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The Source of Faith

Have you ever looked up to someone you never met?  For Christians, this is a loaded question usually followed by a list of Biblical heroes.  Others will point to people from history.  Great figures that made an impression on this world.  I have a hero like that.  His name is George Mueller.

George Mueller was a man of faith who lived during the 1800’s and looked after orphans.  While this may not be Earth shattering, God’s work in Mueller’s life set him apart.

One of my favorite stories involves breakfast.  The orphanage had nothing to serve.  Yet, Mueller had everyone sit down for breakfast.  Mueller prayed, “Dear Father, we thank Thee for what Thou art going to give us to eat.”  A knock on the door followed the prayer.  It was the baker, with fresh bread.  He had been unable to sleep and had baked bread for the orphanage.  Mueller told the children, “we not only have bread, but fresh bread”.

After the baker, there was another knock at the door.  It was the milkman.  His cart had broken down and his milk was going to spoil.  He asked if the orphanage had a need for milk.

Mueller’s prayer was evidence of his faith.  And for Mueller’s faith to be proven there had to be a need.

One of the reasons I love to read stories about George Mueller is because he is a post-Biblical hero.  His life is evidence that God’s miraculous works did not end in the first century.  So many times I fear we live as if God does not still work this way.

In my own life I have experienced God’s “right on time” provision.  Nothing on the scale of George Mueller.  But it made me consider what it would be like to have faith like George Mueller.  As I was rolling these thoughts around in my head a new thought occurred to me.  It is not the faith of George Mueller that is important.  It is the God of George Mueller that is important.

Mueller wrote this in response to Daniel 6:20, when King Darius refers to Daniel as a servant of “the living God”:

“How many times we find this expression in the Scriptures, and yet it is just this very thing that we are so prone to lose sight of! We know it is written the living God; but in our daily life there is scarcely anything we practically so much lose sight of as the fact that God is the LIVING GOD; that He is now whatever He was three or four thousand years since; that He has the same sovereign power, the same saving love toward those who love and serve Him as ever He had, and that He will do for them now what He did for others two, three, four thousand years ago, simply because He is the living God, the unchanging One. Oh, how therefore we should confide in Him, and in our darkest moments never lose sight of the fact that He is still and ever will be the LIVING GOD.”

As much as I respect and admire George Mueller I will never have faith like his by looking to George Mueller.  My focus needs to be on the object of George Mueller’s faith.  The same living God who spoke to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Peter, and Paul.  The same God sent His Son, part of the triune GodHead, to walk the dusty streets of this Earth and pay the price for my sins.

This same God still does mighty works today.  He still moves on behalf of our prayers, which in essence is our conscious pursuing of Him.  When we set our hearts to pray, we make the decision to seek God.  When we set our hearts to read His word, we make the decision to seek God.  And when we make the conscious decision to trust Him in times of hardship, we make the decision to seek God.

These are the important things.  The small, everyday choices to seek God as often as possible, in as many areas of our lives as possible.  Then, we can appreciate when He moves on our behalf because we recognized His movement as an answer to our prayers.

One last piece of advice from George Mueller.  He gave these insights into his own life:

  • Seek to get your heart in such a condition that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Do not depend upon feelings or impressions.
  • Seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God.
  • Take into account providential circumstances.
  • Ask God in prayer to reveal His will clearly.

Mueller goes on to say, “Thus, through prayer to God, the study of His Word, and reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. I have found this method always effective.”

As we head into a most unusual Thanksgiving, let our hearts find their joy in the God of our salvation and not in our circumstances.  Let our hope be grounded upon God’s word rather than our feelings or opinions.  May God use each of us to be a blessing to those around us.  And may God use us to share His good news with anyone who needs it.

Give Thanks In All Circumstances

In our recent culture, November 1 has marked the beginning of the Christmas season. Fall decorations come down and Christmas decorations go up. It becomes more socially acceptable to begin listening to Christmas music. (Full disclosure: this worship pastor usually begins listening in June… for planning purposes, of course.) And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t already looking for Little Debbie Christmas Tree Cakes in the grocery store. It’s a good thing I haven’t found them in stock, yet!

This year in particular, I believe that the rush towards Christmas is even greater than usual. Most people seem eager to leave 2020 behind and look forward to something better. This year has been marked with pain, confusion, division, unrest, death, and the list goes on. But during this month of November that has its own holiday, Thanksgiving, I want to encourage you to look forward to the end of the year (and the beginning of a new year) while also reflecting on the goodness of God here and now.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

Did you catch that? (I hope you did since I added bold, underlined text for emphasis.) It is the will of God for us to give thanks in all circumstances. That doesn’t mean we must give thanks for every circumstance but that we should give thanks in every circumstance. What’s the difference? The passage continues to say to hold fast to what is good and abstain from every form of evil (5:21-22). There are things in this world that are evil. That has become clear. The devil is hard at work seeking to destroy unity and respect between fellow image bearers of God (all people). I’ll be first in line to tell you that I am not giving thanks for all of the negative things that flood the headlines and social media.

But in the midst of these circumstances, I believe God is also hard at work. Harder at work. And we know the end of the story: God wins! So in every circumstance, I urge you to give thanks because of who God is, what He has done, and what He has promised He will do. He has never failed in His faithfulness to us and He never will. The worship pastor in me can’t help but have the bridge of “Way Maker” on my mind as I write this:

Even when I can’t see it, you’re working.

Even when I can’t feel it, you’re working.

You never stop, You never stop working.

You never stop, You never stop working.

A tangible way to give thanks in all circumstances is to ask yourself and ask those around you: What are you thankful for?

My girlfriend, Sarah, and I have made it part of our daily routine to ask each other what we are thankful for that day. Some days our circumstances want to dictate that we don’t have much to be thankful for. But that couldn’t be further from the truth, especially for those who are in Christ. We have breath in our lungs and a hope in Christ that sustains us through the most difficult of circumstances.

In saying all of this, I don’t want to diminish any hardships that you may be facing. Saying what I just said and living it out are two different things. God never promised this life would be easy. In fact, He promised that in this world we would have troubles. For some people, that has become truer than ever in 2020. But in the same verse, He also said to take heart because He has overcome the world (John 16:33). I believe that in this difficult year, this truth has become truer than ever for many of those who are in Christ.

If that isn’t the case for you, I encourage you to dig deeper and hold faster to the promises found in His Word. It may seem forced at times, but consider making a list of things to give thanks for every day this November. And then keep it going! I’ll start.

I’m thankful for…

  • Salvation in Christ
  • The ability to worship Him freely
  • The gift of music
  • My family & friends
  • Unconditional love and grace and mercy from the Father
  • Good health
  • Beautiful weather (at least it’s sunny when I wrote this)
  • Coats Baptist and other churches that have molded me
  • The ability to think for myself
  • God’s Word
  • The Holy Spirit’s comfort, guidance, and conviction
  • My small group
  • Food to eat and a roof over my head
  • A great big world to explore
  • Chocolate
  • And…

I wanted to save this item of thanksgiving until the end, but not because it deserves to be at the bottom of the list. And I can’t say that I was saving the “best for last” because that would be reserved for my salvation. I just didn’t want this blessing to distract you from reading the rest of the blog post. I am so incredibly thankful to be ENGAGED TO SARAH BYRD as of this past Thursday!

We both want to say ‘thank you’ to our church family for your prayers and support for us as individuals and as a couple. Many of you have prayed for me and with me in regards to finding the one whom God was preparing for me to marry. More recently, you’ve prayed for and encouraged us while Sarah is serving kids in Mexico City. While 2020 has been marked with personal hardships and a long distance relationship, I KNOW that God has been at work in our lives and in our relationship. Continue to pray for us as we enter in this new and exciting season of life. We love you and are thankful for you, Coats!

Why Coats Baptist Needs a Student Pastor

For nearly a decade, Anthony and Amy Beasley have served as leaders of our student ministry. As part-time lay leaders, they have done a fantastic job reaching students, making disciples, and equipping them for a life of missional service. We say a big “thank you!” to the Beasley family for their continued commitment to our young people.

With their support and encouragement, we seek to move forward in our ministry to students by searching for a student pastor. As the Beasleys have shared, the ministry deserves a full-time position. With the calling of a new pastor, we hope to build on the foundation laid down by Anthony and Amy. They will continue to play a critical role in our ministry to students and the success of the student pastor.

To help us all catch the vision for a full-time student pastor, let’s answer a simple question: “Why does Coats Baptist need a student pastor?” The short answer is simple: to commit full-time pastoral ministry to the mission of making disciples of students. That’s why we need a student pastor: to lead the disciple-making effort of our students.

Therefore, as is the mission of Coats Baptist is “to make disciples,” the student pastor will adapt the church’s mission to the context of student ministry. He will be the lead disciple-maker within the ministry, leading by example to make and multiply students as disciples of Jesus Christ.

What is a disciple, again? We may think of a fully-devoted follower of Christ in these terms (notice the progressive nature of the points).

  • A worshiper of God
  • A student of the Bible
  • An example of holiness
  • A servant of the church
  • A maker of disciples

How then does the mission of disciple-making apply to the student ministry and the role of the student pastor? In sequential order to the points above, let’s sketch out with broad brush strokes how the student pastor would strategically lead the disciple-making effort of students.

1. Reach the schools. We must reach our public schools with the gospel. The student pastor role is not only relational, but highly evangelistic. We seek to see students converted to Christ and thus become worshipers of God. Such a mission is best led by a pastor in a full-time position.

From our church location two massive high schools sit just miles away: Triton High School at five miles and Harnett Central High School is eight miles. Combined they have over 2,500 students. What is more, Campbell University is only three miles away. It is but a five minute drive from our church. Under normal operations, CU has nearly 4,000 students on campus. What does this mean? From our church location, there’s a total of nearly 7,000 students within arms’ reach. As Jesus said, “The fields are white for harvest.” (John 4:35)

2. Teach the Bible. We all need the Bible. Leaders are teachers, and pastors teach the Bible. Students need the exposition of Scripture. This is a foundation set by the Beasley family. Therefore, our student pastor will be an ordained pastor with the “ability to teach” (1 Tim. 3:2) the Bible in a variety of contexts. He will teach students and oversee the teaching ministry among student groups, services, and events. At times, you may find him behind the pulpit on Sunday.

3. Shepherd the students. The student pastor will join the pastoral team with various congregational pastoral duties. He will be an asset to our staff and to the total church program. Yet, the focus of his ministry will be to the students: middle and high school, as well as those entering college. Students need a spiritual shepherd now more than ever. They need to be discipled through out their years as a student to best prepare them for a life on mission. Across our country, students leave the church after graduation. Let it not be so on our watch at Coats Baptist. (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).

4. Serve the families. We must serve students along with parents and siblings. The student pastor will have a ministry age range from approximately 12 to 20 years old. That means he will play a critical role in transitioning children into the student ministry and seeing them through college. As a pastor, this man will meet parents, visit homes, and get to know families. At the same time, he will help assimilate students into the congregation and foster a multi-generational ministry (cf., 1 Corinthians 12:12).

5. Develop the leadership. We are called to make disciples and develop leaders. Pastors lead that effort. No pastor is a one-man show. It takes a team. The same will be true for the student pastor. He will be a leader of leaders in home groups, on mission trips, and among the weekly ministries (cf., Ephesians 4:12). The student pastor will not simply be a means of taking care of our students but rather serve as an integral part of our Coats Baptist pastoral team.

These are only a few of the top disciple-making tasks of a student pastor. Space fails me to expound on the ancillary ministry responsibilities of planning events, mission trips, and practical ministries; equipping God-called students for full-time ministry service; preparing graduates for life on mission. These are exciting days at Coats Baptist! God has been so gracious.

On the evening of November 8 we will hold our first business meeting since re-opening. Among the many items of Kingdom business will be the congregational approval of a student pastor job description and salary package. It’s a small step forward in a much greater process. Simply put, we’re seeking congregational approval for two points of progress:

  1. Begin the search for a student pastor. We will likely fill a search committee soon and begin the search process at the beginning of the new year.
  2. Add the student pastor salary package to the church budget. Since pastor searches typically take several months, we would not anticipate calling a student pastor until the second half of the year. If approved, the 2021 church budget will reflect the financial package starting July 1, 2021 as a tentative fiscal date.

Prior to the Sunday night service on November 8, there will be a Business Meeting Q&A at 5pm in the Fellowship Hall. If you have any questions about the student pastor position or any other matter of church business, please join us.

Copies of the student pastor job description and salary package will be available online for your convenience prior to the business meeting at coatsbaptist.com/reports.

God bless you, church!

Theology of Sleep

God’s Word continues to amaze me. The theology of God, of scripture, of sin, and many other aspects of Christianity are fascinating studies and incredibly applicable to daily life.

Until recently, I had never considered the theology of sleep, but Psalm 121:4 has, dare I say it, awakened me to a new perspective. The Psalm as a whole and the context of the fourth verse reminds us that God is always our protector; He doesn’t take a break from sustaining or protecting us. It states that God, our Protector, “does not slumber or sleep”.

Ok, we all knew that, but I never thought much past the obvious nature of God not slumbering or sleeping. The Psalmist isn’t just stating the obvious. By presenting this fact, it draws a contrast with major implications. God, being all powerful, does not need to rest. He does not need to be refreshed or to take a break from His work. He, and He alone, is truly awesome.

But we are not. I am not. I need rest, I need sleep, I need a break. God gives us the blessing of sleep while He stands as Protector over us. Sleep is God’s gift to us.

I never thought about sleep as a gift. I really never thought about sleep much at all unless I was in need of it. I suppose I considered it more as something that God tolerated because I am weak. I certainly enjoy a good nap, but I probably considered that more of a guilty pleasure.

The fact of the matter is that each and every time we go to sleep, we are demonstrating our dependency on our sovereign, all knowing, all powerful Lord. Sleep is actively bearing witness to our confidence and reliance on His care. Sleep is conceptually akin to fasting insomuch as fasting reminds us that we are totally insufficient on our own. Sleep reminds us that we are not all powerful and that we must look to another for what we need. We must look to God and give Him all credit.

C.J. Mahaney, in his book Humility (which I highly recommend and is the conceptual catalyst for the thoughts here), suggests a few disciplines that reinforce this perspective. At the end of each day:

  • Give God the credit, the glory, for the day filled with grace which you had the opportunity to experience.
  • Recall that you are not the “author” of your life, nor the gifts you receive, or the success you experience.
  • Accept God’s gift of sleep, remembering its purpose and thanking your Protector as you do.
  • Consider sleep as a reminder of God’s love, protection, and grace.
  • Treat sleep as an act of faith, resting in the arms of the One sustaining you.
  • Reflect on sleep as a teacher instructing us to be humble and to put away pride.

When you lay down tonight, receive God’s gift and remember that He never slumbers or sleeps. He is our protector, and in Him, we can have complete trust. We are to live our lives completely in awe of Him and His power, acknowledging our dependency and taking comfort in His sovereign provision.

Sleep well, my friend.

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