Tuesday, February 23, 2010


It’s hard to think about eternity when as humans we were created to currently exist in time. Anything that we don’t know or understand can be scary. Theologians have discussed this and explored forever for-ever and still can’t wrap their mind around it either. I could say don’t worry about it but that’s like saying just ignore the big blue elephant with pink tennis shoes. Some things are hard to stop thinking about once we start.

It’s OK to be worried and it’s also OK to talk to someone about it, even God himself. After all He knows all of our thoughts and nothing is hidden from him.

None of us really know what the future of forever looks like. We know that Christ, the Father and the Spirit will be there. We know that we will be loved and we will respond in love back (BTY that’s what worship really is – loving God and wanting to please Him and trying to not disappoint Him.) We know that we will have tasks in the future but they won’t be difficult because God will be with us and strengthen us to do what ever is asked of us.

Perhaps it will help to understand that in the Hebrew mind the idea of eternal life starts the moment you decide to become a follower of Jesus. Eternal life is both for now and for after this life. Their concept of human existence was holistic. Their understanding of Heaven was also holistic or all encompassing when it comes to time, space, what our purpose is and will be.

Often we think about be a follower of Christ kind of like something that matters a little bit in the here and now but it really starts to mean something after we die and are present with God. Yet Jesus came to give our lives meaning now as well as after this life.

When He announced that the Kingdom was at hand, He meant it was starting right now. Our “job” is to do His bidding not just in the future but in the present, too. When you think of His kingdom realize that it is already here. We are tasked with establishing it in the here and now. When we get to heaven we will continue to do what we are commanded to do right now, obey His commands and do his will (whatever that might look like in the future)

So in a crazy sense we are currently living not only in the present but also because of the future that He has promised us.

When time no longer exists I wonder if we will miss it? I kind of thing that we won’t even notice that is gone, if that’s true forever won’t feel so forever. It will feel like living in a much larger now.

I don’t know if I adequately answered your question or not but to sum up my comments. I think while the future is unknown (at least to us), eternity is something we are currently living in while we also exist in time.

Just that one day, time will be no more!

Pastor Val

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Partial Birth Abortion of a Vision

Recently I was taking my elders through a leadership program that John Maxwell’s group Equip has produced for churches. We came to a point where we were discussing how vision is birthed in the church.

Maxwell likens casting vision like giving birth. When a married couple decides it time to start a family they try to get pregnant (well actually the wife). Sometimes all it takes is one “try” and the pregnancy happens. Other times it takes multiple tries. Vision is like that. Sometimes it comes with little or no effort other times it is very hard work.

Staying with this analogy, each pregnancy is different. My wife and I had two daughters. When she was pregnant with our first daughter she had a very smooth pregnancy. But with our second daughter my wife was sick all nine months. The gestation period for birthing a vision can also vary from vision to vision. Sometimes things go so smooth with the launching of a vision that one wonders why they don’t do it every day. Other times the vision seems to cause great distress in the body that is trying to bring it to term.

Perhaps the darkest time for a vision is again similar to the actual birth process. Sometimes it is smooth and there is little pain. Other times labor is intense and the pain is unimaginable. But after the birth, the mother might not forget the pain of the birth process but the outcome is worth pain. It’s the same with visions. After the birth pangs the results are so much more important than the spasms that it caused.

The other interesting thing about visions after they have come to fruition is that once the pain has ended all sorts of people want to enjoy the results after the hard work is done.

I guess this reaction is normal. It seems that very few are involved in the normal birth process but the grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends all come pouring out of the woodwork after wanting to enjoy the results. It seems that the best thing to do in these instances is to welcome them to the vision and put them to work.

But what happens when we abort the process? What happens when we decide to quit before the vision is fully birthed? We experience a partial birth abortion. During my twenty-plus years of ministry, I’ve witnessed those seminal moments where the birth of the vision is either achieved or aborted in mid-birth. I remember some ministries where the vision was birthed and all of the struggles to bring the vision to fruition were forgotten for the joy of the vision being fulfilled. In other ministries the vision was aborted after going through almost the entire gestation process only to be aborted during the determining moment when everything is balanced on a razor’s edge. Defeat snatched from the jaws of success because we were unwilling to stay the course.

When we have sought God and his plan for us we decide it’s just too hard to trust the Lord and we decide we will rely on the failed ways of the past.

7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Psalm 20:7 (NIV)

1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the Lord.
Isaiah 31:1 (NIV)

Trusting in the name of the Lord our God

Pastor Val

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

An Inconvenient Jesus

Sorry that I’ve been remiss in blogging of late. I seem to have a bunch of material; I just need to find the time to jot my thoughts down.

Recently I’ve been thinking about how inconvenient being a true follower of Jesus can be. In the book entitled John (the fourth book of the New Testament), Jesus informs us that the way they treated him, our teacher, is an indication of how people will treat Christ followers.

The converse is also true (or should be true) of Christ followers. The way that Christ treated people while he was here on earth should give us clues on how we are to treat people. For those who were hurting Jesus was a healer and we must be healers. For those who were disenfranchised he re-enfranchised people who had been marginalized and displaced. We are called to connect with people who are not connected with Christ and his Church and engage them in a conversation that leads them to a God encounter.

Jesus saves his sharpest criticism for religious people who thought they were spiritually healthy but in actuality were spiritually sick and many were spiritually dead. The third chapter of Mark (the second gospel of the New Testament) is a case in point. Jesus is in Capernaum. This village was the itinerant rabbi’s home base. It is Sabbath and Jesus is in the synagogue (this is a Jewish house of worship). This seems like another ordinary worship day, except that there was a group of people whose only reason for attending the service was not to worship God but rather to see if Jesus did something to offend them. (Sound sneakily suspicious like many Sunday services in churches around the country.)

This group was known as Pharisees. Now the Pharisees where the equivalent today of many of the modern religious right. These folks started off years ago as a wonderful group. They called people back to God and wanted people to be obedient to God’s laws and way of doing things. Like most good things as the years went by this great idea degenerated to more and more lists of rules to make sure that believers stayed on the straight and narrow. The problem was that they added layers upon layers of rules and in the process they codified tradition, raising these traditions to a level with the actual Word and Way of God.

Were these people evil? Or simply misguided? The answer is it depends. Many were well meaning and truly loved God more then life itself (think about a guy named Saul who had a radical transformation on a road to Damascus and eventually was called Paul). Others had misplaced their love for God to love for tradition (think of the Judaizers that Paul dealt with in the Galatian churches).

This account starts off with people already in a fowl mood looking for trouble and Jesus apparently tired of their snarkiness. A man with a withered hand is minding his own business, attending his synogogue but he soon becomes the center of the controversy. Jesus sees the Pharisees watching his every move. Notice this poor guy never asked to be healed but Jesus addresses him and tells him to “stand up in front of everyone.”

From the text it appears that Jesus is busy looking at his opposition and seems to challenge them and their traditions. He asks is it right to do good on the Sabbath or is it better to do evil? I can just imagine Jesus glaring at his critics and daring them to answer. Jesus shames them into facing their willingness to ignore broken people condemned to a live in isolation and defeat. When they hold their peace he heals the man’s hand.

The result is that Jesus detractors join with other enemies (the Herodians – monarchists, an ultra rightwing tradition bound political group) of Jesus and begin to plan his death.

What are some of the lessons we can learn from this narrative?

  • While Pharisees can be sincere they can be sincerely wrong.
  • Traditionalists become rigid in their thinking instead of flexible in dealing with people
  • Traditionalists will die on a mole hill but surrender the mountain
  • Wrong headed Biblical thinking can lead to joining with others who are just wrong.
  • Jesus addresses issues of tradition versus issues that matter to God.
  • Sabbath was made for man to rest and commune with God and people. It was not made for man to conform to the Sabbath.
  • God gets perturbed when we fail to understand his love and share his love for people who are hurting
  • God expects unquestioned obedience
  • God sometimes heals without our asking
  • God’s plan is often different then ours but always better

It’s often inconvenient following Jesus way but it’s always worth it!

O God, help us to be concerned about the people you are concerned with and deal honestly and lovingly with those who oppose you and your will.

Dr Val