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.