The Power of an Orange Chair

isolated chair

THIS FREE DOWNLOADABLE BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE SELFLESS, PASSIONATE, GENEROUS SERVANTS OF GREEN VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH  http://www.live58.org/7mandates

I am a hungry student of Grace.

When I began to explore grace, it changed my world. It made me less religious and more graceful (except on the dance floor).

Grace made me less critical of others and more committed to growing my heart. Grace made me less fearful.

I became less exclusive and much more inclusive after realizing grace is for everyone.

I discovered freedom.

Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.” But I think Jack was wrong. I think we can handle it. It can be scary—counter-intuitive—but it will set you free!

For those of you who have been hurt, shamed, abused and manipulated in the name of God, I am so sorry!

My heart breaks daily as I live in this paradox of being a pastor, yet see the hypocrisy in our religious world and even in my own heart.

But don’t run away from grace. Don’t run away from the truth that can set you free.

My life changed forever in college when I discovered grace.

The rest of the world operates on Karma. You get what you deserve.

But Jesus came and offered us this amazing, wonderful gift called grace, where we get something better than what we deserve.

Since grace happened to me, I don’t judge other’s beliefs or religions; I just hope they someday discover grace, because Jesus cut through all religious ceremonies and traditions to get to the heart of the matter. We need grace.

He did the only thing that could be done to get grace. It was the crucifixion.

This book aims to bring credibility back to the church and to obey Jesus’ call to share grace in tangible ways to our world.

Credibility comes from obeying Jesus’ teaching to shelter the homeless, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, love the rejected, touch the untouchable, fight for the abused, and take care of the widow and orphan.

When the church begins to share God’s grace in those tangible ways, credibility will come back to the church.

This is my life mission and my life goal.

It’s all Grace,

Ken Burkey
Senior Pastor–Green Valley Community Church
burkeyk@gvcconline.net
http://www.kenburkey.com
twitter @kenburkey

THIS FREE DOWNLOADABLE BOOK IS DEDICATED TO THE SELFLESS, PASSIONATE, GENEROUS SERVANTS OF GREEN VALLEY COMMUNITY CHURCH   http://www.live58.org/7mandates

The #1 Reason We Don’t See Miracles

jesus-heals-a-blind-man3

Simple answer: WE JUDGE.

Even though Jesus stated very succinctly, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others and the standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.”

Yet we still judge.
What kind of lifestyle do they have?
What political party do they belong to?
What kind of responsibility have they taken in their life?
What kind of faith do they cling to?
What theology do they hold?

WE JUDGE and often times, very subtly and smugly, we decide who should receive a miracle.

The prophets never said, “Love, serve and defend if you approve of the way they are living”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they deserve it”, or “Love, serve and defend if you think they will appreciate it.”

They just declared, “LOVE, SERVE, DEFEND!”

Judging might help justify not getting involved.

In the ninth chapter of John, the disciples ask Jesus whose fault was it that a man was born blind.

They inquired, “Was it his fault or his parents?”

2000 years later we could ask, “Jesus, why was this little boy born HIV positive? Whose fault is it? Why was this young girl born in a dangerous, drug infested no hope neighborhood? Whose fault is it? Why have these kids, on the border of Mexico, been orphaned? Whose fault is it anyway? Why are people addicted? Why are people homeless? Why are people lonely? Whose fault is it?”

Nothing wrong with asking why, but we can get stuck on the why and justify our lack of involvement by judging.
They were promiscuous.
They were lazy.
They were sinful.

We can get so theologically convoluted, we can miss the whole point and more tragically we can miss the miracle.

Jesus answered his disciples, “It was not anyone’s fault. This man was born blind, so that God’s mercy could be demonstrated.”
And a miracle happened. The blind man’s eyes were opened.

I don’t know the answers to all the “whys” of this world but I do know this:

When a baby born HIV positive is offered God’s mercy by being given an antiretroviral drug, a miracle happens.

When a prostitute is offered God’s mercy by being loved by a local church and given support, resources and life skills to change her life, a miracle happens.

When a homeless person is offered God’s mercy by being given shelter, food and transportation, a miracle happens.

When a foster child is offered God’s mercy by being given a healthy home and support system, a miracle happens.

When a person far from faith is offered God’s mercy in a grace-filled church service, a miracle happens.

There are a lot of dark places of judging in our world today.
There are a lot of hopeless people who have been judged.
There are a lot of people who don’t know where to turn for help and the church has too often judged “who” they are and “why” they are where they are at, to decide if they are worthy of being offered God’s mercies and miracles.

Jesus asks people of faith to not judge. It’s that simple.
The book of James in the New Testament reminds us, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”

It is important to remember what the scriptures DO NOT say:

Treat those that work for you fairly and give them what they earn…if the economy is good.

Share your food with the hungry…if they are thankful.

Shelter those who are helpless, poor and destitute…if it wasn’t their fault.

Clothe those who are cold…if they are working on their issues.

Don’t hide from relatives who need your help…if they will pay you back.

Love those who are hurting…as long as you approve of their lifestyle.

Make sure those who are in prison know they are not alone…as long as they say they are sorry.

The scriptures are very clear:
Care for the orphan.
Defend the widow.
Rescue the girl that has been sex-trafficked.
Love the foreigner.
Invite into your home the alien.
Visit the prisoner.
Accept the rejected.
Lift off the burdens of people who have been crushed by religion.

No caveats. Just do it.
Offer mercy so miracles can happen.

We have all been created equal so I have a question for you. What race, socioeconomic, political, religious, lifestyle or age group do you struggle with judging?

A gay person?
A democrat?
A homeless person?
A drunk?
A republican?
A Muslim?
A relative?
A neighbor?
A co-worker?

I challenge you to offer them mercy, let God break your heart and prepare for a miracle.

Sometimes the greatest way we can start to offer mercy is to pray!

One of the most powerful prayers I have read was uncovered from the horrors of Ravensbruck concentration camp.
Ravensbruck was a concentration camp built in 1939 for women.
Over 90,000 women and children perished in Ravensbruck, murdered by the Nazis.
Corrie Ten Boom, who wrote “The Hiding Place”, was imprisoned there too.

The prayer, found in the clothing of a dead child, says: “Lord, remember not only the men and woman of good will, but also those of ill will. But do not remember all of the suffering they have inflicted upon us: Instead remember the fruits we have borne because of this suffering, our fellowship, our loyalty to one another, our humility, our courage, our generosity, the greatness of heart that has grown from this trouble. When our persecutors come to be judged by you, let all of these fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.”

Wow! That last line gives me chills and brings with it a deep conviction to my heart.

I really do believe the #1 reason we do not see miracles is because we judge instead of offer mercy.

Luckily, God did not let the “who” or the “why” get in the way of his mercy.

The words of Brennan Manning share with us the gracious mercy of God that led to the ultimate miracle that reverberates throughout the infinity of time.

“Because salvation is by grace through faith, I believe that among the countless number of people standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands. (see Revelation 7:9)

I shall see the prostitute from the Kit-Kat Ranch in Carson City, Nevada, who tearfully told me that she could find no other employment to support her two-year-old son.

I shall see the woman who had an abortion and is haunted by guilt and remorse but did the best she could faced with grueling alternatives.

I shall see the businessman besieged with debt who sold his integrity in a series of desperate transactions.

I shall see the insecure clergyman addicted to being liked, who never challenged his people from the pulpit and longed for unconditional love.

I shall see the sexually abused teen molested by his father and now selling his body on the street, who, as he falls asleep each night after his last ‘trick’, whispers the name of the unknown God he learned about in Sunday school.

‘But how?’ we ask. Then the voice says, ‘They have washed their robes and have made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’

There they are. There ‘we’ are – the multitude who so wanted to be faithful, who at times got defeated, soiled by life, and bested by trials, wearing the bloodied garments of life’s tribulations, but through it all clung to faith.

My friends, if this is not good news to you, you have never understood the gospel of grace.”

From Every Tribe and Every Nation…a few thoughts from Africa

Africa 2012 164

From every tribe, and every nation
My faith transcends denomination
Culture, colors none the same
Redemption comes in Yeshua’s name

Stuck in my view, its far too narrow
My earthly eyes see too much sorrow
Babies die and mothers weep
Big men lie while others sleep

Told tough times lead to deeper faith
I still avoid them like the plague
Addicted to teaching, binder full of notes
The harvest is plentiful, but my actions remote

White, yellow, brown, red and black
There is no shade that God lacks
Transformation, it’s a lifetime journey
Humility is key to eternal learning

I’m looking for joy so I can be grateful
But joy doesn’t come until I am thankful
With crippled feet I run the race
Mud knee deep, carried by Grace

Prejudice rampant, wars rage
Holy genocide litters history’s page
Religion rules, picking the chosen ones
Ignoring the words “whosever will may come.”

Overwhelmed by conditions
Missed opportunities, lost positions
Challenges daily, endurance a must
Searching for strength, faith and trust

Heroes all around, they’re just hard to see
Quietly walking with God humbly
Africa, Asia and unknown lands
Extending love as God’s own hands

Leading is vision, I must give it away
Strategies come and go, but deep values must stay
A new generation, called to invest
The Body too small, we need the rest

I want all the answers, a path that is clear
A path that is easy with nothing to fear
But my sights too short, and patience, I’m far from it
Faith means building the bridge while I’m walking upon it.

We bless the poor but the poor are already blessed
When I’m serving the least I am truly at my best
New beginnings start with a broken heart
Stupid poverty ends when I do my part

The church is asking “what’s the next fashion?”
Fighting injustice is God’s great passion
Theology debates, they lead to deep fraction
Loving one another is our call to action

I desperately need an eternal view
It gives me the courage to do the things I must do
Opportunities all around me, there is power in His name
He gives sight to the blind and strength for the lame

I desperately need an eternal view
Embracing the temporary is our cultures cue
My life is on loan, it is not my own
It’s not about great feats, but the seeds that are sown

Male, female, Jew, Samaritan and gentile
Grace is pervasive, it starts with a child
The greatest among us was born in a stable
The Good New is for all, the weak and the able

Will we be exclusive, just another sect
Or will we serve our neighbor, gaining their respect
Will we love the orphan, the widow and those who fall
Will we be known as restorer of cities and re-builder of walls

When the Church is at its Best

dig•ni•ty/ˈdignitē/ Noun: The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

What do a single senior veteran, a senior widow, a senior widower living alone suffering from Parkinson’s, a seniors mobile home park, another senior widow, a single woman who is trying to care for her quadriplegic father, a disabled senior man, another single senior woman, a transition house for girls who have been rescued from sex trafficking, another single senior woman, and 65 year old woman who is terminally ill with cancer that has metastasized throughout her body have in common?

They were all served by my church on a Saturday morning by about 120 volunteers.

Racking, mowing and weeding of yards and property, painting of homes, repairing of roofs, building of fences, replacing of trim from dry rot, building and staining of decks, the pouring of concrete to fit walkers and wheelchairs, cleaning and repairing inside of homes, repairing of retaining walls, installing of gutters and so much more were involved on this Saturday.

What else do these precious people have in common? Most of them have never attended any of our church services.

They are the forgotten people that our culture so easily throws away.

Jesus told us to take care of the forgotten, seemingly unimportant people in our neighborhoods.

I am thankful that my churches philosophy is to take care of “the least of these.”

I am also thankful that my churches philosophy is that we consider everyone who lives in our community part of our church, whether they attend our services or not.

I am grateful for these days of service, not just because we get to bless someone who needs help.

I am grateful for these days, selfishly, because I think we are the ones most blessed.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While these service projects were going on all around our community on this beautiful fall Saturday morning, there were some beautiful things happening on our church campus as well, that happen every Saturday morning, 52 weeks a year.

Around three hundred people were fed a warm breakfast, while waiting to pick up a bag of groceries and a bag of vegetables grown from our churches organic garden, to help them get through the week.

Around 1500 articles of clothing were given away from our clothing ministry.

These precious people consist of senior citizens, single parents, families going through difficult financial times and a portion who are homeless.

Every Saturday morning, people come through our doors and experience not only physical food but they also experience spiritual and emotional and relational food as they experience words of encouragement and hope, and are treated with God’s grace.

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

While this is happening inside our church, every Saturday our garden team shows up to help produce hundreds of pounds of potatoes, squash, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, pumpkins, radishes, cucumbers and so much more.

While this is happening at our garden, there is another ministry happening not far, cutting and splitting wood so that people will have warm homes during the cold winters.

Over the last few years, we have averaged giving away around 150 truck loads of wood to the elderly, single moms and to those who cannot afford to heat their homes.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

On any given Saturday, over 100 volunteers make this happen. They would tell you it’s the best day of their week.

On Monday and Tuesday nights we have an auto ministry where men and women come and fix cars so they can be given to single parents, families and seniors who are in need of reliable transportation to get them to work, to school, to the doctor and even to church.

A certain word comes to mind…DIGNITY!

I love my church.

We are not perfect, but I see so many volunteers using their time, strengths and resources to bring dignity to those that are overlooked and marginalized.

I see how loving people in tangible, practical ways, in Jesus name (dignity) is transforming lives and changing our community.

I see homeless people getting back on their feet and finding jobs and being able to afford shelter. (Dignity)

I see addicted people being set free from the burden of addictions. (Dignity)

I see lonely, forgotten senior citizens finding new hope and new friendships. (Dignity)

I see single moms, overwhelmed by the pace of life, being offered resources to keep them going, allowing them to not give up, but to finish their race. (Dignity)

I see people who were far from God, entering into a new eternal relationship with Him through Jesus Christ. (Dignity)

I see people who came to our church to get help, resources and hope (Dignity), now offering that same help, resources and hope (Dignity) to others.

I see the impact my church has in our community through the selfless acts of hundreds of volunteers and I often ask this one question.

With around 450,000 churches in the United States, I wonder what our country would look like if every church would get involved in a volunteer revolution offering in Jesus name, dignity.

In the words of Bill Wilson, “We want God to touch our country, but God is asking us to touch our country.”

When the church is offering DIGNITY, I think it is at its best!

And I think our country and world is at its best when the church is at its best.

Just a few thoughts, let me know what you think?