As Jesus followers we are called into the Kingdom Life. This blog will help us converse and learn what that means. It will contain thoughts on Scripture, Sermon Reflection, Leadership Training and interesting reads. -Pastor Jeff

Saturday, July 23, 2016

No Longer Quiet: A Response to the Growing Evangelical Support of Trump

I can no longer keep quiet.  I’ve tried.  I’ve tried through subtle pastoral influence to challenge many of the current political assumptions of fear, prejudice, and power-mongering.  I’ve been very clear regarding my lack of support for Donald Trump from the beginning.  However, I’ve not been this vocal until now.
Reading through Facebook, I encountered Dr. James Dobson’s endorsement of Trump and I can no longer keep quiet.  I am burdened by the growing Evangelical pressure to support Trump.  I refuse to be bullied into submission by respected, outspoken, and influential Evangelical leaders, as though now that the Faith Advisory Committee for Trump’s campaign has spoken, all other Evangelicals need to get on board.  Ben Carson and Jerry Fallwell Jr., “I’m not buying what your selling.”  

I AM now angry.

I AM angry that somehow Evangelical leaders would attempt to script Trump as the natural choice for Christian leadership in the country.  This makes absolutely no sense.  Support him if you like, but don’t try to spiritually guilt-trip me into embracing a man whose rhetoric and positions have consistently gone against my beliefs as an Evangelical Christian. 

DO NOT try to cast Trump as the clear choice for a candidate with integrity.
DO NOT use your platform to bully us lesser pastors into submission and suggest that a failure to vote for Trump would be somehow a collusion with principalities of evil and darkness.  That is a blatant misuse of your platform.

DO NOT, in stating the names of those on the counsel, attempt to use their positions and names to somehow justify your decisions.  For one thing, as an Evangelical, I have SUBSTANTIAL theological disagreements with Robert Jeffress and Jerry Falwell Jr. and refuse to embrace their leadership as somehow binding on my practice of faith.

DO NOT assume that my failure to support Trump is an endorsement for Clinton.  This ridiculous suggestion made by both parties that somehow a failure to vote for their party is giving the election to the other is a tactic of fear.  That’s not how a democracy works. 

I CAN vote for a third party.  

I CAN write in a name.  

I CAN opt to vote in all sorts of elections and yet protest the presidential election because my conscience is clear that I cannot vote for either candidate. 
I CAN still have a say if I protest.  I have voted in nearly all elections since I was 18.  I continually vote in local and state elections.  I pay taxes.  I participate in local organizations and agencies for the improvement of our communities.  I served my country as a veteran.  I support our law enforcement and try to build bridges with those who’ve suffered the abuses of prejudice and injustice.

So DO NOT tell me that because I won’t get in line that I somehow don’t have a say going forward. 

You DO NOT get to make that call.

DO NOT use your platforms and hyperbole as a scare tactic to the masses.  It is precisely these tactics that have led us to this mess and divisiveness in the first place.  Playing on people’s fears with an “over the top” rhetoric has driven those that could have bridged the divide out of the election cycle leaving us the two most divisive voices…and YOU ARE playing right into that.  


I will not let my congregation be controlled by the “elite Evangelicals” who have somehow found their role in scripting a future I believe stands contrary to the Kingdom of God.  I love my people too much for that.  

I WILL NOT SUPPORT either candidate for the presidency of the United States of America.  I DO so as an act of conscience and protest.  I WILL NOT BE BULLIED into a ridiculous corner by those that still want to use Jesus and the Christian faith as the baptismal waters for political agendas. 
I DO love my people and will continue to do so regardless who they vote for, because I AM ONE KINGDOM MINDED and it’s not Ceasar’s or any extension of power and dominance.  I WILL CONTINUE to spread the good news of the Resurrection of Jesus, the Crucifixion, and the coming Kingdom of my Lord.  

I WILL love those our systems alienate.  

I WILL stand against injustice, challenge supremacy, and question motives.

I WILL trust that God’s hand is more sturdy than the flimsy palms of any political party.  

I AM ANGRY…BUT I AM HOPEFUL!  Hopeful that followers of Jesus, no matter the outcome will stand together in pursuit of God’s vision of the redeeming and healing of all things, the embrace of the outsiders, the care of the poor and down-trodden, the feeding of the hungry, and the empowerment of creativity and hope to make a more peaceful future.  

Dr. Dobson, I HAVE respected you throughout this last 15 years of my Christian life and appreciate the great difference you’ve made.  BUT DO NOT abuse this influence and play into the fears of the people.  YOU KNOW WHO YOUR LORD IS!  YOU KNOW WHERE YOUR HOPE LAY!  DON’T put all your eggs into that tattered basket.  I have profound respect for you.  I’m glad you’ve been given a voice but please be aware that you may be scripted into a story that you will one day wish was never told. 

Pastor Jeff Stark
Hopeful/Protesting Pastor

Friday, July 8, 2016

Image Broken, Heart Broken - It Matters

Father, how your heart must break.

This morning I woke up to the anguish of more senseless death.  Immediately I felt the weight of the sorrow, the lament of loss, the confusion and frustration of others, and the impending onslaught of vitriol and anger spewing opinion after opinion about whose lives matter most.

My heart broke…it still breaks.

Yet in prayer this morning, I couldn’t get past how much sorrow this must bring you, O God.

You God, the One that has knit each and every person on this earth together in the wombs of their mothers.  You God, the One that refuses to see the color of skin, sexual orientation, religious affiliation, political agenda, ethnic origin, or the job one holds as the primary identifier of our lives, but instead chooses to see us first and foremost as your beloved children. 

How your heart must break when your children lash out against one another.
Now Lord, I pray you are prepared for what we will do with these stories.  We will use them.  We will use them to push already established agendas moving to demands for action without pausing for confession and lament.
We will use these stories as evidence of your non-existence.

Some will say, “If there is a God how could he let these kinds of things to continually happen?”

Really, Lord.  How foolish we are that we would for a second attempt to pawn these actions of death, brutality, violence, hatred, injustice, and retaliation on to you.  It’s like we’ve learned nothing from our Genesis predecessors.  We like Adam are still pushing off blame on to you as he did in the garden.  We like Cain are still refusing to be our brother’s keeper.  We are responsible.  We are responsible for the hate, fear, anger, and brutality that resides deep in the core of our hearts.

We give space for prejudice to fester.

We justify retaliation.

We incite violence in response to violence as though that is ever the answer.

We expect those that serve and defend to do so on streets filled with dangerous weapons, day after day and night after night, with little pay, little respect, and even less appreciation.
We seek to narrowly define our neighbors like the expert in the law in Luke 10 to ensure we call “neighbor” only those that are already most like us, who think like us, who look like us, and who act like us.  This narrow definition gives us permission to make “them” out to be the bad guys and gals.
Shame on us, O Lord.  This is not your fault, but our failure.  It is our failure to live into the amazingly high calling to be the Image of God.  We mar, corrupt, and pervert your image leaving you almost indistinguishable in the lives of humanity. 

Lord, some will say, “This is the sign that the end is near.”  Perhaps, I don’t know.  I know this isn’t the first time in history that you’ve witnessed your children destroy one another at alarming rates.  I’m afraid the doomsday prophet is again passing off responsibility.  The desire to escape is a failure to reckon with integrity and faithfulness with the world we live in now.
To hope for the end of all things simply means we don’t have to change our attitudes and actions.  It means the world can go to hell in a handbasket and at the last minute you come to swoop down and save the day, leaving us to say, “Thank God, I thought I was going to have to do something there.”
And yet when Jesus prayed…

“Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” 

Something about what we do here matters. 

Our attitudes matter. 

The hate, fear, and prejudice in our hearts matter.  Our anger and hatred that produces violence and death matters.  Our inability and unwillingness to change the systemic issues of injustice in our society matters.  Our intolerance and our willingness to stereotype those with whom we disagree matters. 

The lives of the weak and defenseless matters.  The lives of those that stand in defense of the weak and defenseless matters.  The neighbor with whom we have nothing in common matters. 

The rainbow flag waving member of the LGBTQ community matters.

The man who kissed his baby girl on the forehead before leaving his house, shield fixed on his chest believing he’s making a difference for the good, unsure of the danger lurking around every corner matters.

The burqa wearing woman matters.

The hooded black teen matters.

The white family in suburbia matters.

The man who risked his life crossing the border in search of a job to support his family matters.

The suit wearing Baptist standing on the front steps of his church matters.

The mentally ill matter.  The elderly matter.  The orphan matters.  The homeless matter.
They all matter!  What we do matters…why?  Because it matters to you!  Because you, O God, see a world you’ve crafted with your own hands and lives you’ve molded to reflect your image run amuck and your heart breaks.  What happens here, what happens to us, what we choose to do to one another matters.

Until we deal decisively with the corruption lingering deep in our hearts, until we are willing to confess our sins, until we stop seeking someone to blame or an escape hatch to get us out of this big bad place, we will be destined to replay the history of brutality and sadness, heartache and violence.  Only once we realize that every seed of prejudice, hate, and unchecked anger planted gives rise to a society that turns on itself and devours itself, will we be positioned to make a difference.

Violence begets violence.

Prejudice begets prejudice.

Hate begets hate.

Blame passes off responsibility.

Lord, teach us to both lament and confess.  Teach us to lament that which breaks your heart, the death of all…because all matter to YOU!  Teach us to confess instead of assigning blame.  Teach us to nurture with great responsibility, sacrifice, and diligence the world as we have it now, so that, perhaps somehow your divine intentions for peace, love, and hope can be glimpsed through our actions of brother keeping and neighbor making.  

Lord have your way with us.