If you are anything like me you get a little tired of the seemingly daily (even hourly) onslaught of bad/sad news. Between the politics, natural disasters, racism, protests, boycotts, corruption...it's enough sometimes to make me want to buy a small cabin off the grid, out in the middle of nowhere. Sometimes I think things just keep getting worse and worse and then I remember that Jesus entered a time far worse than this. Government corruption and totalitarianism was through the roof and crucifixion was a daily occurrence without any sort of trial or due process. And racism was rampant. The Romans hated the Jews and the Jews hated the Romans. The various Jewish sects fought and argued constantly, struggling to get along even though they were on the "same side", and Rome was still invading countries to conquer, killing anyone who would oppose them. And yet this is the very context and backdrop Jesus announced and demonstrated the good news of the kingdom. My point is this: if the good news of the Kingdom was relevant then, it's every bit as relevant now. This kingdom is a counter cultural movement calling people out from the hatred, bondage, gossip, slander, backbiting, violent, prejudice, self serving...ways of the world's system into something that is loving and beautiful and healing and kind and compassionate and welcoming and self sacrificial and...I think it's important to choose daily to be participants of this divine kingdom rather than follow the currents and drama of the world. Choose Jesus, choose the kingdom, choose love, choose joy, choose faith.
Much love to you all,
If you’ve been hanging around the Vineyard or reading the weekly emails for any length of time, you probably notice a recurring theme. It’s not about reading your bible more, praying longer, going to every small group we offer, managing sin in your life, or making sure not to miss Sunday morning service. It’s something much more simple, and can be one of the more difficult things to do, and that is
I know Pastor Chris gets asked a lot why he’s always preaching on love – but it really is the key to living a Christ-filled life. I touched on this briefly last Sunday during communion that Jesus came to show us the way of love. It was at the forefront of his message and calling. He showed us how to stand up to those oppressing others and to help and care for those who are being oppressed. He didn’t come inciting hate and violence. Instead, he came in peace and love – to all.
Before we come together this weekend, take some time to consider those of us in our own church family that might be different from you in some way. Maybe it’s their skin color or ethnicity, age, political leanings, how they dress, style of worship, what they do or don’t eat --- whatever it is --- we are all different. Let’s choose to celebrate our differences, stand against hate and oppression, and just
In peace & love,
Hola SPV family!
I hope you're all doing well in the midst of your trials and victories as you walk out this journey. Did you get easily offended this past week? I talk a lot about love but I never said I do it all that well! LOL. One thing I love about the Scriptures is that it never sugarcoats how difficult this journey of following Jesus can be. Even Paul, who is considered to be one of the "heroes" of our faith acknowledged his struggle in Romans 7.19: “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing."
Paul admits that he is in a battle to do the very things that he knows he should do and I, for one appreciate that sort of honesty. But I also appreciate the fact that he gives us some encouragement to move forward and not just accept the discouragement and defeat, but that God has provided us with help and given us a remedy. “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!...For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” Romans 7:24-25, 8.2
We can have all the best of intentions and be super disciplined, but I personally believe that only the work of the Spirit can properly empower and sustain us on this journey. So if you're struggling to love others, the answer isn't to try to love more/better but to be filled with and led by the Spirit! I hope that is encouraging to you.
I hope to see you all this Sunday as we continue our God in Film series with the movie Hidden Figures.
Much love to you all,
"Love is not overly sensitive or easily offended." 1 Corinthians 3.5
I saw this church sign last week that caught my eye and caused me to think:
I immediately started to wonder things like: How many will be offended by this gesture of love? What would the SPV reaction be if we posted this on our sign? How would our neighborhood react? Does such a sign automatically infer a particular political or social ideology and if so, then is it truly love? What if we posted those words one week and "we love our hetero community" the following week? Or "we love our liberal community" one week then "we love Trump and his loyal supporters" the following week?
So do I have you thinking yet? My point is that love is supposed to be just that; love. But so often we attach things like agreement and support to it which sort of cheapens the whole thing. Jesus said in Luke 6.32 "...if you only love those who love (agree with) you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that!"
I want us to be the kind of church (individually and corporately) who never gets offended by love but rejoices regardless of who it is being extended to! So if you have a few minutes try this little exercise: write out the words "I love our ________ community" and start inserting various words, ethnicities, and people groups, football teams, politicians/political parties... until you find one that stirs a negative emotion or offends you, then when/if that happens, pause for a moment and ask the Father's love through the presence of the Holy Spirit to touch and warm your (our) hearts until we can honestly say that "love does not offend us".
Much love to you all as you extend love to (all) others,
In the spirit of hearing from a variety of voices, this week's email is written by SPV member Barbara Kauffman.
Hello SPV Family!
Have you ever noticed how a certain word or setting can trigger a bad memory? Even after the event is over and seemingly resolved? Or am I the only one?
For example, a number of years ago there was a misunderstanding about a dinner that featured a Greek salad. As a result, I was not only blamed for something that wasn't exactly my doing but also viciously attacked by someone I thought was a close friend. To this day, the phrase "Greek salad" rekindles all those old feelings, and I have to stop and remind myself it has no relevance now.
I think most of us could share similar stories. Whether it was something as insignificant as a dinner or a Big Important Event that changed your life forever, somehow the trauma stays with us, and it doesn't take much to trigger remembrance of that time. These triggers can follow us throughout our lives. They affect how we see ourselves, how we relate to others, and how we relate to God.
John's gospel relates one such event in the life of Simon Peter, and the setting was a charcoal fire. Jesus had been arrested and taken to the palace of the high priest, but Peter and another disciple, likely John himself, had followed. John 18:18 tells us that they were in the courtyard, and the guards and servants had built a "fire of coals" or a charcoal fire to warm themselves, and Peter joined them. But when some began to recognize him, fear got the best of him, and he denied Jesus not once, but three times.
He was supposed to be God's man of faith and power, the rock on which Jesus would build His church. He had expected to be the one who stood by Jesus even if everyone else deserted Him, but he fell short. He was not who he thought he was.
Now you won’t find this in the NIV version, but in both the Amplified and New American Standard (which I’m told are consistent with the original text) John 21:9 states that when John and the others arrived, they saw a “fire of coals” – Peter’s ground zero, if you will. And it was here that Jesus reaffirmed the call on Peter’s life by asking him to “feed my sheep.”
I know many of us have our own “ground zero.” Most of us even know exactly where it is. Maybe something happened when you were very little. Maybe the person you thought you were going to spend your life with abandoned you. Or maybe, like Peter, you failed at something and are disappointed in yourself.
I pray that Jesus will allow you to revisit that pivotal event but to see it through His eyes. You are more than your mistakes, and whatever someone else thinks of you is colored by his or her own flawed perception. When we see ourselves through His eyes, it changes everything.
Oh – and the unfortunate incident with the Greek salad – I've decided to look at it as the event that allowed me to share this insight from the book of John. I don’t think it will bother me much anymore.
Hello SPV Family!
This weeks e-mail will attempt to bring you up-to-date on some things going on at the church, especially for those of you who have been out of town or missed the All-Church meeting Sunday.
1) We have a cool new logo and our website has a fresh new look. Stop in at SPV.org and take a look. Ashley Haywood presented at the All Church meeting, showing us how the new logo conforms to the Vineyard USA new branding style guide while remaining St Pete unique.
2) Brian Henderlong and Amy Coyle presented on our priority project; the overhaul of the courtyard area for Kid City. This project will address several safety issues and include a desperately needed shade structure and new playground equipment. We were given a very generous donation to cover the majority of this but really hope the rest of us can generously support this and get us all the way there. Any amount is greatly appreciated, please make sure it is clearly designated towards "Kids" and please, please, please, don't divert your general fund giving as that is far more harmful than helpful to our overall ministry.
3) Cheri Scarbough shared about the great works of our outreach team and let us know that their funds are getting low. Contributions can be made using text to give keyword PBJ or by noting PBJ on your check.
4) Cassie Featherston reported on our current financial situation. Mid-year giving statements have been mailed and we would love for your family to review you statement and prayerfully plan your giving for the rest of the year.
5) Sunday we announced that Josh (& Kelly) Albrecht is stepping down from his youth and worship ministry positions at the end of the month. We will be having a cake reception this Sunday after church to celebrate them so please join us and feel free to bring a card &/or note of encouragement if you'd like.
6) Immediately following that announcement we made it know that CJ Pugh and Kelly Nunn have already been interviewed and hired for the Youth and Worship Pastor positions respectively. We are thrilled to have them as a part of the SPV team so please welcome them the first chance you get!
That should be enough for now, have a great week and I hope to see you Sunday for worship and the cake reception afterward.
Hello SPV Family!
I'm not sure if you noticed but Russia has been in the news a lot lately so I thought I would revisit a Russian news story...from about 1,000 years ago. Prince Vladimir, a pagan Russian monarch, was looking for a new religion to unify the Russian people so he sent out teams to investigate various religions around the world. As his teams came back to report their findings, this is what was said about Christianity:
"Then we went to Constantinople and they led us to the place where they worship their God, and we knew not whether we were in heaven or earth, for on earth there is no such vision nor beauty, and we do not know how to describe it; we only know that God dwells among men. We cannot forget that beauty."
It was from this "Russian news story" that Prince Vladimir decided to adopt Christianity as their new national faith. Notice that it wasn't their intellect or apologetics or theology or moral superiority but rather the beauty in which they carried themselves and presumably acted towards each other that was so attractive. Now don't get me wrong, I am definitely not against intellect or morality or solid theology (I am a big fan of all 3!), but Oh! that the church would major in that which is beautiful!
Coincidence or not but it was the great Russian writer Fyodor Dostoevsky who coined the phrase "beauty will save the world." He may not have had Jesus or the Christian faith in mind when he coined that phrase but personally I am convinced that there is nothing more beautiful than Jesus and there is no greater expression of his beauty than his love towards us, our love and worship back to him, and that same love breathed and lived out one to another. Throw in the incredible beauty of his creation, like Yosemite Valley and Highway 1 along the Pacific ;) or even our amazing Gulf of Mexico sunsets and we've got more than enough beauty/loveliness to think, meditate, and focus on as Philippians 4 encourages us to do.
So let's focus on beauty! Let's celebrate beauty! Let's live out and emulate beauty!
Much love to all of you beautiful people,
Hey church! I had an amazing time sharing my heart with you all this past Sunday! I’m glad to have shared my first experience preaching with my family here at the Vineyard! I hope the message touched you in some way, big or small, because we all have a cycle or two in our lives that just doesn’t belong! Jesus has washed you clean, and He has made a new season for you to walk in His love as an overcomer of the cycles that are holding you down!
So, Church, be mindful of what God is waking you up to, and know that He has amazing power to help you break the chains and cycles that are trying to keep you where you are. Walk in His freedom! He adores you, and wants to see you thrive and grow in this life!
We're nearly mid-summer and it's flying by already! Sort of how life happens. One minute you're learning how to ride a bike, quickly followed by the awkward teen years that don't seem to go fast enough, then into adulthood, where you learn the actual value of how many ramen packages you can buy for a buck... and then smack! Mid-life crisis hits and everything around you isn't what you thought it would be.
Welcome to my world. In my 20's I had my life planned out. It was gonna be GREAT! And then life happened and NOTHING went as planned. Some for the worse, some for the better. My journey is changing and I'm shaking off what's no longer working for me and taking a stab at new things, trying to find my new place in life.
Shauna Niequist, in her book Present Over Perfect says "Some of us are made to be faster, and some slower, some of us louder, and some quieter. Some of us are made to build things and nurture things. Some of us are made to write songs and grants and novels, all different things. And I'm finding that one of the greatest delights in life is walking away from what someone told you should be in favor of walking toward what you truly love, in your own heart, in your own secret soul."
When I heard her speak those words (because I was listening to her read it to me on Audible!), I had to immediately rewind it like 10 times to listen to it over and over again. Each time I listened to it, I had a different response, ranging from gasping in near shock, to crying, to screaming "YES!" in my kitchen as I prepare dinner for the family. All because I'd gotten to a place where I felt like I've lost ME somewhere along the years, and became who others thought I should be or do or believe (former churches, family, past relationships and my own inner negative self). My journey continues, but it's just starting to look a little different now as I dig deeper into who I am and figure out my NEW purpose in life!
So where does this leave you and me?
Continuing our walk together, by recognizing and EMBRACING our differences, but not forcing our own expectations on each other. Working together in unity for the common good - for the love of Jesus and the world.
So this week, be intentional and reach out to at least one person who is different than you. Encourage them as they journey onward and spread love and peace to all.
So who of you has ever read an article and gotten really excited or really angry over what you were reading, maybe even forwarded it onto someone or posted it on Facebook/social media only to discover that it was either a bogus tabloid article, a "too good to be true" sales pitch, or a fake news story specifically designed to get people wound up and "won over" to their way of thinking? I hate to admit it but I have been "suckered in" on a few occasions which is probably one of the reasons I have a certain level of cynicism and trust issues to this day. And yet, maybe in a good way I am a lot more measured and not (as) prone towards hype and hysteria.
The bottom line is this: people HATE feeling deceived or ripped off. And if we are honest, this carries over into faith, religion, and "church". There have certainly been enough "fake news" stories about phony healing testimonies, preachers embezzling funds, having affairs...to cause people to have their own "trust issues" and cynicism when it comes to God, faith, and the church. Who could blame them?
With that said I am still 100% convinced that "the gospel (good news) of the kingdom" isn't fake at all! But how do we know this for sure? Some might argue that there is no way to know for sure, but for me, some of the questions I ask are: are the poor and downcast being loved and encouraged? Are the hungry being fed? Are the homeless being housed? Are the sick being healed and the blind receiving sight? Are the captives being set free? Once hearing the message, are people more inclined to respond to others in love rather than hate or fear? That's certainly not an exhaustive list but those are a few indicators to let us know if we (as a church as well as individually) are on the right track and if what we are doing falls more under the category of "good news" rather than "fake news".
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.