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.