Monthly Archives: October 2008

Praying and Voting

Mozaic in Sophia Church, Istanbul
Mozaic in Sophia Church, Istanbul

While speaking at a missionary conference in Turkey this past summer I was able to take Sandi and the girls to visit Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). This church was built by the Roman Emporer Justinian and was finished in 538 AD. It possessed at the time the largest free-standing dome in the world. Upon its dedication Justinian entered the church on his horse and declared himself to be greater than Solomon. Just a little arrogance there.

The church was built in Constantinople, the city that, 200 years earlier, the first Christian Roman Emporer, Constantine, had consecrated as the ‘New Rome.’ The Mozaic pictured here (double click to enlarge) is inside one of the main entrances to the church. In the middle are Mary and Jesus (as a baby) with Justinian (on the left) presenting to Mary a model of the Sophia church and Constantine presenting to her a model of the city of Constantinople. In other words, state and church had become indistinguishable.
In spite of recent abuses, America has been built on the separation, not the union, of those two entities. The separation of church and state protects us from imposed theocratic authoritarianism on the one hand and the corrupting power of a church intoxicated with tax money and military might on the other. Next week we will participate in free ‘state’ elections, grateful for the freedom to do so and happy to not have to endure a state imposed church. Yet where do the two meet? Certainly they meet at elections where people of faith are permitted to vote, but also in prayer meetings where humble intercession moves the hand of God on behalf of the state. Praying and voting — its ours to do as people of faith.

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Palin Power and Politics

Sarah Palin in Springfield, MO
Sarah Palin in Springfield, MO

Having close to a full day off for the first time in a while, Sandi, Meredith and I went to the Sarah Palin rally in here in Springfield today. We stood in line for 2 hours before even getting in. The ambient passion for either politics or Palin was amazing given that thousands of people stood even longer than we did in the cold, cloudy, windy weather.

Of course you know the (lame?) question that we pastors always ask ourselves: “Would they wait this long in cold weather to get into church?” Then we feel bad at the probable answer and try to refocus.
     Anyway, in the picture you might be able to see Governor Palin on stage, dressed in red just to the left of the red striped tent. What is easier to see are the thousands of people who showed up. For many she does hold rock star status. Of interest to us here in the home city of the Assemblies of God (AG) headquarters, she is the ‘grew up AG girl’ who to some degree is reshaping the political landscape nationally.
     As a pastor I do not endorse candidates or tell people how to vote. However we do need to be praying hard during these last 12 days of the campaign. There are tangible spiritual powers underlying the civic issues and we need to see God’s hand at work in our land — first through His church and secondarily through those He ordains to govern (Romans 13).

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Celebrating Missions with New Friends

Shontel and Mo Seneca; Wade Peyton; Nathan Sheridan
(L to R: Shontel and Mo Seneca; Wade Peyton; Nathan Sheridan

I spent this (Saturday) morning with three visiting pastors and one of their wives. They are visiting Central this weekend to walk through our Fall Missions Celebration with us. Last night they had a meal with our Missions Leadership Team. Tonight they will join our Pastors, Board members, Missions Team members and guest speakers for another meal and prayer for our missions services tomorrow.

Each of these pastors was hand-picked to be with us by Benny Ferguson who travels the country helping churches build missions into their priorities. They are from Texas (Wade), Louisianna (Mo and Shontel) and Missouri (Nathan). Each one of these pastors inherited churches that they are transitioning into missional, Spirit-filled, multigenerational congregations. They have each shown a lot of courage and wisdom as leaders. It was inspiring to just sit with them and listen to their stories.

May we also rub off on them as they watch us loving and doing missions. Tomorrow will be a great day as we raise funds for the first of our 5 ‘Year of Missions’ Bible School projects. The first $10,000 that we give this weekend will be matched dollar for dollar by Builders International! More importantly, our hearts will be stretched even wider for the world Jesus loves.

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Markets and Meltdowns

Traders on NYSE floor 10/13/08

Traders on NYSE floor 10/13/08

After the worst week in history for the DOW Jones average, the markets are rebounding quite aggressively today. Who knows whether they will sell off before the closing bell or continue higher. Some Wall Street watchers are calling today’s action an ‘oversold bounce’ while others feel that a market bottom may have been put in this past Friday. Meanwhile President Bush and world finance ministers are trying to avert a further meltdown of the US and international banking systems.

As retirement accounts across the country ride the Wall Street rollercoaster, here are a few things to keep in mind as Christ-followers . . .

  • Don’t tie your identity to this stuff;
  • Resist fear and avoid making impulsive decisions right now;
  • Keep focused on Kingdom principles in your living and your giving;
  • Avoid stashing all of your investments in one pot (or stock!);
  • Meditate on Matthew 6 and re-look at material life through Jesus’ eyes;
  • Don’t obsess on the news to the neglect of spiritual priorities;
  • Have faith — God does provide!

Through the activity of the Holy Spirit in us, peace can trump panic.

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Connecting with Pastor Craig

I was at at a pastor’s conference in Palm Springs this past week. Being in the area, I was able to connect with Pastor Craig on Wednesday morning.

Pastor Craig at Shadow Mountain

Pastor Craig at Shadow MountainWhere Craig preaches

Until recently, Craig was the Connections Pastor here at Central. He is now in the desert area just outside of Palm Springs to pastor a church plant project. It was like old times eating breakfast, talking family and ministry. Craig added so much value to Central as he built connecting structures, small groups and outreach ministries. Now he is doing the same, along with being the overall pastor of this wonderful growing congregation. He recently baptized 5 new adult believers in a swimming pool.

Shadow Mountain Sanctuary
Shadow Mountain Sanctuary
Newly Renovated Lobby
Newly Renovated Lobby

Just like Central, they also completely renovated the lobby of their small church building to update the look and create conversation and fellowship areas. Tomorrow (Sunday) is their big celebration day unveiling their new church name (Shadow Mountain — named after the mountains that border that part of the desert valley). They had 80 or 90 in attendance last Sunday and tomorrow they hopefully will break 100. Craig is doing a super job. Let’s keep praying and giving and strengthening the leadership hands of the Cunninghams!

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