] appointed feasts My soul hates. They are an oppressive burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
15 And when you spread forth your hands [in prayer, imploring help], I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes! Cease to do evil,
17 Learn to do right! Seek justice, relieve the oppressed, and correct the oppressor. Defend the fatherless, plead for the widow.

They had lost their zeal for living a life of worship and God reminded them of what was important. I am reminded of the Scripture passage found in James.

James 1:27 (AMP)
27 External religious worship [religion as it is expressed in outward acts] that is pure and unblemished in the sight of God the Father is this: to visit and help and care for the orphans and widows in their affliction and need, and to keep oneself unspotted and uncontaminated from the world.

We are called to live out our internal faith by the outward action of our lives. James tells us that “faith without works is dead.”

The problem that we all face is trying to live out our faith in a concrete way. Unfortunately we often expect our “paid professional” pastors to give, serve, pray and sacrifice for us. But God expects all of us to live out our faith and to take a walk on the wild side!

When I was growing up I heard pastors tell us that the safest pace in the world is the center of God’s will. I used to wonder about that whenever I read about Paul’s life experiences. First I would remember what God told Ananias that Paul would “suffer for my name.” Acts 9:16 (NIV)

The I would read about some of the suffering that Paul endured in 2 Corinthians where he tells us about being exactly where God wanted him to be.

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NIV)
23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.
24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.
25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea,
26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers.
27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.

How can anyone say that being in the center of God’s will is safe. They must be crazy to thing that! But being in the will of God is what each of us was designed to do and be!

Today I’m headed to Dowlaiswaram, India. I'll be spending time at Christ's Evangelical Mission's orphanage and teaching at their Missions School training pastors and church planters about worship as it relates to spiritual formation. I would appreciate your prayers as I

Take a walk on the wild side

Pastor Val

Friday, September 24, 2010

Ground Zero

For the last month I have sat out the debate regarding the building of a mosque near 911 Ground Zero in New York. But I’ve been listening to the various arguments that have been espoused by various people. These arguments seem to boil down to two sides (with kind of a middle ground): the first is the Constitutional argument. That the Bill of Rights allow for freedom of religion. The argument goes something like this. All Americans have a constitutional right to not have the government impede the free practice of our religion. Therefore the Islamic group in New York has the right to build overlooking Ground Zero.

The second argument is more emotional and goes something like this: The wounds are still too fresh in our nation’s psyche to allow the mosque to be built so close to what has become hallowed ground to the majority of Americans.

The middle ground is a blending of both of these positions and states that while it is true that the group has the constitutional right to build on this site, it doesn’t mean that they should do so. It doesn’t mean that it is appropriate to build so close to hallowed ground.

Now I have to admit that I understand both sides and actually agree with both side of the argument. In fact I originally came to the blended position a number of weeks ago.

But I’ve been thinking about the situation and got to wondering what would happen if I took a look at this situation from a Biblical perspective instead of a legal or emotional perspective. What if anything in my thinking would change?

The great commandment and it’s second would seem a great place to start. We are commanded to Love God and as a result of that love others. Does that include our neighbors? What about our enemies? Luke 6:27, 35.

Does this mean that we must be willing to love even when we don’t feel like it? YES! Aren’t you glad that Jesus gave up His rights and came to earth to create a way for us to reconnect with God? Can you imagine if He hadn’t given up his rights what the outcome would have been? Philippians 2:5-8.

Are we supposed to emulate Christ? Called to be like him” Commanded to be transformed? Does this mean that we must be willing to give up some of our God given or Constitutional rights? Well I think we know the answer to these questions. Don’t we?

Sometimes God really messes with us, doesn’t He?

Pastor Val

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Playing Second Fiddle

"The most difficult instrument to play in the orchestra is second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play second fiddle with enthusiasm - that's the problem. Yet, if there is no one to play second fiddle, there is no harmony." - Leonard Bernstein

Sometimes it’s hard to play second fiddle to your boss, your family or even the Lord and yet we are each called to be a servant who leads. This often means we are destined to play second fiddle.

As a pastor this means we are not the shepherd of our local flock but rather we are under shepherds called to follow the leading of the Great and Good Shepherd and follow his example who was willing to lay down his life for His sheep.

As a spouse this means that I must follow the Bridegroom’s example and be willing to lay down my life for my wife, my desires for hers or my family.

In a society that has taught a “me first” attitude this is contrary to what is perceived as the norm. Yet this is exactly what we are called to do – esteem others more then self.

While I don’t know who is credited with say this, one of my favorite quotes is that “you can accomplish anything, as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” Having been on staff as an associate pastor for many years I can testify to the truth of that statement. As long as we don’t worry about wanting the lime light in this life we can accomplish much. Let God take care of keep score. After all we will never beet the score that He set when He gave his life for us.

As I think about many of the men who have gone before me in the ministry I’m pretty sure that I’m not even third violin last chair. But to be asked to participate in God’s orchestra is an honor beyond measure.

Excuse me while I rosin up my bow,

Pastor Val

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stop & Go!

I love the Great Commission as it is laid out in Matthew 28:18-20.

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV)

The first part of the commission is the command of motion – Go!

If you are like me I hate waiting. When I’m in a car and we get in a traffic jam, I’m always looking for a way around the mess. My wife will tell you that I often say “I’d rather be moving than just sitting here waiting!” Movement is always better than non-movement.

Now the truth of the matter is that often if I had just been more patient and waited, I’d have gotten to my destination sooner then taking the detour I chose to take!

In Acts 1:4b-5 Jesus gives his disciples additional instructions about this commission thing.

4 On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: "Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.
5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
Acts 1:4-5 (NIV)

Before they can go they have to wait. Wait until God does something special. Wait until they are properly prepared for the mission he has planned for them.

You see we often want to rush in and get busy, when God tells us to wait on him so he can renew our strength.

If the disciples had failed to obey Jesus’ command to wait, they would have failed! Failed in their assigned task to make disciples in all the world. Why? Because they would have gone to work without the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Greek word used here is dynamis. We get our words dynamite and dynamics from this Greek word. Dynamis is not potential power, nor is it stored up power. Rather it indicates power already in motion. Power at work and we get to tap into it!

The supernatural power of God is ours to use. We become conducts of his power, but it took time to prepare for the disciples were able to tap into this God power that the Holy Spirit provides.

The mission the disciples were given and that is still ours today can not be accomplished in our own strength. It can only be accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sometimes we need to wait upon the Lord and his time, Sometimes waiting is a good thing… even when it drive me crazy!

Almost around the bend,

Pastor Val

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Emperor Has No Clothes

We are all familiar with the children’s story about a ruler who is conned by a crooked tailor into “seeing” special clothes that only privileged people were capable of seeing. On the day that the emperor wore his new clothes for the very first time the town folks either saw these special clothes or at eh very least pretended to see the special clothes. All, except one small child who exclaimed “Look! The Emperor has no clothes!” and with that everyone saw the naked truth of just how special the Emperor really was!

Today I feel like that small child! I know a secret about the emperor that very few know about. If I share my secret – while the world would continue to spin on it’s axis – in some circles their world would grind to a halt.

Some would never believe the truth and for others 5their faith would be sorely tried.

This blog is going to be my therapy session as I make a decision on how to proceed

So what are the effects of pointing out the truth?

The emperor in this case deceived himself in believing the lie about his sin but the emperor is no more, only his reputation.

Many would not believe the truth. So what! We are still commanded to speak the truth albeit in love. Ephesians 4:15.

Some less mature believers might question their faith or at least their faith in their leaders. I don’t want to be a stumbling block for another’s faith. 1 Corinthians 8:9.

It would be sweet revenge! But I’m commanded to for give – and I thought that I had.

Who would benefit from my “unburdening” myself?

Just me – it’s not supposed to be about me. No, rather it’s about God!

Can I trust God to do the right thing? I think so after all he is holy and just as well as lovingly merciful and a dispenser of grace.

So let’s see, we are commanded to love like Jesus. We must love and forgive if we want forgiveness. Matthew 6:12. We are told that love covers a multitude of sins, this for all believers not just me personally.1 Peter 4:8.

Almost 30 years ago I learned the truth about the emperor and I’ve kept the secret for all this time. I’ve hung onto1 Timothy 5:4 as a promise. Since I trusted Father this long, I guess I can trust him the rest of my life.

Pssst – want to hear a secret??

Pastor Val

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Free Agency: Contracts and Christians

Today in sports we read a lot about free agencies. By this we mean an athlete whose contract to play with a particular team has expired and the contract is up for renewal. Today this also usually means a renegotiating of the compensation package for the player.

Most recently we have seen the spectacle of Lebron James choosing to sign with a new team, the Miami Heat much to the chagrin and consternation of his now former team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. I’m not looking to bash “King James” because from a business standpoint he had every right to look at all of his options and make his decision based upon how close the various teams came to the contract Lebron had in mind.

While I can’t fault him for making his decision, I can and will suggest that he could have handled himself in a more circumspect way. That alone would have softened the blow to his former team, front office and the Cleveland fans.

Now what would bother me would be if several months after signing his new contract Lebron received a better offer and he decided to accept this new contract and renege on his first new one that he had duly signed and executed.

How would the Heat, his new team, feel about his breaking his word and the legal contract?

What would it say about his character and maturity?

Could his new team ever trust his word to fully execute his part of the contract?

Though provoking questions, aren’t they?

Now suppose the person in question is a follower of Christ and they were going to break their word.

What would you think of them?

What would Jesus think of them?

Could you ever trust them?

But, you say, they can do so much more for the Lord by breaking their word!


Dr. Bob Jones Sr. used to say that “it’s never right to do wrong to do right!”

Jesus says don’t break your oath! He insists that your word is your bond. Matthew 5:33-37 & James 5:12.

The Psalmist in Psalm 15:4 says that people who are approved by God are willing to keep their vows even when it hurts emotionally, mentally or even sexually.

It’s easy to keep a vow when it doesn’t hurt you – but what if it means loosing money, or skipping that after the game party because you promised your parents you would come right home after the game or you pass up on that dream job of a lifetime.

Well it can’t be that bad, can it? To break your word? Well James 4:17 says that if you know what’s right but refuse to do it – God says it’s a sin!

Free agency is a choice but once the choice is made and you live it out your character will shine through.

Living in accordance to God’s Word is often inconvenient but it’s always righteous way to go!

Inconveniently Yours,

Pastor Val

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Christian Atheist

Believing in God but living as if he doesn’t exist!

This is the second book that I have read by Craig Groschel and I want to recommend it to everyone who reads this blog. It’s an easy read and his style is humorous with a down to earth approach that corresponds with his teaching style. Craig is the founding and senior pastor of that has over 80 worship experiences each weekend at over 14 different campus locations throughout the country.

I want to specifically address his “three lines in the sand” vision that wraps up the book. Craig suggests that the Christian life is a series of choices to cross over various lines in the sand. Each line progressively requires more understanding o f our position and calling in Christ. The crossing of the first line says “I believe in God and the gospel of Christ enough to benefit from it.” This is the easiest of the lines to cross because it costs the crosser nothing. One gets all of the benefits with no “skin in the game.”

It could be likened to considering God as a heavenly slot machine that is expected to pay out – but requires no coins to play. Much like the nine ungrateful lepers of Luke 17, once God blesses us we can forget about him. We believe that he owes us good health, good relationships, great jobs and a happy-ever-after-life this side of heaven.

When we live like this we are really no different than the demons mentioned in James who believe that there is a God. Are these “believers” cultural Christians or even worse false believers? This is a question each of us who are first line Christians need to ask ourselves. The answer is something that only you and God know for sure.

The second line we are called to cross states “I believe in God and Christ’s gospel enough to contribute comfortably.” Personal observation and experience tells me that this is where the majority of church attenders are comfortably at.

We believe God enough to expect benefits and we are even willing to give something back. Just don’t ask too much from us. After all we have our new houses, new casrs, vacation places, boats and retirement contributions to make.

Much like the rich young ruler of Matthew 19 we are willing to go only so far with our commitment. Just don’t push us! Don’t ask us to be willing to give God everything!

The final line we travel towards says “I believe in God and Christ’s gospel enough to give my life to it.” This is the statement that can take my breath away, Can I honestly say (and live out) I give it all to you, Lord? You are in complete control.

25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.
26 What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 16:25-26 (NIV)

20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace.
Acts 20:24 (NIV)

8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ
Philippians 3:8 (NIV)

Are you willing to take the plunge? To jump off the cliff? To trust God with all of your life and all of your stuff?

I have to honestly say that while I wish this was a one time event, the reality is that we have to make this choice daily. Too often I’ve failed to make the right choice – but I have a heavenly Father who is infinitely patient with me. He is always encouraging me to go jump off a cliff!


Pastor Val

Monday, July 5, 2010

Bucket Brigade

Darkness has been defined as the absence of light, so then when light is introduced darkness is always defeated by light. Additionally the more light there is the more the darkness recedes.

The Bible calls a number of things light.

God is light

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation-- whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life-- of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is light

12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."
John 8:12 (NIV)

5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."
John 9:5 (NIV)

46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.
John 12:46 (NIV)

God’s Word is called light

105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

Israel was called to be the light of the world

6 "I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,
Isaiah 42:6 (NIV)

6 he says: "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."
Isaiah 49:6 (NIV)

They were to reflect God and his glory to the Gentiles. This light included peace, joy and salvation in knowing and serving God. There were times when Israel failed to accurately portray God and God would have to clean their mirror. Usually this meant discipline from God by allowing other nations to attack the people of God. When the nation repented and turned back to God, God would intervene and save his people.

Almost without exception this salvation was supernatural in nature. Joshua and company march around Jericho and the walls fall down. Gideon and 320 men route tens of thousands of Midianite soldiers. Jehoshaphat, at God’s command, put the choir in the front of the army and their enemies were destroyed. David a teenage shepherd goes up against a giant and God give victory.

Each time Israel is spared it is by divine intervention. God was saying “People are watching and I can’t let you get away with disobedience. My reputation is at stake. It isn’t about you, it’s about me!” The nation would eventually repent and God would rescue them and get the glory.

Individual believers are now called to represent God as his light to a dark world.

14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:14-67 (NIV)

During war time those fighting and those in midst of the conflict are often endure ordered blackouts. No light is supposed to escape into the night giving the enemy a target to attack or launch bombs at. Even vehicles’ lights were reduced sometimes by blackout stripes allowing on the smallest amount of light to illuminate the road ahead. God does not battle this way. With our God, light is used to overcome the evil!

19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.
21 But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God."
John 3:19-21 (NIV)

As his representatives how are we doing reflecting his light and his glory? Light can be best seen when there is something to contrast it to, such as darkness. Often dark days have to come so that God’s glory can be seen in miraculous ways.

6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Corinthians 4:6 (NIV)

8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light
Ephesians 5:8 (NIV)

I’m reminded of the new LED lights. While individually they don’t appear to give off a lit of light, a single diode can be seen for almost a mile once it is lit up. Gather a group of these LEDs provide more light then any incandescent lamp around and with a fraction of the cost.

Just like an LED light we have been told will virtually never burn out, so God’s light will never burn out. In him there is no shadow of turning.

17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James 1:17 (NIV)

We need to clean up our reflectors. Let our light shine before men so that they may see our good works and glorify our Father. And finally make sure we don’t obscure God’s light in this world by putting a bucket over the light.

Pass the bucket please

Pastor Val