Tuesday, 01 May 2012 17:41

Boundaries, Worship and the Work of God

Written by  Alan Cross
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What if we stayed in a place and called it home? What if we persevered in relationships, even when they were hard? In the past, people would remain in towns and even neighborhoods where they grew up. Aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, childhood friends – all together, forging a life in community. It was hard to be anonymous. People would work jobs for decades, learning a craft and a trade and they would put down roots. Sure, people have always moved around for various reasons – economic, mostly. But, having traveled and built, we would often stay in one place. Our spiritual life was also a rooted affair. Many would grow up in churches, get married, and raise children in the same church.

 


However, things are obviously different. Globally and locally, the past 50-60 years have been a time of great migration and massive change. Children grow up and the expectation is that they will leave home to create a new life. But, the ways we move are not just geographical. They are also social and spiritual. There is a temptation to continue to grasp for more prosperity and a better life. Even if we do stay in one place, we keep trying to improve our life through enhancing our standard of living, through grasping after greater experiences, and through attempting to trade relationships. As a pastor, I have seen people move, change, end relationships, and go on quests for the proverbial greener grass. With all of our migration both geographically and socially, I wonder how this is affecting us spiritually?

The Bible gives us a perspective worth considering – one that has been largely forgotten in a hyper-mobile society. Could there be a spiritual benefit to staying in one place and building a life there? Could our children benefit from staying in one church? From investing in a neighborhood? From sticking it out in relationships even when they grow difficult? I believe we would find an incredible blessing in both geographical and relational perseverance.

Acts 17:26-27 seems to make that case. Speaking of God, it says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” It seems that God puts us in certain places on the planet so we would know Him there. At the very least, we can say that we are where we are because of God. Instead of something to be avoided, could it be that the problems we see in our communities, neighborhoods, relationships, and churches are the exact things that we need to face so that we can meet with God and know Him? Maybe the better life is not found in a new place, but maybe it is found right where we are as we seek to know Christ and make Him known. Could it be that the Prince of Peace wants us to stay where there might be difficulty and struggle so that we can know Him as the God who heals and forgives and makes all things new? This is what the Incarnation is all about – that Christ put on flesh and made His dwelling among US! Perhaps the very circumstances that we need to grow in Christ are the very ones that we deem to be undesirable and worth leaving behind. Maybe those are the exact situations where we come to know Jesus.

I am not saying that we should never move nor am I saying that every relationship is permanent. Sometimes, God calls us to go to a different place and we should follow Him and serve Him there gladly. But, it is so easy now for us to step out of relationships that we deem to be unfulfilling. We can trade churches, defriend people on Facebook, leave people behind, move to a different city, etc. However, in doing all of this, we find that loneliness increases. We are no happier. But, if we persevered and embraced the boundaries that God had placed us in and worshiped Him there with all that we are, we would experience contentment in the Lord. Instead of trying to get away from problems, what if we embraced them and loved sacrificially, laying our lives down? Jesus came to a real place in a real time and He works the same way today. Jesus is not present in our fantasies. He is present with people in all their hurts and inconsistencies and He calls us to join Him there. Let us do so and worship.

Alan Cross is pastor of Gateway Baptist Church at 3300 Bell Road, in Montgomery. Visit his blog at www.downshoredrift.com or call 272-9494.

Alan Cross

Alan Cross

Alan grew up outside of New Orleans and still cherishes the great cultural he was raised in.  Not only is he an avid Saints fan, but he still makes time to go back regularly to the French Quarter for beignets in the morning and Jazz in the evening.  Now Alan lives in Montgomery with his wife Erika and their children.  He is also the pastor at Gateway Baptist Church on Bell Road.

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