Wednesday, February 01, 2006

February 1, 2006

My greetings come from Chicago where I am attending our denomination’s Midwinter Conference. It has been a wonderful time of refreshment and encouragement.

This morning I finished reading George Barna’s newest book entitled Revolution. Barna, an evangelical, is a prolific author and leading researcher. Revolution is stimulating and challenging as Barna examines the state of the church and compares the trends his research reveals with the biblical picture of the church as God intended it to be. I cannot recommend this book highly enough for your critical interaction.

This morning, while in the gym, I read the last chapter where Barna lists affirmations of a revolutionary. My pace quickened, and I reread the affirmations two or three times...they give language to what I would hope I, and every person who calls PCC home, would hold as core convictions.

The affirmations are listed below for your edification and meditation. Can I encourage you to print them out and review these biblical tenets often? Please don’t miss the musings and my closing comments below!

The Affirmations of a Revolutionary

I am in the service of God Almighty. My life is not my own; I exist as a free person but have voluntarily become a slave to God. My role on earth is to live as a Revolutionary, committed to love, holiness, compassion, justice and advancing God’s kingdom. My life is not about me and my natural desires; it is about knowing, loving and serving God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. Therefore, I acknowledge the following:

  • I am a sinner, broken by my disobedience but restored by Jesus Christ in order to participate in good works that please God. I am not perfect; but Jesus Christ makes me righteous in God’s eyes, and the Holy Spirit leads me towards greater holiness.
  • God created me for His purposes. My desire is to fulfill those ends and those ends alone. When I get out of bed each day, I do so for one purpose: to love, obey and serve God and his people.
  • Every breath I take is a declaration of war against Satan and a commitment to opposing him.
  • God does not need me to fight his fight, but He invites me to allow Him to fight through me. It is my privilege to serve Him in that manner. I anticipate and will gladly endure various hardships as I serve God; for this is the price of participation in winning the spiritual war.
  • I do not need to save the world; Jesus Christ has already done that. I cannot transform the world, but I can allow God to use me to transform some part of it.
    My commitment to the Kingdom is sealed by my complete surrender to God’s ways and His will. I will gladly do what He asks of me simply because He loves me enough to ask. I gain my security, success, and significance through my surrender to Him.
  • I am called to be the Church rather than go to church. Worship is not an event I attend or a process I observe; it is the lifestyle I lead. I do not give away ten percent of my resources. I surrender 100 percent.
  • God has given me natural and supernatural abilities, all intended to advance His kingdom. I will deploy those abilities for that purpose.
  • The proof of my status as a Revolutionary is the love I show to God and people. There is strength in relationships; I am bound at a heart and soul level to other Revolutionaries, and I will bless believers whenever I have the chance.
  • To achieve victory in the spiritual war in which we are immersed, there is nothing I must accomplish; I must simply follow Christ with everything I have. There is no greater calling than to know and serve God.
  • The world is desperately seeking meaning and purpose, I will respond to that need with the Good News and meaningful service.
  • Absolute moral and spiritual truth exists, is knowable and is intended for my life; it is accessible through the Bible. I want nothing more than to hear God say to me, "Well done, good and faithful servant."

    I want nothing more than to hear God sayThank you, Lord God, for loving me, for saving me, for refining me, for blessing me and for including me in the work of your kingdom. My life is yours to use as you please. I love you.

    I will continue the Margin portion of our Thrive! series this Sunday looking at financial margin. I want to tell you from the outset: I want nothing from you as a result of this look at finances--I actually only want something for you. Come hungry on Sunday, and you can prepare by reading Malachi 3:6-12. See you on Sunday!

January 26, 2006

What a weekend! My main takeaway from the sermon this weekend was God's way of taking attendance: namely, not only counting who is present, but concerned about who is absent. Your staff is away at a staff retreat this week, and I would invite you to pray for us today. Today's Gmail is an excerpt from a paper written by a guest of PCC, who is absent every Sunday, and who matters to God.

This college student, who is not a follower of Jesus Christ, was assigned to go to a church and observe what took place and write about it. It gives a profound insight into how an un-churched person views our community. Please, please, on the lookout for our guests and greet and encourage them!

"I attended the Peninsula Covenant Church and attended the Sunday Evening Worship at 6:00pm on December 4, 2005. I was met at the door by a greeter who handed me a 'worship guide' and greeted me. The crowd seemed to be mostly young people--I saw a few young men in letterman jackets, graduation year 2006. I also saw two or three young couples with babies (and a young couple who were just married lit the second candle of the Advent wreath). Most of the people were white, and appeared middle class. The building was open, with a wall of windows. Around the back of the room is a walkway lined with benches against the back wall and tables with pamphlets and other nformational notices on them. On the stage was a wreath with candles, severalflower arrangements, and a musical setup--drums, a girl on bass, a girl with a microphone, and a man with a guitar and microphone.

The service opened with songs (Amazing Grace was the only one I recognized), followed by a prayer. Most of the people closed their eyes and bowed their heads. Following this was a 'Welcome to PCC' address, with some preaching. As I noticed later in the service too, there's a lot of focus on getting new people to join. Maybe because I'm Jewish, and conversion is difficult, this seemed strange to me at first. I still don't like the idea, but it's a different mindset. To me, religion is more personal and internal than to most Christian denominations. After this came a brief skit concerning a family that had lost touch. That night, the sermon was fitting in with a sort of theme they had going on, the Gift of Grace. In a philosophical sense, I found it very interesting. The idea was that, unlike with a person, nothing needs to be done to earn God's grace. To be forgiven, one needs only to love God and accept Jesus. He was definitely looking at the section of the Bible and trying to clarify it as much as possible. He also told a story about a family whose daughter, while away at college, had fallen in with the wrong crowd. And her family, instead of berating her, said, "Let's love her as much as we can, so that she won't be able to find more love anywhere else."

There is a valuable lesson there. A lot of parents don't care enough, or cop out of a difficult situation, when maybe what their child really needs is to feel like things can still be okay, and someone stable is there for them. The sermon was followed by communion. As the only communion I had seen before was in movies, where one person at a time receives a wafer and a sip of wine, which are then believed to transubstantiate into Jesus' body and blood, I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively gentle symbolism at PCC.

The most pleasant thing about the service was the community. On one or two occasions, they told us to walk around and talk to people. I'm dreadful at introducing myself in a strange room full of strange people, [and this] helped me realize why I enjoy attending services at my synagogue: There's something very peaceful and unifying about being in a room full of people who are, presumably, on the same wavelength as you are. That serenity helped me understand why people worship together.

During the communion, people sat and talked quietly, and then, at their own pace, went up to the stage, tore a piece of bread off one of several 'stations.' While the service was pleasant, and it was very interesting to observe, the most interesting part of my evening came afterwards. I went to speak to Tony Gapastione, a PCC minister, in order to get his signature, and he asked what I had thought. Earlier, we had seen his wife, who knows my friend, and she had mentioned he had taken a similar sort of class, and they had gone to a Buddhist temple for the final. I talked to him about religion for a while, about the vast divide between the Christian religion, and many Christians. I tried to explain my atheism--that I don't think a god is necessary for a person to be good, but stumbled. I left, realizing I had been on the defensive. I enjoyed the conversation, but felt like I was defending my beliefs, which of course, having left, felt absurd. They're the ones who believe in a god, who think this crazy dude with a bad haircut was the son of this god. And I'm the one trying to justify my belief. It didn't change the way I view gods, or religions, but it has made me consider that same question. Why should I be a good person? Though the visit did not lead me to conversion, as seemed to be a goal (pamphlets describing Christianity for new Christians were mentioned more than once), it did inspire me to think more about my own moral backings. I am not yet sure why I believe people can be moral without the pressure of religion, but I have been thinking of it often lately."

This week we continue in our Thrive series talking about Margin. Believe me, you and I need what is coming on this topic in the next 4 weeks. God Bless you! Gary