I hope you are all well & enjoying your summer. I have a few thoughts to share with you this week that hopefully bring you some encouragement. I feel like the first half of my faith journey had a lot to do with apologetics (in defense of the faith) & specifically concluding, & even proving, to others that Jesus is the messiah, the Christ, God. It was very centered around belief & specifically on the belief that this man who walked the earth 2,000 years ago was the perfect image of the divine deity. While that is certainly time well spent, it was without question (in my humble opinion) too heavily weighted on his divinity as I practically ignored the significance of his humanity.
1 Cor. 15:45 states: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.” The word /phrase in that text, “life giving” really jumps out at me. Beliefs & theology are important but it’s possible to believe something or adopt a credo in your mind & it have zero impact on the way you live. I would even argue that beliefs in & of themselves aren’t life giving, but Jesus, Jesus is life giving.
The second part of my faith journey has been much more centered around studying & embracing the humanity of Jesus. Jesus is the human God intended every human to be from the beginning & intends for us to be moving forward. John 1 refers to him as the Logos or the blueprint which I believe applies to all of humanity & all of creation for that matter. Are you able to see that Jesus is the truest self of who you are as a person & not your ancestor Adam? Are you able to see that Jesus is the truest self of others, regardless of how hidden he may be? Christ, the true human, is the measure of every person. You & I were made to incarnate the divine disposition that Jesus reveals, which begins with love (of God & others) & EVERYTHING is designed to flow out of that. May we allow Jesus to truly be, “life giving” & as a result mold & shape us into our truest identity.
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris.
I want to give you a very brief & simple encouragement today: find something that gives you life, and do that! I know I tell a lot of, “I used to believe” type stories but I still can’t get over how many things were passed on to me as, “absolute truth”, but upon further investigation actually had zero basis or foundation in anything related to Jesus, the scriptures, or historic Christianity. So I’m not sure how I came by this but I remember thinking that too much laughter, enjoyment, & fun had to be fleshly, carnal or unspiritual. Art, music, sports, nature, even your family weren’t in & of themselves, “good”, or able to be freely enjoyed unless you somehow made it Christian or spiritual. Recognizing that the spirit of the Lord is with me all of the time has been so freeing for me; I don’t have to make something spiritual or perform in order for God to be pleased with me. Knowing this, resting in this, makes life so much more enJOYable, so enjoy! Turn off the news or your phone & take a walk, do a picnic sunset on the beach, have coffee with a friend, paint something, go to a museum, attempt a dish that you’ve always wanted to try....whatever it is, find something that gives you life & do that! AND know that the Lord is with you the entire time & you don’t have to perform for him.
Much love to you all, Chris.
Hello SPV, Happy Independence Day!
It seems only fitting that we celebrate our freedom from that mean ‘ol British Empire by stuffing our faces with food & blowing things up! Lol, seriously though, it is a good thing to stop & give thanks for where we live, what we especially love about this place called America, and what we ultimately want it to be/look like moving forward.
Freedom is a mega theme throughout the scriptures. The Exodus comes to mind, obviously, but freedom is consistently mentioned in the OT & is all over the NT as well. Paul writes this to the saints in Galatia: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery...You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Gal. 5:1, 13
A few things jump out at me:
1) We were made to be free, it’s in our very DNA which is why things like slavery, heavy-handed or manipulative forms of faith/religion, oppressive or abusive relationships, or totalitarian systems of government are such an affront to God & should be resisted.
2) God in Christ Jesus has worked & continues to work for & toward our freedom. As much as I hate various forms of oppression & bondage, it’s considerably more heartbreaking when Jesus/Christianity is used to promote fear, control, & oppression rather than true freedom.
3) The heart of freedom is not meant to be a full-on license to do whatever you/we want. True freedom should flow out of love, humility, & service. That is true of us as individuals, the St. Pete Vineyard, the City of St. Pete, or the United States of America. May we never use this beautiful gift of freedom to invoke fear & oppress people but may the freedom we have in Christ actually look like Jesus in how we treat each other, worship, serve, & even in how we govern.
May you continue to walk in true freedom. Much love, Chris.
I hope you’re persisting in the joy, peace & love of Jesus even if & especially when the world around us is considerably less than that.
The Apostle Paul made the news the other day when a verse in Romans 13 was quoted by Jeff Sessions regarding the immigration crisis basically telling people to “obey the laws of the land”. I have no interest in questioning his sincerity or love of God but I was pleasantly surprised to see the almost universal rejection of his misapplication/misinterpretation of the verse, even by his own denomination. That verse has been pulled out to support all sorts of evils including slavery, the Holocaust and the Trail of Tears to name a few.
It’s important to know that in this passage Paul was not advocating for blind allegiance to whatever the government says (especially if “your side” is the advocating it). I can’t unpack it all but here are a few things he was getting at in that passage 1) don’t resort to violence to invoke change because violence is inconsistent with the kingdom of Jesus 2) live at peace as much as possible rather than picking a fight with every issue & everyone every 5 seconds & 3) the law of love for others & especially the least of these (because that is the truest picture of how we think about/treat God) supersedes all other laws of the land. And no matter what “the law” is, we as followers of Jesus should be less partisan & always advocating for policies that reflect love.
And if you think I’m putting words in the Apostle Paul’s mouth think about this: he was arrested, beaten, imprisoned multiple times for resisting the laws of Rome & subverting the authority of Caesar. Oh, and he was ultimately killed for his refusal to play by their rules & for his constant pushback against their system. I’m not sure about you but that doesn’t sound to me like someone who believed we should just go along with whatever the government says.
Our allegiance needs to be to love above all else, love for God which means love, mercy & justice for the least of these. And we must never let our political affiliation (or poor biblical proof-texting) get in the way of that.
Much love to you all, Pastor Chris.
The following text might pop up in one of my upcoming sermons during the summer series on Love so if you see it just consider this a preview:
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently...Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Gal. 6:1-2
A couple of things stand out to me about this text:
1) it says “brothers & sisters”. I feel like the church would have far more respect & credibility if were more committed to dealing with our own issues & shortcomings instead of that in the world. Jesus said it this way: “remove the plank in your own eye (house) before examining the speck in another.” I believe that applies personally but also universally. We need to be more concerned, mindful & even faithful to repent & clean up our own messes but sadly we often have the reputation of judging everyone while excusing our stuff.
2) what are we to do when we see a brother or sister falling short of the example of Jesus? Accuse! Judge! Scold! Make a public example of them! Hopefully, you didn’t “amen” any of those but if you did let’s look at the text again...RESTORE THEM! And it doesn’t even stop there but tells us how to restore them....GENTLY!
Wow, if we could get ahold of & model this, how much healthier would we all be?
We’ve all sinned & fallen short, all of us ...go ahead & cast the first stone if you haven’t. If you think about it, we tend to be a lot more gracious when we recognize how badly we ourselves needed/need grace. And we tend to be a lot more forgiving & gentle when we recognize how gentle & forgiving the Lord & others have been to us.
May we as a faith community offer gentle restoration to all who are broken & weary & caught up in anything that isn’t consistent with the person & ethics of Jesus.
Be blessed, Pastor Chris
Hello SPV Fam!
One of the things that was drilled into me most as a kid growing up in church was that followers of Jesus, “are not of this world”. In fact, I can still (about 35 years later) hear Petra’s song, “we are foreigners, we are aliens, we are not of this world” echoing in my subconscious from my church camp days. The concept comes straight from from the lips of Jesus in John, the writings of Paul in a few of his epistles & even the author of the book of Hebrews (whoever that was) so overall it was probably a more healthy than not concept to have imparted to me. The problem was that I made certain assumptions as to what that meant, or people just out & told me, but either way 99% of, “not of this world”, basically meant to avoid sex, drugs & rock & roll which isn’t exactly what Jesus, Paul & the other guy were getting at.
We’ve done a good job at looking the part spiritually while totally missing the heartbeat of Jesus & what his kingdom is about. Let’s face it, we’re in love with power, fame, wealth, dominance, control, being #1....just as Rome was back then. And Jesus is saying if you’re to follow me then, “you’re not of this world...my kingdom operates on a totally different plane”. And he said it a hundred different ways: “whoever is first shall be last”, “whatever you do unto the least of these you’ve done it unto me”, “blessed are the humble/poor in spirit for theirs in the kingdom of God”, “put away your sword”....
I don’t know about you but this following Jesus thing is a lot more involved & a lot more difficult than just avoiding sex before marriage, just saying no to drugs, and listening to cleaner versions of music! In fact, sometimes it’s so difficult it’s almost as if you need to die to self to make it happen!
We’re starting a new sermon series on Love this week so we’ll be spending a lot of time in 1 Corinthians 13 & this particular verse has been on my mind lately: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”
If I’m being honest I’m both conflicted and challenged by this verse. On one hand it’s talking about love being the ultimate marker of maturity and yet how well someone walks in love is hardly ever what we associate with “leaving childish ways behind & becoming a man”. A hard worker, responsible, reliable, honest, trustworthy are all traits of a “mature man”... but loving? When i was growing up I never heard anyone say: “you know that John Wayne/Paul Newman/Burt Reynolds/Clint Eastwood is a real man...they’re so loving!”
And I don’t really think of children as particularly lacking in love either, in fact, we could learn so much from their example of love and faith!
With that said, “leaving childish ways behind” is still a worthy challenge and goal when it comes to striving towards things like patience, service, long suffering & sacrifice. I guess the bottom line is that we all should learn lessons from wherever & whomever we can receive them, especially us men who could learn so much from women & kids in this as well as several other categories. And regardless of gender, age, ethnicity....we can & should always be striving towards maturity which don’t forget, looks like Love more than anything else. Much love, Chris.
Hello SPV fam!
I’ve been thinking about “warning signs” lately. One thing that occurred to me is that I have looked at them in different ways over the years. In my younger, not so mature years I tended to look at them as either a means to control me (who are you to tell me what I can & can’t do) or as a challenge (what, you don’t think I can do this?). Now, sometimes warnings can be a means of control, fear, manipulation or intimidation & sometimes they can be a friendly “listen here, you might want to pay attention because you can get really jacked up if you’re bot careful”.
And who isn’t familiar with the completely ridiculous & unnecessary warning signs like “removing mattress tag can result in improsonment”, “don’t put this plastic bag over your head or you could suffocate” or “don’t eat this Tide Pod” (ok maybe we still need that one)? But now that I’m so mature & wise (*snicker*snicker) I’m really appreciative of warning signs such as the “rocks are slick so don’t get too close to the edge of the river because people slip, fall in & get swept over waterfall”, stuff like that.
And the Bible is actually full of warnings, not meant to manipulate us or cause fear but to make us aware of unhealthy things we could drift towards. There are warning from falling away or from false teaching that’s inconsistent with the person or teachings of Jesus or from being self centered & conceited.
I’m reminded of a verse from the great hymn “Come Thou Fount”: Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love, Here's my heart. O take and seal it; Seal it for thy courts above.
I no longer get defensive about such warnings; instead I read them, give proper consideration (hopefully) & ask the Holy Spirit to seal my heart & lead me into truth...& I invite you to do the same. Much love, Pastor Chris.
It’s Christmas Week! And I want to actually encourage you to have TWO Christmas experiences this year. And no, I don’t mean wake up in your home and open gifts Monday morning and then head to grandmas to open gifts Monday night. You can do that if you want but that’s not what I mean.
Christmas 1) Silent Night, Holy Night, All is Calm....I love Christmas for a variety of reasons, and the music, movies, decorations, traditions, worship, candles...are all a part of that. So please make it a point to take in the tranquility, have some calm and holy moments, come to the SPV Sunday morning for our regular worship service and then at 6pm for Carols & Candles, and then sit next to your fake Florida fireplace with a cup of coffee or tea... giving yourself time to think, meditate, read the story, worship, and give thanks.
Christmas 2) Give yourself some time to consider the implications of this revolutionary baby being born to turn the world upside down: “...he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things...” Christmas might have a lot to do with tradition but the Incarnation (Immanuel, God With Us) is definitely not about the status quo but rather about shaking things up, righting wrongs, and enacting justice. Consider how the Lord might want to “fill you with the spirit of Christmas” to address some wrongs or injustices around you, or to topple systems of oppression. And if your response is “who me?” then consider the 13 year old Jewish girl given a similar invitation and responded with: “sure God, all things are possible with you, whatever you want, I’ll do it!”
Merry Christmas (both ways),
This weeks email is written by SPV staff member, Stacy Henderlong.
Hello SPV Family!
Back in the late 80's Nike coined the "Just Do It" slogan. And in the last several years we've seen a lot of "Be the change you want to see" often attributed to Ghandi. And in our own Vineyard movement, we tote the phrase "Everybody gets to play" as being a key part of how we do church.
During Advent we take the time to reflect on the Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love that Jesus brings to the world. However, I feel like sometimes we get caught up in the waiting and the longing for the return of Jesus that we forget that he showed us how and called us to be like him NOW. That we need to BE THE HOPE to a world that is hurting - right now. To BRING PEACE to a world that is full of war - right now. To SPREAD JOY when our world is sad - right now. And to BE LOVE to a world full of hate - right now. It's all fine & good to "wait & pray" or send good thoughts, but don't just wait for Jesus to do it because he has called & equipped YOU to be the change. There is plenty for us to do - to BE Jesus - RIGHT NOW!
Hope, Peace, Joy, & Love to you all,
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.