Gateway Blog

Filter By:

Veteran's Day Sunday

main image

November 12, 2017

Veteran’s Day Service

Many of our veterans participated in the service today, giving announcements, leading prayers, and recounting their individual stories. James Toczko recognized everyone present who had served in any branch of the U.S. Military. He also recognized the families of servicemen, calling them an integral but little-recognized branch of the service. (I have to admit, I liked that, being the daughter of a Navy vet.) There was even a 92 year old WWII veteran in the congregation. It was heart-warming to honor these very special people.

After Pastor Alex York interviewed two of our own beloved Gateway veterans, Tim Walker and Dennis Fisher, we watched a video about the experience of Lt. Colonel Brian Birdwell, a high school buddy of Pastor Alex and his wife, Jill.

Currently serving as a Texas state Senator, Colonel Birdwell was in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. He was burned so badly from the crash of a hijacked jet into the heart of the Pentagon that he was not expected to survive. On top of his grave injuries, all Med-Evac helicopters were grounded that day along with all air traffic across the country, slowing down emergency treatment he desperately needed.

Brian Birdwell said the hardest thing he had to do that day, after the Hospital Chaplain helped him to understand that he was dying and led him in a final prayer, was to say goodbye to his young son. Later, when he had miraculously recovered, he saw that impossibly difficult moment as a glimpse into what it must have been like for the Father to say goodbye to His Son, Jesus, when Jesus was sent to Earth to die on the cross. “I earned my Purple Heart stepping out of the men’s rest room in the Pentagon on 9-11,” Colonel Birdwell said. “Jesus Christ earned His Purple Heart by stepping out of the perfection of heaven.”

After the video, Pastor Ed said that we recognize our military on Veteran’s Day because they represent the right way to serve our country. He went on to explain: God is not a Republican, nor is He a Democrat. God is not an American. So how should we, as Christians, as Christ-followers, view America?

Psalm 137: 1-4 is a lament by the Israelites during the time around 597 B.C. when they were taken as captives to Babylon. They had to live in a foreign land far from their beloved home and it was breaking their hearts. In Jeremiah 29:4-14, Jeremiah’s word from God to the exiles is recorded. Here, God commands the Israelites to settle down, plant gardens, marry and have children. He urges them to pursue peace and prosperity in the land to which they had been transplanted. He promises them they will someday be returned to their true home.

We as Christians are like these exiles. This is not our true home. We live in a culture that is sometimes hostile to our faith and worship. This culture is not our own.

We sometimes lose sight of this truth in our comfortable northern Virginia setting. Twenty years ago, Pastor Ed surveyed the residents of this area. Knocking on doors, he asked questions. What he learned was that people around here generally like their lives; they just want something a little better. But for the most part, they are comfortable. We are also comfortable—perhaps too comfortable for exiles!

So how should we view America? We need to remember we live in the “in-between” times. We are between the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry and the end of the Earth. In Jeremiah the word of the Lord remains true today. We need to work for the peace and prosperity of our country, pray for all those in our sphere of influence and for our leaders, and look forward to one day returning to our true home.

We celebrate the veterans and military service people among us because they are fulfilling this charge. They seek peace and prosperity on behalf of all of us. America is a free country, perhaps freer than any other country on this Earth now and throughout history. This is largely due to the service and sacrifice of our military. Their sacrifices represent the right way to serve a culture.

Let us re-dedicate ourselves to being fully alive in serving today’s culture. And let’s honor our veterans who are a shining example of such service. We serve our country to bring as much goodness and glory to those around us until the time when we are called to our true home.


Posted by Evie Showers with

Response? How to relate to the culture around us

Last Sunday, Pastor Ed began a new series:  "Response?  How to Relate to the Culture Around Us," going through I Peter.

To begin, we looked at I Peter 1:1-3, talking about who we are.

Peter was a name given by Jesus and meant "Rocky."

From early on, Peter was seen as a leader of the church.  He was a guy just like us.

The background of the letter:  Nero had blamed Christians for the burning of Rome.  They were wondering how they should respond to the increasing hostility of the world around them.

The recipients were Gentile converts.  They were people on the bottom end of society, which we are not.  They were suffering from persecution.

Peter begins with essential insight about who we are, our core identity.

Two Critical Things About Us:

1)  We are God's elect.

Elect means "choice," "excellent."  We are not mediocre.  We are perfectly fit for a noble purpose, supremely valuable.  Any other message is a lie.

We are God's choice.  John 15:16; Ephesians 1:11.  There's nothing for us to take credit for about our spiritual lives.

I am fortunate, because God has chosen me.

We do have a choice.  But our choice of Him depends on His choosing of us.  My choice of God is based on His choosing of me.

If we don't recognize this, we risk pride and judgmentalism. 

"chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" -- God acting in advance of our action and on our behalf.

"through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit" -- this is how it happens.  We're made holy by God's Spirit working in us.

How does our chosenness turn into something practical?  Through the work of the Spirit.

The goal of our chosenness:  "to be obedient to Jesus Christ and sprinkled with his blood."  This is an image of consecrated things.  (I Peter 1:18-19)

We're chosen so that our lives might be completely for God's purposes.

2)  We are God's exiles here.

"scattered," "diaspora"  The same word the Jews used of the exile to Babylon.

There were 8 million Jews living outside Palestine.

Where are we dispersed from?  Peter will answer in a number of ways throughout the letter.

Paul -- "Our citizenship is in heaven."  Ephesians 3:20

Hebrews 11:13 -- "aliens and strangers on the earth"

For these persecuted Christians, Peter was offering encouragement.

Don't put your hope in the circumstances of this world.

We are supposed to work for righteousness and justice.  But there will always be dissonance here.

This is not our home.

This is positive encouragement for those who occupy the bottom of the social ladder.

For us:  We've gotten comfortable here.  We're surprised when things don't go right.

We are going to be at odds with the culture around us.  This is a big stinking deal!

God alone can tell us who we truly are.

We need that as our foundation.

We are God's choice.

We are exiles here.

Posted by Sondy Eklund with