So tonight was the final session of our Vineyard National Pastors conference in Galveston, Tx. It was a great week. For me one of the bast parts was to see how many young people (under 35) are now involved in leadership. This was the youngest conference I have attended in the past 11 years. Two years ago in Anaheim they called for all of the leaders under 35 to come forward for prayer. There were probably 100 - 200 of us, out of about 1500. This year nearly half of those in attendance were under the age of 35. Very exciting. The running joke all week is that the Vineyard has traded in it's Hawaiian shirts for tattoos and body piercings. I'm really encouraged by this mix of the old and the young and excited about the future of the Vineyard movement.

The theme of the conference this year was "Heroic Leadership in Changing Times" and there were some great challenges laid before us this week. For me the biggest challenge of the week came in tonights final session. Rich Nathan, the senior pastor of the Columbus Vineyard, and a man of Jewish heritage, interviewed Sami Awad, a Palestinian, Christian, peace activist. Sami runs a ministry called "The Holy Land Trust" which works with Palestinians in non violent resistance against Israeli occupation of the Gaza strip and the West Bank. He shared much of his story which goes back to the death of his grandfather at the hands of an Israeli sniper, while trying to raise a white flag over his home to protect his family, during the war of 1948. His grandmother, a Christian woman, instilled the value of forgiveness into her children, even to the point that the legacy has been passed down to Sami's children and even to the next generation below that. Incredible story and a very different picture than the one we hear here in the states. In fact if you have the two hours to sit down and listen to the whole session you can find it here: (if it's not up yet just check back. It may take a few days).

For me the challenge is not in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. My challenge is the concept of justice/equality from a Kingdom perspective and exactly what my role in this is and what it looks like. I have always struggled with this because I truly feel like I am living in two Kingdoms if you will. One Kingdom is made up of the ideal, or what things should look like and be like. In this Kingdom the ideal is that we can bring about peace through non-violent means. We can see justice happen for the poor and the oppressed simply through taking a stand and doing what is right. In this Kingdom there are no illegal aliens, no walls between Irish Catholics and Protestants (or Palestinians/Israelis), no genocide in Africa, etc. That is the Kingdom of God and it is an amazing concept to grasp.

The second kingdom that I find myself in however is the kingdom of reality. The reality that we can't solve all of our problems through non violence, sometimes there is a call to pick up a sword and defend the defenseless . Sometimes the only way to peace is to defeat all of your enemies. The old example of this is Hitler and the Nazi's. They had to be defeated so the Jewish people and even the German people could be free. And it was messy. And it was costly. And people lost their lives. In the kingdom of reality a wall is necessary in Northern Ireland, at least for now, to help keep the peace. Is the goal to eventually tear down the "Peace Walls", sure but in the meantime it is serving a purpose. The same with the walls in the middle east. The desire is to have Christians and Jews and Muslims living side by side in peace and equality as they did prior to 1948, but until that day comes the walls provide security. In the kingdom of reality national borders are necessary to provide stability for governments and civilizations. Laws are in place for the same reason and while it may not be the ideal situation the serve their purpose.

Now how do I live between the two kingdoms? That is the real question, at least for me. I honestly am not sure how this is supposed to look in my life. For some of you, you have it figured out, but I still wrestle with this. So far the best I can do is to strike a shaky balance between the two. I can love the Mexican, or any other nationality, who is here illegally as a person who is created in the image of God, have compassion on their situation, attempt to serve them as best as I know how; while still taking issue with the problem of illegal immigration. The individual is not the whole and vice versa. I can love the individual Muslim that I meet, and still take a stand against terrorism and radicalism, even to the point of supporting a war to stop such ideology. I can speak out against atrocities on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and still reach out to and love those on both sides. Can I do it perfectly, probably not. Is it ideal, not sure. What I do know is that God is ever changing and shaping my heart and the way I view life in the present and life in the Kingdom. And in all reality, I hope I never truly get it all figured out, because I really enjoy being stretched and challenged beyond my comfort zone.