I have REALLY enjoyed living in Florida these past 15 years, & not to complain, but the one thing I truly miss about not living up north is.....fall. I’m not mad at God or hating on Florida but seriously Lord, you couldn’t have worked in some cooler temps in September & October & caused some leaves to change colors? If it weren’t for Labor Day & the start of football (continue to pray for my Buckeyes) I’m pretty sure summer would roll right into Thanksgiving without me even realizing it!
But...we do have Labor Day & football (thank you Jesus) and the biggest shift that takes place this time of the year actually happens in the church calendar as summer vacations end, kids & teachers go back to school, & we all (hopefully) start to settle back into worship, service, & community. In a few weeks we’ll start a brand new series called “The Real Jesus”, make a push to invite new people, join a small group, & settle back into some routine & consistency that many of us lost over the summer (& that’s not a dig, I wholeheartedly support summer vacations & adventures!). So if you’re reading this & you’ve been away for awhile, there’s nothing like a fresh start. And please know, this isn’t about “getting God back into your life”, the Spirit of God is an amazing travel companion & has been with you the entire time (“where can I run from your presence oh Lord...you are right there with me...”), rather, it’s more about getting the routine & discipline of corporate worship, community, service of others, generosity, holy communion, outreach...back into our lives.
So let the change of the season begin! Even if the Florida weather & the leaves on our trees don’t cooperate.
Much Autumn love, Pastor Chris
I’ve joked in the past about doing a sermon series on my least favorite bible verses. I know, I know, that sounds sacrilegious but that’s a better title than, “Jesus’ most annoying statements”, right? And just because it’s annoying doesn’t mean it’s not right, I mean, he’s Jesus, he’s always right, but if you’re worried about something the most annoying words you can possibly hear in that moment are, “don’t worry” (Mt. 6). And yet it’s a pretty safe bet that most of us are worried about something at this very moment, I know I am, & as annoying as those words are to hear they are also medicine to the soul & guess what, medicine tastes bad most of the time.
Jesus’ encouragement/commandment to us to, “not worry” isn’t a snarky jab lacking empathy, it’s an invitation to something better. And the, “better” isn’t just simply tricking your mind into thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones but his invitation is this: “seek first the kingdom of God” & allow the things you & I are worried about to be overshadowed by our preoccupation with the Lord & his purposes. Jesus promises when we do that, his provision will be made known to us & that’s where faith comes in. It seems ridiculous but sometimes I actually forget that this life journey of following Jesus requires faith. So seek first the kingdom, don’t worry, have faith, & receive the goodness & provision of the Lord, even when doing so seems annoying at first glance.
Much love to you all, Chris.
This will sound like a controversial statement but I assure you it is very sound theology: not everything in the OT accurately represents the heart & character of God. One of those OT concepts, & probably the most damaging thing I was taught growing up in church, was that, “because God is so holy he cannot be in the presence of sin.” That one little statement (& continued emphasis) caused me to believe that any less than perfect action on my part (losing my patience, cussing, an impure thought...) would immediately cause the presence of God to depart from me until I repented. The Holy Spirit was like a yo-yo in my life & without realizing it I had adopted a faith that was overwhelmingly rooted in my works, behavior, & obedience rather than God’s grace, Jesus’ faithfulness, & the constant (& precious) indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Seeing the Incarnation, Jesus coming into the world as fully God & man, in a fuller light was a game changer for me. God chose to come to us, “in a land of deep darkness (a light has come)” so that overwhelmingly convinced me that God not only can be in the presence of sin but actually runs towards it! And if Jesus/God incarnate ran towards the sin of the world then maybe, just maybe he doesn’t run away from me after every little (or big) mistake I make. And maybe, just maybe, he is kind to the broken-hearted (what is more kind than being WITH someone when they are down or wayward?). That little epiphany (see what I did there?) caused the theological dam to break in my life & I started seeing the Abba revealed in Jesus as running toward the wayward son (prodigal son story) rather than refusing grace until he groveled & repented for hours. I now see that Jesus is the kindness of God that provokes us to repent. Because I know he is gracious & merciful I am now so much more interested in knowing & modeling him more.
So what does all of this mean? His presence is real & you can trust it/him. We need his presence, your friends, relatives, co-workers, kids, etc need his presence...& he’s even closer than we think. If you needed to hear that then drink it in & if you already know that then be a herald of that good news!
Much love to you all, Chris.
We have 2 significant things going on this weekend & I hope you’ll join us for both. Our annual all-church picnic & beach baptism is this Sunday @5pm in Redington Shores. Please come & share a meal with your church family & lend some support for those being baptized. On Sunday morning we will be concluding our, “If We Have Not Love” sermon series with a message entitled, “Love Never Fails”, so make sure you’re there for that along with some amazing worship, holy communion, as well as fellowship & ministry with one another. As we wrap up the Love series I thought I might just give a brief re-cap of who, as followers of Jesus, we are called/required to love:
1) Love God: ok, this is pretty much a given, sort of like Christianity 101. This might be really easy for some & yet difficult for those who have been told God is different than who He really is or feels He is responsible for something he actually didn’t do (“God Why did you take away ______ or let this happen?”). That’s why good theology of who God really is is so important & why we spend so much time on it.
2) Love your neighbor: this too is pretty basic but the twist Jesus presented to us in his teaching on this subject in the story of the Good Samaritan is that our neighbor isn’t just limited to the people of our immediate community, who share the same skin color, religion, politics, ideology, & worldview as you & me but Kingdom Love extends beyond borders & social/religious norms.
3) Love yourself: if we’re called to love our neighbor as ourself, yet operate in some sort of place of perpetual self-loathing, do your neighbor a favor & just leave them alone! But seriously, love, care, & provide for yourself & it’s then, & only then, are we able to love others well. And if there’s something in your past (or present) that haunts you, please get to a place where you’re able to forgive yourself (that may require getting some help, by the way). Generally speaking though, we all need to cut ourselves some slack. Most of us are just too hard on ourselves & the sooner we recognize that no matter how deeply we are flawed (& we are ALL deeply flawed), God’s Love & grace is even deeper (& broader & wider).
4) Love your enemies/those who persecute you. Yeah I know, I hate this one too but this is what elevates Kingdom living above everything else. Following Jesus is so much more than just a moral code or righting the wrongs of the world, it is about revolutionary love that is foreign to world & it’s systems. God’s love towards humanity is radical & he calls us to, “be imitators of God”, which means we have to do the stuff he does & be who he is. The bad news is: it’s impossible. The good news is: nothing is impossible with God & therefore through the work of the Holy Spirit we actually can walk all of this out.
Much love, Chris.
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!
Pastor Chris Cahall
Chris loves Jesus & despises religion. Journey with him to dig a little deeper into your faith.