Thursday, April 2, 2015

Three Lessons I Have Learned in the Trenches

Our church has been going through a transition period for the past year and a quarter. We have had an "intentional interim" pastor lead us through some times of healing and learning after a period of disagreement and discontent.  These are things that happen when you deal with people, no matter if they are INSIDE of the church our OUTSIDE of the church. We are all broken people that need to be fixed by the Good News of grace that Christ provides.

As I contemplated what to share this week, I thought it was obvious that should share something about Holy Week: something about Maundy Thursday (Jesus' last Passover meal with His disciples), Good Friday (the death of Christ on the cross), or Resurrection Sunday (the day Christ defeated death both in His body and in those who have surrendered to Him).  However, nothing came to mind that others haven't already said.  What did keep coming to mind is the need to share three things that I learned from our interim pastor or from our transition experience during this past year.  I believe these are three things that are lasting and applicable to any church or believer.

  1. Attack Issues Not People. We are notorious for getting upset with people when we disagree on an issue.  We must understand that we are all different and we view things from different perspectives. Therefore, whereas we may not agree on everything we can still disagree and be friends. As we discuss disagreements, we need to internally acknowledge that everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions. Not everyone is bound by my set of rules. The only guideline we as believers are bound to is that which is laid out in Scripture. Even at that, when someone has strayed from the teachings of Scripture, you and I are to show them the Scripture with a spirit of concern and love rather than with a finger of accusation.  We must realize we are fallen too and may need the same correction (1 Corinthians 10:12). This is more easily communicated when we attack the issue and not the person.                                                                                                    
  2. You Get What You Expect. This is not an invitation to aim for mediocrity. The premise is to set expectations higher and to keep pushing the envelope to raise the bar. The goal is not to make much of yourself or your church. The goal is to accurately reflect the perfect glory of God, the Father (Romans 12:1-2). We are to do things with excellence because people are drawn to what is excellent. Since God is excellent, then we ought to portray Him as such. When we compromise spiritually or morally, or when we give less than our best effort, then we portray a god that is worthy of whatever we have left over after giving to everything and everyone else. Just like the financial tithe, we ought to give God what is best of our time, talents and gifts so that we are declaring His excellencies to a world who does not yet know Him (1 Peter 2:9). So expect more of yourself. Lovingly expect more of others. Gather people around you that will push you and challenge you and hold you accountable...Which leads to my final point:                                                                                                                                                 
  3. We All Have the Responsibility of Accountability. One of the churches' greatest offenses is to leave sin unchecked. This is not a call for spiritual tattle-tails or spiritual police. God does not stand over us waiting to catch us doing wrong and He has not asked any of us to do it for Him. Instead, what this means is loving each other enough to watch each other's back. It means when you see someone about to fall off a cliff, you either shout with a cautionary warning or you reach out and grab their hand because you don't want them getting hurt.  It is very unloving of us to watch someone do something that we know is wrong or hurtful and then say or do nothing about it. However, you may be thinking, "But it's none of my business". Let me ask you: Is it the business of your eyes to watch out for your little toe so it doesn't get stumped? Is it the business of your arm to shield your head if something is flying toward you? Is it the business of your mind to move your feet if you are about to get hit by a car?  We are the body of Christ. We are connected. We must care enough to intervene in a loving way. If we are rebuffed, then we have steps that Scripture outlines (Matthew 18:15-20) . We must exercise these Scriptures because we love one another (1 Corinthians 12:20-27). The fact is, we are all weak in different ways and need the strength of others to help us when we are vulnerable.
These are just three lessons I have learned this year. There are so many things that God shows me and teaches me on a daily basis. I am humbled that He would give so much attention to me. Perhaps there is more about the Easter season here than I first realized. You see, Christ came because we are broken people. He didn't come primarily to show us how to live a "good" life. We are so far beyond being good. Christ came to redeem us from our sinfulness (our brokenness). He paid our price by accepting God's wrath upon Himself. Why? Because He didn't want you to have to receive that punishment. As long as there are people, there will be problems. However, when Christ comes to take His people to heaven, the people will be perfected and the problems gone. He's waiting for you. That's why He has not come back yet. He wants you to surrender your life to Him and accept His gift of eternal life so you can have your life "fixed" and enter into an eternity in heaven with Him. I'm glad I did. You will be too!

Email me if you would like to know more:

For God's Glory,
Chris S. Sweet

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