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