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".
Does the church experience the "summertime blues" or the "dog days of summer"? Well, I guess if the first thing you think of is programming, then maybe yes, the church does experience a bit of a lull during the summer months as we, along with most other faith communities tend to pull back on programming and activities. BUT, if when we think of "church" things like gathering for fellowship, prayer, teaching, and the breaking of bread immediately comes to mind, then no, other than the week or two we might spend away for a vacation, we shouldn't experience much of a drop-off. In fact, I think there is some considerable merit to giving the overwhelming majority of our time and energy towards those 4 things listed in Acts 2.42 and streamline a lot of the other things that consume our time and resources. I have no desire to see the SPV become the busiest or "most active" church in town (whatever that even means). Instead, I would love to see us be a community of people that worships, learns, breaks bread, and prays together while along the journey ministers to the poor, makes new friends, and fully invests in our families. For me that is the anecdote to "dog days" and "the blues" regardless of the month or season. So with that said I hope to worship, pray, break bread, and learn together with you this Sunday as we start our new series "God on your iPod".
I apologize in advance that this email will be a little longer than the norm but it is a very important concept that I want to pass along to you so here it goes!
For most of my life I have been on this journey to discover theological truth and get to the heart of what God is truly all about. Sometimes that can be incredibly frustrating because deep down inside I know it's probably not even possible, especially when the old adage becomes true: "the more you know the more you realize how much you don't know." And yet at other times it is exhilarating to learn something new, unpack a concept you've wondered about for a very long time, or to finally connect a couple of dots causing that proverbial "light bulb" to come on.
This past Monday at God & Guinness we read and discussed one of my all-time favorite theological articles (for some extra credit you can read it here if you want: https://www.peteenns.com/fall-augustine-really-screw-everything/). It is amazing to me how (in my opinion) one theological conclusion from 1700 years ago could so deeply and dramatically affect the way we view the world, the way that we view ourselves, and the way we view one another! This one perspective on "the fall" has led to destructive (IMHO) doctrinal positions such as total depravity, the view that people are inherently bad, evil, and even repulsive in God's sight. Efforts have been made to sugarcoat this view with phrases like "when God looks at you he sees Jesus" which sounds kind of nice initially but when you stop and think about it it's like "wow, so how much could God actually love me if he cannot even stand to look at me without his Jesus filter?"
The good news is that if we are proper students of Scripture and with the help of people smarter than us (like Dr. Enns and others) we can learn that there are better and more accurate ways to unpack some of these concepts. Jesus gave us some pretty strong clues that he himself did not buy into such silliness when he said things like "let the little children come unto me for theirs is the kingdom" rather than "let these little grotesque, sin filled, totally depraved heathens come unto me and I'll do my best to tolerate them for a moment!" Jesus also said something incredibly profound when he said: "the kingdom of heaven is within you!" Now how can that even be possible if we are TOTALLY depraved? He didn't say "the kingdom of God CAN be in you"...once I go to the cross and you repent and you grovel and you beg for forgiveness and mercy and if I'm in a good mood then maybe, just maybe I will wash you white as snow and then maybe just maybe I can actually look at you." I know I am being a little silly now but hopefully you get the idea that bad theology can be really really destructive and one of the things that we will continue to do here at the SPV is to challenge and deconstruct some of what I consider to be incredibly harmful and even anti-Jesus theological concepts. I know that has and will get frustrating at times, but I believe with every fiber of my being that doing so is not only necessary but will lead us to a place far away from religion and towards increased freedom, liberty, and agape love. So if ever I talk about something that you don't agree with or I do a poor job of explaining where I'm coming from and you come away feeling more confused rather than enlightened, please do me a favor: 1) forgive me for my heart really is in the right place and 2) just rest in the fact that your heavenly father loves you and that his kingdom really is within you...and he doesn't just love you because when he sees you he's really only looking at Jesus. No, he's really looking at you and he REALLY does LOVE you (and so do I).
Hello SPV Family!
One of our family's favorite sayings is "Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can't Lose" which we claimed/borrowed/stole from one of our favorite TV shows "Friday Night Lights". I love this because it emphasizes a few things:
1) Clear Eyes: so often we lose sight of the important things because we're too focused on the peripheral, the distractions...choosing to fixate on the lesser and insignificant. I want to be a person who sees clearly and spends my energy on that which is important and lasting.
2) Full Hearts: my heart is very full right now. I've never been more in love with Jesus than I am right now and I'm deeply appreciative of the Lord for the family and friends he's placed in my life. Being anchored in the truth that God IS Love and being surrounded by people who continually choose love (rather than conflict, division, grudges, unforgiveness...) makes for a Full Heart.
3) Can't Lose: while the context of this phrase involves football, points, and winning and losing, it is often followed up with something like "if we do the right things, stay focused on what is important, and have each other's backs, it doesn't matter what the scoreboard says gentlemen, you'll be winners in my book." We need to keep score differently, not based on military conquest, squashing our enemies, padded bank accounts, fame, and who can stay looking youngest the longest. I want winning to be defined by how well we love, the level of our compassion, the depth of our gratitude, and choosing joy at every turn.
Much love, compassion, gratitude, and joy to you winners out there,
Hey SPV Fam!
This week I want to offer a brief follow up to the word I gave this past Sunday after our time of worship and communion. For those of you who weren't there I read the following passage from Matthew 11:
"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”
There is so much in these words of Jesus but a few things that I would emphasize are:
1) Life is meant to be enjoyed. If you find yourself getting stressed out and critical about every little thing then "get away with Jesus and learn from him." This may require many of us simplifying our lives a bit in order to make more room for the better, more cherished things.
2) And even more specifically, if your faith journey is causing you anxiety then maybe, just maybe you're doing it wrong. If you find yourself feeling constant condemnation or that God is barking at you like a tyrant boss then trade in your "burned out on religion" for the "living freely and lightly the Jesus way". If you find yourself bothered by every theological idea that doesn't align with your own or have criticism for every other song sung in church then please pursue the real rest that Jesus is offering us all. The unforced rhythms of grace and real rest that Jesus offers is so much greater than the alternative, not to mention the fact that life is just too dang short to live it out finding fault with everything and being stressed all the time.
Much love to you all,
My heart is racing. Oh my god I'm going to pass out. Why are my palms so sweaty? I feel like I'm in an Eminem song. Ok...This isn’t going to kill me. I’m going to be ok. I'm going to be OK.
"Babe, you ready?"
"Uh...I think so."
"Ok. Let's go."
They've always been a fear of mine. While my friends spent their summers at top speed, flipping upside down, twisting around, and having the time of their lives, I stood with my feet firmly planted on the ground, clutching their purses and the lie that I was having as good a time as they were. I was scared. And I let fear control me.
And there I was, almost 30 years old, faced with the decision to conquer my fear or wimp out and walk away from another opportunity.
This is not a rational fear. Hundreds of thousands of people ride roller coasters every day. I'm going to be ok.
"Babe, you ok?"
"You're going to be ok."
For years, I avoided all the things I was even slightly afraid of. Roller coasters. The high dive. Difficult conversations. The doctor. All good (but not easy) things.
Let me make something very clear: There was nothing standing in my way except for me. No force of nature, no person, no law. Just me.
"Good! Cause this ride is nuts."
A wise, bearded man (yes, it was my husband) once said that "The thing you need to learn is on the backside of what you’re scared to do." It hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe my fear was just an emotion and, like all emotions, deserved to be analyzed and processed. Fear is not always a bad thing! It's what keeps us from petting wild animals and trying to fly! But unhealthy fear will keep you from things; joy, opportunity, life.
So ask for help. Confront injustice. Apologize to your friend. Take a trip. Go to the doctor. Stand up for yourself. Whatever your unhealthy fear is keeping you from, run at it full force.
Maybe you'll learn that the thing you're scared of isn't all that scary.
And might actually be super fun.
Peace, love, and full speed ahead!
SPV Kid City Children's Pastor
In the spirit of hearing from different voices in our church family, this week's post is written by staff member, Stacy Henderlong.
Hey there SPV family!
We all come from varying backgrounds and spiritual/religious experiences. I grew up in a tradition based on fear of the end of life (hell). My church experience as a kid was quite boring and not very "spirit-filled" and led me to seek out the opposite when I left home for college. I ended up in some very charismatic churches for quite some time, and I became comfortable, always expecting a wild ride with Holy Spirit. Then I entered into a season of working for a more traditional and liturgical church, that seemed a bit lifeless at the time. Then I came to SPV just 5.5 years ago. At first I was craving more of the charismatic and pentecostal feel and felt slightly disappointed that it wasn't a bit more exuberant in worship and prayer.
Now that I've been here a little while, I'm been stretched in my thinking, in my faith, and feel like I'm getting to a good place of balance. I'm now craving times of silence, solitude, and reflection and actually miss those times of liturgy - seeking it out online. I still enjoy it when the band gets rockin' during worship, but I'm also love those times when we can just sit or stand in God's presence and not a sound is made - and we just are.
My prayer life has also gone through this change - from crying out & begging God for things for myself and others - into more of a contemplative, peaceful time. I no longer feel like I have to pray for a certain amount of time or come with a list of requests, but just to sit and meditate. To be still. To listen. And to not be afraid of the quiet.
May we each find those times of solitude. May we seek them out, to just sit and listen.
Peace to you,
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.