Hey there SPV!
Have any of you started digging into Galatians yet? We just started a brand-new sermon series last Sunday and I’m asking everyone to read along with me so that we’re all studying the book together. As for the weekly emails, I thought I’d gravitate towards some of the verses in Galatians that for whatever reason didn’t “make the cut” for the sermon.
So, for this week let’s turn our attention to Galatians 1:10.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.”
Paul is making it known that what he is communicating isn’t going to be popular or well received by everyone; he’s going to ruffle some proverbial feathers. But at the end of the day, he answers to God and cares far more about what God thinks than any human criticism or pushback he might get.
Personally, I believe the phrase “the fear of the Lord” is an often-abused text, used by pastors and leaders to spiritually intimidate people. But…there is something to be said for having a healthy respect and reverence for God. I genuinely believe we’d have A LOT less brokenness in our world if we all carried that reverence /fear of the Lord. People just wouldn’t cheat, steal, lie, assault, take advantage of, etc. if they were properly and humbly submitted to Him.
But I’ve also seen this verse abused as some feel it gives them a license to be a jerk. That line of thinking goes like this: “I obviously possess the mind & will of God AND I don’t really care if others get mad at me or not, I need to follow my convictions!”
I’ll just say this: there are A LOT of presumptions when taking such an attitude.
So yes, caring what God thinks is far more important than what others think but we will see that as this epistle builds, God is quite interested in the depth of our character that is ultimately driven by the person, work and fruits of the Holy Spirit. When we operate according to that (spoiler alert), there aren’t any rules you have to worry about (against such there is no law).
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris
Hello St Pete Vineyard Family,
This is Patricia.
Years ago I heard a story about two teachers and two groups of children. One teacher was told that the children in her class were geniuses and the second teacher was told that the children in her class were average. Each teacher responded and taught according to what they believed the children were capable of doing. At the end of the year the first group of children actually skipped a grade level and the second group stayed where they were. All of the children were of average intelligence. The children responded to what the teachers believed they could do. The actions and the words of the teacher in the first group moved them to a new level of learning.
Words and actions are very powerful.
The power of our words and our actions impact people. Words can build up and be life giving.
Have you ever been feeling sad or lonely and a friend calls to tell you they care about you?
Did those words change your day and lift you up out of your sadness? Words of love and kindness move us into a better frame of mind.
Just the same words can burden one’s spirit, some words spoken carelessly can even stir up anger and division. Have you ever had words said about you or to you that made you feel less than how God sees you as his child?
The power of our words impacts lives and they also impact the unity of the Body of Christ for good or for division.
The power to use words is an amazing gift from God. This gift can be a wonderful tool to show others what Jesus looks like.
When we speak do we sound like Jesus? When we speak do we make others feel good?
Our words should align with the fruit of the Spirit, speak love, speak peace, speak patience, speak kindness, speak goodness, speak faithfulness, and speak self control.
See Galatians 5:22
Our words are powerful, let us join together and build up our body to a new level of healthiness and love.
In Christ Jesus,
Hey SPV Fam,
If ever there was a day that encapsulated the sense of “the already & the not yet” for me, it’s today, June 4th, 2020.
On one hand, I love June 4th because it’s my daughter Lexi’s and son-in-law McClain’s anniversary. Their wedding day will forever be one of my most favorite days. For me, that day was a small taste of heaven, filled with so much love, joy, beauty, good food, warmth, and laughter.
But today is also a very heavy day because if you didn’t know, today is George Floyd’s funeral.
It’s a sad day because a family is burying a man as a result of senseless and unnecessary violence. His death is very real and personal to so many, and to us as a nation as a whole- signaling how much work we still have left to do and the “not yet” of the kingdom.
In my anger and frustration, I’ve had to repreatedly remind myself of the words of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 6:
“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
I’m concerned that the church will get swept up in the same mechanisms of hatred, anger, retribution, and violence that the world is so accustomed to.
I’m equally concerned that certain factions of the church, namely the white western evangelical church, will in their / our comfort, grow cold to the cries of injustice, and merely “wait it out” rather than lament, repent and do the necessary hard work to ensure the changes that are so desperately needed in our nation, on behalf of our precious black brothers and sisters (And all minorities and persons of color for that matter).
There’s A LOT of work to be done and if you’re like me, it feels a little overwhelming to the point of sometimes just feeling paralyzed, not knowing what to do. So, until we figure some of that out, I want to invite you to join me to find 8 minutes and 46 seconds sometime in the next day to stop everything you’re doing, and observe a moment of silence and/or a time of prayer specifically for the racial injustice, inequalities and inequities in our nation. But please allow some of that time to be silent, to actually feel the stillness and emptiness of the moment, even to the point of discomfort.
Of course, listen to the Holy Spirit, should he choose to speak. And if you choose to pray, pray for that the kingdom would come, cry out for justice, repent for your/our complicity and complacency in such matter.
Can you do that?
Will you do that?
Can you spare 8 minutes & 46 seconds? The same amount of time unnecessary and unjust force was used against George Floyd as his life and breath left his body?
Can we use that time as the church to center ourselves in the hopes it will change us, and propel us to bring about the necessary change to prevent future injustice and senseless violence?
Lord, “but let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5.24) and may the rule and reign of your kingdom, with all of its peace and goodness come on earth, in this hour of our need, as it is in heaven. Amen.
Hello SPV Fam!
I want to share a verse from 1 Peter 2.9 with you this week and then add a few thoughts...
“...you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.”
This entire verse is describing the “Ekklesia” of God which is the Greek word we use for “church”.
The word ekklesia/church contains within it 2 distinct ideas, that almost seem contradictory, but are held together within a single concept.
The word literally means “a gathered people who are called out”.
I know these are unique times, but we must never forget or lose sight of the fact that the church can never function the way God intended if we minimize the significance of the “gathered people”.
We’ve obviously had to press pause on gathering in the church building for a few months, but the author of Hebrews provides us with a healthy reminder:
“let us not forsake meeting together as some have gotten into such a habit.”
I’m praying that we, as a church, will be found faithful loving our neighbors, taking all of the appropriate precautions to ensure the health and safety of our community. Covid-19 will not win the day by settling us into the bad habit of not gathering together.
While “meeting together” is an important component of the “ekklesia”, the “sent out” aspect is just as important. For the church to be the church, we are called to both gather together AND be sent out as the holy nation God intended. So, what do royal priests and a holy nation do?
They show others the goodness of God.
Unconditional love, healing, generosity, food, shelter, mercy, justice, kindness...
These are all practical ways we are called to show people the goodness of God.
May we each pray and ask the Lord for unique/creative ways in which we might demonstrate the goodness of God to those we interact with on the daily as a “sent out” people....
and let us look forward to when we are again able to be the “gathered people” in a faithful way.
I’m typing this on Wednesday morning, and on the Wednesday of the Biblical account of Holy Week, there was a dinner in a town called Bethany, with a fairly large group of people (the scriptures mention 17 people by name but there could have been more).
All of the people at this dinner party had been blessed by Jesus in one way or another. Simon was no more a leper thanks to Jesus, the twelve disciples had the awesome privilege of being called to be apostles, Lazarus had been raised from the dead, Martha and Mary had been given their beloved brother back from the grave, and so on...
Mary was there and yet, I’m guessing she felt a little out of place.
She, unlike the rest, was now in a situation where her entire life revolved around Jesus and constant remembrance the life he had called her out of. Despite being publicly forgiven by Jesus, that’s still not a label or reputation you can just shake off and expect people to forget it ever happened, ESPECIALLY in the first century. While Jesus was at the table, she was compelled to do something extravagant- something irrational, something far exceeding what was called for. She ran to her house, and got one of her most valuable possessions: an alabaster flask containing a pound of pure oil of spikenard.
Spikenard is a root that grows only in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal and it was very expensive. It is estimated that this bottle of fragrant oil was worth about $15,000.
Yes, that’s right, I said it, FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS.
What could be done with $15,000?
What objects could be obtained, or what charitable causes could be funded with $15,000?
But Mary was only thinking about ONE THING.
She hurried back to Simon’s home where she broke — not opened, mind you, but broke — the alabaster flask and poured the entire contents upon Jesus’ head.
“And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.”
And the criticism began…
“Why this waste?”
“What was the purpose of this excessive extravagance?”
“This oil could have been sold and given to the poor.”
“FIFTEEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!!”
“Don’t you care about the poor?”
“If you really knew what is important you wouldn’t be wasting God’s money on such things.”
“You just don’t have any common sense; you need to become more practical.”
“It’s a sin to waste things, you know.”
Then Jesus spoke up…
“LEAVE HER ALONE! STOP CRITICIZING HER!”
“She has done a good work for Me. She’s done what she could.”
“She has anointed my body for burial.”
Judas had been the ringleader of the criticism, yet others had joined in- and just for the record, if I’m being honest, I probably would have been among the chorus of voices questioning her decision.
Just saying. but...“She has anointed My body for burial.”
Did anyone really hear those words? I don’t think so. But later they remembered them.
Within 36 hours Jesus would be accused, sentenced, whipped, beaten, marched down the Via Dolorosa, and nailed to a cross to die.
Spikenard is a very powerful fragrance- its scent would linger for days.
I can’t prove it, but I like to think that this fragrance provided Jesus with some sense of comfort as he was sweating blood in Gethsemane, being scourged at Gabbatha, and suffering in Golgotha.
Jesus said wherever the gospel is preached, Mary’s extravagant offering, and the scent of her act of worship will be told as a memorial to her.
My prayer during Holy Week is that I would be more like Mary; that we would ALL be more like Mary.
May we live with such a deep sense of gratitude for how Jesus has forgiven, rescued, and delivered us.
May that gratitude spill over into extravagant worship and generosity, that others might hear the stories of Jesus and all the amazing things he has done and continues to do now.
May we anoint Jesus this week (and every week) with the precious oil of our prayers, our tears, our devotion, our worship and our generosity.
May we “waste” our lives on the One who poured out His life for us.
Have a blessed week everyone, we are praying for you in this crazy season...
Please let us know if you need ANYTHING.
Hey SPV fam!
If I’m being honest, I’ve been feeling a little down lately...& if I’m being doubly honest I feel guilty about feeling down (which doesn’t help). I mean, personally, things certainly aren’t terrible. I have an amazing wife & family, I have my health, I know the Lord loves me & it’s obvious I haven’t missed a meal, so what gives? I know what you’re thinking, I’m far, far too young to have a mid-life crisis 😜but maybe I’m just an early starter. I also think that the weight of the world can get pretty heavy at times & we would all be wise to be both aware & prepared.
-We as a people have never been made so aware of the suffering that goes on around us than what we’re experiencing right now. The world by & large is overall experiencing less suffering than at any point in history but whatever suffering does take place is right there on our tv’s & timelines multiple times a day. I believe this is one of the main contributing factors to the epic rise in both suicide & mass shootings. People are feeling inundated, swallowed up, powerless, hopeless...
-Just yesterday Jarrid Wilson, a pastor in California, who by all optics had everything, beautiful wife & kids, successful church....committed suicide. And what’s even more shocking is that he was a mental health advocate & specifically for those considering self-harm. Read a story about that, think about the 4 year anniversary of my brother’s passing just a few days ago, pray for a few friends battling cancer, watch in real-time the devastation of the Bahamas & the suffering of our brothers & sisters there, re-live the horror of 9-11 & toss in a mass shooting, let alone the personal battles any of us are likely facing at any given moment such as a fracture in a close relationship, battling self-worth, financial woes, etc., all within just a few days mind you & it’s easy to see why things can get very heavy, very quickly for any of us.
-A friend reminded me of this so I want to remind you: no one who completes suicide is beyond mercy, quite to the contrary, God draws near to the poor & there is perhaps no greater poverty imaginable or harder to experience than the feeling that you must end your own life, or to take the actions that end your own life, except perhaps the loss of a child. So if you’re feeling or ever feel such despair, please know that the cross includes the absorption of the darkness that leads to this kind of pain. Be encouraged by the promise that God's love overcomes diseases of both the mind & spirit & that Jesus takes all of that pain & redeems it at the cross.
-God does not stand outside the experience of our pain & despair but rather in Jesus, God dies with all who suffer & die. The victims of such tragedies, whether it be a disease, terrorism, suicide or something else are held by Love.
-I try to regularly remind myself that death is the great enemy of God & while it is horrific in the moment, it ultimately has no future. It was & is & will be conquered by divine love (1 Cor 15). So I can rightly be angered by it & even hate it but I choose to place my hope in the cross & the power of the resurrection that “the last enemy to be destroyed is death” & his love & mercy will win out. So when you’re down, feeling overwhelmed, experiencing despair & even possibly considering harming yourself or someone else, I want to encourage you to do (at least) these 2 things: 1) reach out & talk to someone & 2) meditate on the hope & promise of this last paragraph.
Much love & peace to you all, Chris.
Hey SPV fam!
Some reading this today may find themselves on the proverbial Christian mountaintop while others of you might be more in the weary, tired, worn out, frustrated camp. So if you’re riding that mountaintop, stop reading & just pray for me (lol). But for those of you who are battling something or lowered your goals down to the basics of just trying to get through the day without punching someone in the throat, this word might be for you.
“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory & goodness. Through these he has given us his very great & precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” 2 Peter 1:3-4
Now there’s a lot there but the 2 concepts that jump out at me are “provision” (given) & “promises”.
Provision: he’s given us everything we need to make it! I know it doesn’t always feel like it but it’s true. It’s not in your own strength but through HIS divine power in you (& through community) that we lack nothing.
Promises: well the first promise in this text is that we can faithfully live for & follow him. In addition to that, I can think of numerous other promises throughout scripture that will bring strength & encouragement to a tired & weary soul such as his promise of daily bread (which is provided by the way), to never leave or abandon us, the promise to see us through to the end (complete the work he started) & the biggest is the promise of the resurrection in that death shall never have the last word.
The world can be a pretty jacked up place but as best as you can, please keep your eyes on Jesus who is the author & finisher of our faith journey. Well what do you know, there’s another promise packed with provision.
Much love & provision, Pastor Chris
Hey SPV fam!
This week’s all-church email is from Jessica Throop who posted these shortly after a bullet was shot through a preschool classroom window last week in St Pete that her son Henson was in.
I think when faith is a big part of your life, it’s natural to want to thank God for keeping you safe if you’ve ever averted some sort of crisis. And I think gratitude is an important posture.
I’ve had a lot of folks thank God for keeping Henson safe yesterday. They are thanking God for protecting him and his classmates from that bullet someone fired into their classroom. And I know it comes from a place of great love and for that I’m incredibly grateful.
I struggle though to believe in a god that keeps my baby safe but doesn’t keep the other child (or adult) victims of gun violence safe. I don’t think I can reckon with a god who protects my baby but doesn’t keep brown babies out of cages at our southern border.
I do, however, believe in a God of love. And love allows for free will. Love does not impose control over people. And because of that, some babies are murdered and others are separated from their moms and dads because of the violence we humans cling to.
I believe in a God who wholly grieves with families mourning loved ones who’ve been murdered in their classrooms, their places of worship, grocery stores, entertainment spaces...
I believe in a God who is present with terrified mothers and fathers and children who’ve been ripped apart and forced into cages for legally seeking asylum from a lifetime of violence.
And I believe in the God who is showing up for me and my kids these last two days, as we process, in the form of the bodies of family members who sit with me and listen to me and feed me and love my kids while I take a hot shower.
A God who is showing up in the form of free chocolate chip cookies for my boys at coffee shops just because.
A God who is showing up in the encouraging and supportive phone calls and messages from those humans I’m so unbelievably blessed to be loved by.
I believe in a God who promises that life is stronger than death and love is stronger than hate and calls us to partner in fulfilling those promises by dedicating our lives to restoration, liberation, love, and justice for ALL their beloved creation.
Hey SPV fam!
I grew up Methodist & part of my confirmation as a kid was to memorize the Apostles’ Creed. I didn’t mind it because memorizing stuff like that wasn’t terribly difficult for me but if I’m being honest, I questioned the use of such an endeavor, chalking it up to mostly rote repetition & an empty religious exercise. A few years later my family started attending a charismatic church & a strong emphasis was placed on things like a “positive confession of faith” & the “words of our mouth”. Critics would & still do refer to this as “name it & claim it” or “blab it & grab it” theology & after awhile my faith & theology moved beyond such formulas & into something much deeper & more meaningful (for me anyway).
The news & social media has been littered recently with stories of prominent Christian leaders experiencing a “faith crisis” & in some cases even stepping away from the Christian faith altogether. I obviously never like hearing of such stories but I believe in some cases such a journey is necessary to strip away all the junk that religion (& yes, that even means the church itself in many cases) has saddled them with & I pray they come out free on the other side; free to see Jesus for who he truly is & fall in love with him & follow him afresh.
So if you’re in that space, it’s ok, God is gracious, he will never leave you, he will complete the work he began in you, you cannot hide from his presence & nothing can separate you from his love. And if you’re not in that space, you probably know someone who is, so be gracious & please offer love rather than judgment, condemnation & accusation (literally “the satan”).
Fast forward several years later & one might argue that my faith has come full circle & I’m thankful for the foundational elements that were instilled in me as a child. And I’m thankful that I was given the freedom (by the Lord, my family, friends...) to explore & experience Christianity in a variety of different contexts & perspectives, although I must say, I too was met with extreme judgment & condemnation by some. So while I don’t necessarily land in some of those spaces any longer (theologically or in practice), I’m appreciative of my time there & all that I’ve learned. So today, in 2019, I LOVE the Apostles Creed & not only do I love it (& the Nicene Creed as well), I often find myself reciting it as a “positive confession of faith” so to speak. It has been an effective anchor for my soul when the doubts & disillusionment roll in. I’ve included it below & I’d encourage you to read it & not just today but regularly & see if it anchors & encourages you like it has for me. Much love, Chris.
I believe in God, the Father almighty
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit
and born of the virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended to heaven
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic* church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.