What’s Really Sacred?

We don’t understand what it means for something to be “sacred.” We live in a human-centered world among people who see themselves as the highest authority. We are quick to say things like “That isn’t fair!” because we believe we deserve certain rights as humans. Yet we give little thought to the rights God deserves as God. Even in the Church we can act as though God’s actions should revolve around us. The stories in Scripture are meant to show us that there exists something of greater value than our existence and rights. There are things that belong to God. Sacred things. His ark of the covenant, His command to Moses, His offerings in the temple, His Holy Spirit, His Holy Communion, His sacred Church. In all the above situations, people rushed into something sacred and paid the price. We shouldn’t be surprised; we should be humbled. We have all done things more irreverent than those mentioned above. Let’s thank God for His mercy and tread more carefully into sacred matters.

This excerpt is from Day 1 of a @youversion devotional plan by Francis Chan entitled Letters to the Church. I agree we have lost the understanding of something being sacred according to what God calls sacred. In addition, we often make things sacred without affirming with God whether they should be.

I’m guilty of saying or agreeing “That’s not Fair” about something God didn’t label sacred. I’ve set up my own sacred pillar similar to what is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. And I’ve paid the price for rushing in to the sacred as well as exalting the unsacred.

So how does this play out for us? A pretty clear example is in our relationships. We can rush a very sacred relationship (parent/child, current/future spouse) and destroy it by dismissing God’s role in it to force our wants in it. We can also make a relationship sacred that has no place being elevated to that position, particularly if we make it more sacred than our relationship with our Creator and Savior.

Chan has made me think. Where might I have mislabeled something as sacred? What God-ordained sacred things have I selfishly lowered their value?

The Gift of Balance: Ministry and Service (Part 1)

(This is part one of the final topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. This entry will be the first half of the conversation continuing tomorrow with the second half.)

Tonya: All of us as Christians are called to some kind of service, in some capacity. The service may not be within the church, but it doesn’t mean you’re not serving. The right mindset is determining what God has for me and my family to do. Like when I’ve talked about hockey, those were moments when we are able to share with other families and coaches through what God had for us. It is seasonal, so we could also ask, “What does God have for me in this season, in what capacity am I supposed to serve?” This should take into account our gifts both individually and as a family.

Mark: Kingdom work is not constrained to church work. Often there is this imbalance or perception that our service is contained within a church activity. As Jesus’ followers, we are challenged to be doing kingdom work all the time, regardless of where we are. That is a key mindset for this topic.

John: When you mention seasons, Tonya, it reminds me of teaching on spiritual gifts in church membership classes and helping people find places of ministry.  One thing that is very clear is giving them the freedom to think seasonally. Maybe right now they don’t have the time to do the ministry they would like to do for multiple reasons. It’s also possible they’ve outgrown their current ministry of involvement.  They may be ready to move into a different type of ministry or into a different level of leadership. As believers grow, ministry is probably going to look different.

To answer this question, I was drawn to Matthew 22 where Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment by saying, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and the second is like it, Love your neighbor as yourself.” With that mindset, ministry is not confined to a location or an organization. My ministry mindset is to love God with all of my being. Out of that flows how I am to love others. I mess that up all the time. When I realize I’m off track, this is my marker to come back to. “Where am I off track on these two things?”

TonyaI’m a strong believer that if we really do take that first commandment seriously the rest of it all falls into place. We will truly be trying to hear the Lord, to do His will. We are going to make mistakes because we are human, but we are going to know it right away because of conviction. Everything we’ve talked about is about keeping God first and truly loving Him with our whole being. We’ll better love our spouse, our children, even the person in line at the store.

John: This has been a particular step of obedience for me this year. In thinking about what to do during my sabbatical, I had to work through what I wanted to do versus what God wanted me to do. If I had done what I wanted, it would have looked differently out of my own selfishness. When I put myself back in the space of answering who am I living for when I’m given an opportunity to do something, who am I to say no? If I do the Jonah thing and run in the opposite direction, my balance is wrong because it’s all about me.

Mark: That makes me think of a book I read earlier this year, Love Does by Bob Goff. His personality is so different than mine, so I lived vicariously through him. What he says in the book is, “God presents me with opportunities all the time, and I want to just keep saying yes. I don’t want to miss out on the adventure that he has for me.” When we say no to something God is inviting us into, we miss the adventure he wants to take us on and how he wants to love and bless us others through what he’s asked us to do.

John: So that brings up a big question. Why do some of us tend to be the “no replier” and some tend to be the “yes replier”? I tend to be the no replier. Now, once I’m in I’m all in, you know, get out of my way. Getting me all in may take a little while. Whereas other people, like what you’re describing, are on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Tonya: There’s so much that goes into that-personality, past history, so many pieces that go into that. That’s a hard one to answer.

John: Maybe we can come back to that next year after we’ve had time to think about it.

Tonya: Yeah, that’s a book, a title to a book.

Mark: Actually it is a title to a book. It’s called Resisting Happiness by Matthew Kelly. His assertion is beyond just responding to God, but certainly set in that content. We often tend toward resisting happiness; and in the context of following God, it’s being the person and doing the things He’s created us to be and to do. There’s a tendency for some of us to resist the change or the difference or the invitation or the unknown. When we lean into that is where we can find happiness. Some people may have that figured out or are wired that way, and other people, like myself, tend to struggle. My tendency is to resist at first; and then when it’s really important, God makes it very clear and then I make the decision to be all in also.

John: To be honest, I don’t look at these things as my avenue to happiness. I’d have to sit in that and marry the two together. My brain doesn’t naturally marry them together.

Mark: To play the other side, there are people who say yes all the time for the wrong reasons. They say yes looking for some validation, to earn something that can’t be earned through doing, or other emotional or psychological reasons. You can say yes out of an unhealthy place and contribute to some unhealthiness.

John: That makes me think of something that, Tonya, you’ve probably also witnessed. I have seen multiple guys really feel convinced that they were called into church/pastoral work and within a short amount of time they realized they were wrong and crashed and burned.

Tonya: Yeah, going in for the wrong reasons. Maybe they were a PK and felt expected to follow in dad’s footsteps, or the idea that they can only have impact for the Lord in ministry through church work. I had a pastor say to me not long ago that he has no passion for his people and he really despises being a shepherd. He was totally a square being pushed into a circle. He’s a professor; that’s what his passion is, not being a pastor.

John: To make that broader, you don’t have to be a church staff member to fall into that trap. Anybody can feel like they’ve been drawn into doing something and not fully aware of why they are saying yes. And once they get in, it doesn’t work, because of your analogy, Tonya, square and a circle.

Mark: My experience in this context is watching new believers say yes to everything and quickly get burned out. They were overbooked in this ministry space, and it wasn’t a good scenario for them.

Tonya: My husband was talking about this last night, how that pastors are doing so much of the work and people aren’t seeing themselves as helpers or servants. Some pastors also have a hard time giving up control in certain areas. Helping people find their gift and plugging into that one ministry, not ten, but the one ministry where they are gifted, the church that is plugged in like that, the labor is not overwhelming. People can get caught up in pleasing people instead of understanding what God has for them.

Fruity Fridays: 5 Ways to Own Your Faithfulness 

(A series about the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5)

The fruit of faithfulness is one of the nine fruits of the Spirit which require the most use of Galatians 5:24, which says,

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Faithfulness is not a natural trait we are born with. It flies in the face of our natural bend toward selfishness. Left to our own desires and passions, we keep moving from job to job, bed to bed, habit to habit, relationship to relationship because it’s just too hard to be faithful when you are wrapped up in “what’s in it for me?”

We have to give that bend to God. We have to choose to own faithfulness rather than selfishness and pursue it with the Holy Spirit’s aid. So how can we own our faithfulness? Here are five thoughts:

Own Your Purpose

Yes, your purpose is God-given. But he doesn’t make you pursue education. He doesn’t make you go on the job interview. He doesn’t make you leave a purposeless job to pursue the purposeful job. He gives you a purpose, but you have to own it. Chances are when you do own his given purpose, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: John the Baptist)

Own Your Margin

We all have the same amount of time. We haven’t all learned the value of margin, the value of saying “no,” or the hurt created by a flippant, inattentive “yes.” Your margin is yours; your time is yours to obediently and wisely fulfill your God-given purpose. Chances are when you own your margin, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Jethro)

Own Your Commitments

If we take care of owning purpose and margin, this one is a lot easier. Commitments should not be causal, quick, or thoughtless. If the commitment is entered into only after checking it against purpose and margin, the odds of its longevity increase. Chances are when you own your commitments, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical examples: David and Jonathan)

Own Your Distractions

Owning purpose, margin, and commitments don’t negate self-imposed or enemy-induced distractions. You can be your own worst enemy; and, you are always target practice for enemy attacks to your mind, body, and soul. Know your susceptibilities. Know your distractions. Chances are when you own your distractions, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Daniel)

Own Your Tendencies

Very few people know you like you know you. It may be that no human really knows you. We should all own the truth that God knows us, every part of us, even when we forget he does or try to behave like he doesn’t. Knowing your tendency to leave when you should stay, run when you should walk, talk when you should listen, or obsess when you should forget will move you along in owning your selfishness. Chances are when you own your tendencies, faithfulness will follow. (Biblical example: Paul)