Late Night Musings…

/// The past several days have presented many challenges to our household. As we strive to maintain family order and peace, we are also humbly reminded of the limited control we have over the lives of the others living under our roof. Each one of us comes with our own set of challenges from the day, and each challenge proves to strengthen the relationships being built in our family. But nevertheless, it is in these times of challenge and growth that we become tired and weary.

I’m reminded of the many instances in Scripture where Jesus instructs us to lean all of our weight on Him, allowing Him to carry us through the loads of life that at times seem unbearable to carry. There is no doubt in my mind that God is showing me areas in my life that I cannot carry alone. I’m the type of person that looks at the shipping container clearly marked “Team Lift” and refers to it as a suggestion. I would regularly tell myself, “I work better alone.” Lies. I just like to be in control.

These past few weeks have taught me that standing on the promises of Jesus requires me to lower my position and posture. There are certain things that are simply out of my control. This lack of control does not negatively reflect God’s authoritative grace in my life, rather it gives meaning and purpose to God’s authority. God’s grace is best bestowed when I recognize my need for it.

Let me encourage you few who are reading to embrace the grace of God in your life by submitting yourself to Him; creating a position that is humbling and full of self-denial. We desperately need to release control and rely on Him. The word of God says that he will sustain you in your troubles, and when you grow tired and weary, Jesus will provide an avenue to help carry the load. ///

Still Writing…

/// I’m still writing. It’s just been a really busy season in life both personally and vocationally. Busy seasons can be long and stressful, and at the same time fruitful and rewarding. There is no doubt in my mind that the current season is one that bears much fruit for my life. God continually leads me down new avenues of faith and trust, forcing me to rely more fully on Him. I am finding that my faith in God’s ultimate sovereignty towards my life and family has given me a renewed peace as I pursue ministry. And at the end of the day, that’s what I hope for…renewal! I want God to continually make me alive in Christ Jesus. I desire that I can wake up new daily to the things that God has set aside for me, my family, and my church.

Today, you may need personal renewal in your life. A reminder that God wants to recapture your heart and draw you in closer to Him. This may mean that you have to start walking with intentional faith and pursuing His promises even when they are not in plain view. Either way, God is always doing a great work in the world around us. We must simply open our eyes to the wonders that He is preparing to show us. ///

Sacred Spaces…

/// A few Sunday’s ago, my pastor said a phrase that resonates with how I identify as a pastor and as a believer in Jesus Christ. At the end of the message during our second morning service, my pastor stood firmly in the pulpit and said:

There are no sacred things in this church except for Jesus Christ and His Gospel…

Paul Sevar- Calvary Baptist Church, January 20th, 2019

Many of us would agree that this statement is accurate for the modern church. There should be no greater priority within the organized church than the service of Jesus and the administration of the Gospel of Jesus. The reason this statement resonates with me is do to the very nature of the content. Jesus Christ and His Gospel! As a pastor, I desire for nothing more than to see this message be the cornerstone of every congregation. Congregations tend to create what I like to call sacred spaces – identifiable areas within an organization that hold a certain amount of prominence or value to the purpose and function of that organization. Some sacred spaces are valuable to the mission of the church, while others distract the congregation from its original, God centered purpose. Most pastors spend a large portion of their waking hours focusing on the spaces within their congregation that have no value to the overall mission of the church; a mission that was handed down through the work of Jesus Christ. The spaces we desire to focus on take a back seat to areas of congregational anxiety that is driven by an attitude of loss or fear. Not to say that all areas of the organizational functions of church are bad, but the emphasis placed on these functions can outweigh the priorities set forth in God’s Word.

The church is a wonderful extension of God’s grace, and it is evidenced through the work and teachings of Jesus. If Jesus is the whole reason for our organization, then Jesus needs to be the main focus of our meeting together. As believers, we must recapture our primary focus on a day to day basis, not just as the church cooperatively but as individuals personally. What sacred spaces have you removed God from in your church? What sacred spaces have you removed God from in your personal life? What spaces have you deemed as sacred that operate for self-interest and ego? Following Jesus Christ means transparency. We must become people whose lives are completely open and transparent before our Creator. We must be willing to allow God into every space of our life. Spend a few moments today to ask God to reveal sacred spaces in your church and personal life that He has yet to gain control. What can you start doing today to allow God to work in these spaces? Write it down and seek God’s guidance in bringing these areas under submission to Him. ///

Handling Complaints and Dealing with Change

/// So, I picked up this little phrase from my kids book about the negative effects of complaining. I thought it might be slightly applicable for not only churches, but also individuals.

At times, we teach our children things that we forget to put into practice with our own attitudes. The church rarely addresses the issue of grumbling or complaining, primarily because of the fear that comes from correcting behavior within the church. However, we all need correction when we are out of step of the character for which Jesus Christ died. I can complain about things that have no value to ministry or reaching people for Jesus, focusing on my wants and desires as opposed to what God commands of me. The apostle Paul writes of this to the church in Philippi in Philippians 2:14-16 (ESV), remarking that there should be no evidence of “grumbling” within the church. The desire for believers in this passage is to live a life that is blameless before the world, so that we might be effective lights of the gospel in the midst of darkness.

So, what can I do personally do to help me be a more effective light in the world that God has called me to minister? How can I handle the pressures of life in such a way that I do not turn into a perpetual grump? In order for me to live a personal life of spiritual renewal, its best to ask myself the question:

Am I willing to accept the change that causes complaining?

Change tends to be the culprit of complaining. Understandably, change can lead to an outcome that makes things uncertain or uneasy. There are many moments in my personal life where change has made me uncomfortable, simply because I feel uncertain about my ability to control the outcome.

The beauty of following Jesus is that we get to serve a change agent. The life of Christ is one that ushers in a new method by which we understand our relationship with God, where we have a freedom that exists through a change of events in the spiritual culture of religion. Consider this: when Jesus arrived on the scene, he began to speak as a man who had authority (Matthew 7:29, Mark 1:22). The presence of this authority made life uneasy for those who had spent most of their religious upbringing holding fast to the law that was ushered in under the leadership of Moses. When Jesus began to challenge the religious culture, the culture would come back to Christ with challenges of complaint. They were BOLD! They had no issue bringing people before Jesus in order to publicly shame them only so that they could catch Jesus in a religious loophole (John 8:1-10, ESV).

People will do crazy things and develop crazy schemes in order for their complaints to be heard. The Israelites wondered the wilderness for forty years because their continual attitude towards God’s command in their life. He was calling them to something different, bringing about a change in their life that was for their benefit. However, they felt like they had better grasp on their present reality than God, which perpetuated itself in a continual pattern of grumbling and complaining.

If God is making necessary changes in your personal life, then you need to be willing to accept the outcomes of God’s calling. Complaining to God will get you nowhere. As the church, we need to be vigilant about squashing the attitude of complaining within the body, especially if it accompanies a legitimate change that is from God . If there is a logical complaint that is ushered in with a proper attitude and motive, then it is safe to say that it is most likely coming from a good place. Yet, the opposite approach must be avoided at all cost. Complaints that are received out of a malicious and hateful place need to be rebuked. The church must protect itself from those who seek destroy the joy of the body for personal ego and gain.

If we are going to encourage the generations under us to a have an attitude of positive influence, then we must be willing to set an example for them to follow. Issuing a complaint is not always negative, when it is coming from the correct posture. When we perceive a spiritual wrong, it is essential for us to point that out within the church. In your personal life, making a complaint is not wrong. We must, however, make sure that our lodged complaint is beneficial for the body as a whole as opposed to a personal request or desire that comes from a place of want.

We must strive to keep our attitudes and hearts in check when it comes to the change that accompanies God’s work, in order that we might be able to stand blameless to the lost souls within the world. God is always working on his people, and he is always working on me. Be encouraged this week that we can be agents of positive change that helps to grow the kingdom of God. ///

Why I Love the Church…

/// Simply put…I LOVE THE CHURCH! There’s something special about a community of believers who meet, fellowship, engage, equip, and pursue one another. And we do all this because we are concerned with one common factor. Together, the church gets to communally worship the triune God and celebrate the life given through Jesus Christ. It is because of this intention that I love the church.

My love for the church goes beyond a ministerial vocation. I care about the church in its good times and its bad times. Many of us only accept the church in its good times, and when the bad times creep in to the congregation we tuck tail and run the other way. Why is that? What if we treated other institutions of value the same way? I love my wife and my family. I truly believe they have to be from God to put up with me. But the love I have for my family is not conditional. My love is not based on what I gain or lose, but is solely based on my calling to love Jesus Christ and to reflect the love Christ has for me into my family. Should we not have the same identity when it comes to our concern for the church.

Imagine if you came home and your spouse had performed in such a way that you perceived a wrong. Say they picked a different style of music than you like, or they quoted you a verse of scripture from a different translation than you agree with…what would your response be? Imagine your kids do something that goes against your established law in the house. Would you proceed to exile them or move into the home of another family? I would truly bet not.

However, we take this approach when it comes to the organizational management of what we like to call church. I’ll be the first to tell you that an organization with good intentions can still make poor decisions. I wouldn’t expect anything less. I do it in my own life all the time, so why would I think that an entire group of individuals with the same sin issues would not be responsible for making similar mistakes. THAT IS WHY I LOVE THE CHURCH!! Not because of what it does right or wrong, but because it is called by God to be the extension of his love and grace in a broken world.

This is why I love revitalization and renewal. Congregations need grace. They lose purpose and focus by getting distracted with matters that have no eternal value. When they do that, people get hurt in the process. But renewal provides them with the opportunity to regain purpose, perspective, and focus. It allows them to move towards a goal that is centered on allowing Jesus Christ to be the head of their local congregation.

So if you ask me I will say, “I love the church for the simple fact that it needs the grace of God daily.” I encourage you as well to love the church. God has extended his grace towards you, and I pray that you will allow God’s grace to reign within a local congregation.

A Fresh Start

/// For the past three years, I’ve neglected this blog. I’ve spent more time trying to make this blog have an external presence that did not translate to quality discussion. My perception of writing has centered on presentation more than information. At the same time, I feel that my thoughts and information have little merit due to my lack of experience in the areas of life and ministry that interest me.

However, I feel that the time has come for me to either take this serious or shut it down. Therefore, in my effort to try and push myself in new directions, it is a personal goal of mine this year to contribute more towards writing.

If you read this blog and enjoy it, that’s wonderful and I hope that you will take part in the discussion of thoughts and ideas that God reveals to me throughout this year. My desire is to engage people in conversation as it pertains to personal and cooperative renewal and revitalization. I believe that we all need an opportunity to obtain the purpose that God has for us personally, and that our churches need the information to rediscover their purpose cooperatively. I will not consider myself a seasoned expert on these issues, or that I have gained enough experience to be a scholar; but I am familiar with plenty of individuals who speak regularly on the subject of revitalization without the hands on experience to see it through fruition.

So for me, I desire to make something out of this in 2019. I hope that you would consider being a part with me. And if it does not work out…well, there’s always a delete button!! ///

Spring Break…

///It’s no lie that most of us need a break at points in our life. Between work, church, counseling, etc., we find ourselves spread thin with responsibility.  Being overworked and under appreciated is a very common theme in our world.  It eventually causes us to have a moment where we feel like the only thing that’s we can do to overcome this burden is to escape.  Escape the struggles, problems, classes, frustrations, drama, and all the other junk we deal with on a regular basis

As I write this, I’m sitting in a Coffee Shop on South Padre Island, TX, for Spring Break 2015.  I have the honor and privilege to work alongside 700+ college students as they seek love “breakers” who are working towards escape.  We’ve spent the last few days driving in vans on this small island, picking up anyone who would take a free ride from one club to the other.  From one drunken night to another. From one mistake to another.  All along the way we speak with them, getting to know who they are, where they’re from, and what they love most about life.

What we’ve discovered is, many of them don’t love their life.  That’s why they are here.  Many of them know the Jesus of the Bible, but he hasn’t taken root in their life.  They can say the right language and do the right things, but inside they are hurting and broken.  And somewhere along the way, someone convinced them that forgetting meant to escape.  If you cannot remember what you did, then you cannot feel bad or guilty.

But at what point does the running away become the way to live?  When does the escape turn into the reality?  When does temporary forgetfulness become forbidden fruit?

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (‭Matthew‬ ‭11‬:‭28‬ ESV)

What many of want more than a break is rest.  Rest from the frustration of life.  Rest from school and work.  Rest from social dependence.  Rest from the burden of sin in our life.  The Gospel is rest for the weary.  A call to persevere.  It’s freedom from the burden of guilt and shame that weighs heavy on each of us.

Maybe what we need is not a break at all.  Maybe what we need is rest.///