Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Serving and Being Served

We are on day 3 post Mission Sunday. Three days ago we had speakers share about different missions they are involved with in the community, and we had a variety of organizations come and host tables to share how God is working through them. It was a time to get involved! It didn't matter how, or where, or for how long. At VPC we have missions that are local, national, and international. We host, and partner with, missions that help the hungry, the homeless, those shut in their homes, the elderly, the children, the children in foster care, the urban community, the migrant, children in multiple parts of Africa, and so much more. If you are interested in getting involved with missions, VPC knows one with whom you can connect. We are a church that believes Church isn't confined to the walls of our sanctuary but that we are here for a larger purpose - to continue Christ's work in the world.

And if you do mission work, you will probably agree that, most of the time, you get more out of it than the person you are serving. I know I do. I remember once I was in college and in Philadelphia on a mission trip. We were in a particularly rough area, and it was eye-opening for this suburbia girl! We hosted a VBS, cleaned up trash (mainly empty heroin bags) at the local park, and much more. One day we were doing a street cleanup in a neighborhood and the leader of the group called me over to meet a guy. He was homeless and a friend of the neighborhood and of the mission. He also had one leg. Literally, and his other leg was a wooden peg. We had been talking for about five minutes when I heard loud pops. All at once this man pushed me on the ground and laid over me. The pops were bullets. We were in a drive by shooting. Suddenly the noise stopped, the car sped away and the man helped me up. My friend Melissa was next to me and she burst into tears. Not really knowing what I should do, I joined in. Then I sobbed and sobbed. And actually it wasn't for myself. I just couldn't believe that this neighborhood, these children, these elderly friends experienced these shootings on a regular basis.  There was no hesitation, no panic; everyone just hit the ground until it was over. This was normal life. I in no way felt normal. And candidly, I don't think I ever did again.

On that hot day in Philadelphia, I experienced holiness. An outcast to the world shielded me, a stranger, from danger. He laid down his life for a friend. Sound familiar? I'm pretty sure that's what Jesus meant when he said "Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends" John 15:13... and that man taught me, we are all friends.

I went to Philly to serve those in need, and I was blessed with an experience that changed the course of my life. No longer could I ignore the terrors of the world, the cities, and the neighborhoods right around me. Life became bigger and my relationship with God became so much better.

Friends, when we engage in mission, our problems don't go away. In fact we may have more. However, the perspective with which we see the world changes. We spend our time more meaningfully and we enjoy the things of life that really matter. It's not always easy, but it's always rewarding. I encourage you to join us in this journey.

May God bless you and all whom you love,

Rev. Michelle

Monday, August 15, 2016

Dead Church Walking

"To the angel of the church in Pergamum write: These are the words of him who has the sharp, double edged sword. I know where you live-where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city-where Satan lives. Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.  Rev. 2: 12-17

The Christians in the church in Pergamum were permitting, no doubt in the name of toleration and inclusiveness, the teaching of Balaam. Balaam advised the Midianite women how to lead the Israelites away from God (Num. 25:1-2; 31:16).  He serves as a prototype of all corrupt teachers who seek to deceive believers into compromise and accommodation with worldliness.

This past month in Portland Oregon, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) met for its biennial exercise in cultural accommodation.  Little of good note was accomplished.  On the other hand there was the usual laundry list of behaviors reminiscent of the 7 churches in Revelation 2 & 3.  Most offensive and in my opinion apostate was the inclusion of prayer by a Muslim Iman praying to a false god.  This, in the course of what was promoted as worship – not interfaith dialogue, not mutual support, but worship.  In that light, it was both apostate and heretical.  Here is a brief description of what occurred:

The OGA (Office of the General Assembly) leadership deliberately designed this service not simply as an ecumenical affair (inviting leaders from other Christian denominations to help lead) but also as an interfaith event (inviting one leader from an anti-Christian religion — Islam). Not surprisingly, the Muslim iman, Wajdi Said, led the assembly  in a prayer in Arabic from the Qur’an,  and then proceeded to speak a prayer to Allah in English seeking the conversion of all there to Islam, and demoting Jesus to a status equal to other prophets, including non-biblical ones (Ishmael and Muhammad). The final part of the liturgy he read was something he, together with the denominational designers, must have created — it was a prayer based on four passages from the Qur’an (there was nothing recognizable from the Bible), and was in printed form as well as projected on screen for the assembly.

This but one more piece of evidence speaking to the death of a once faithful denomination.  It is not (by any means) the first instance of such heresy and I suspect it will not be the last.

It is not enough to call yourself a church. Those who shun Biblical doctrine and choose cultural accommodation over Christian doctrine simply pander to the world.  Christ's Church exists for a reason.  It has a purpose.  We are called to it to perform a service.  People who attend merely for the "community and social causes" will never bear fruit for the kingdom.

The Nicolaitans condemned in The Revelation of John were a heretical sect within the church. They taught and promoted a theology of accommodation with the cultural norms of their world. They did so to save themselves from the trouble of actually helping those who were caught up in sinful behavior.  This is still true of the formerly mainline and now simply sideline churches.

  • Rather than help the sexually confused and hurting, the modern Nicolaitans condone the behavior.  
  • Rather than stand up for the life of the unborn child, they condone unrestricted abortion on demand. 
  • Rather than learn how to be responsible parents, they neglect discipline. There is a lot of talk about "love." But what about "guidance" and discipline?  
  • Rather than stand up for what the Bible teaches, they appease the world. 

Far from being more compassionate, modern Nicolaitans are just avoiding the price of obeying the word of God.

Every Christian should be prepared to be different from the world around him.  The most common word for believers in the New Testament is hagios, which means different, separate, holy.

On Jun 22 in the 2016 General Assembly (PCUSA) “Allah bless us and bless our families and bless our Lord. Lead us on the straight path – the path of all the prophets: Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad,” and so went the prayer offered up by Wajidi Said, from the Portland Muslim Community, as part of the “first order of business” during the opening plenary session of the 222nd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA).

The PCUSA was trying to be inclusive. They did not mean to offend anyone. But when anyone or any group ignores the Word of God and tries to accommodate the world, they will offend God and repulse the faithful.

  • When anyone or any group tries to accommodate the world, they offend Christ.  
  • When anyone or any group offers prayer in any other name than Jesus’, they offend God and their prayer is not honored.

--Pastor Jim