Our youth group is built around Bible Study. Our main meeting time is Wednesday nights at 7 pm. We share a meal. There is laughter and conversation. And then we study scripture, or scriptural concepts. We may accomplish this by studying a book of the Bible, or looking to see how the Bible guides us in dealing with modern, newsworthy issues, or we may look to the Bible for answers on a particular topic.
Other times our study involves Biblical concepts from a non-Biblical source. For instance, over the last several weeks the high schoolers have been reviewing David Platt’s latest book, Something Needs to Change. This is an account of a 7 day journey David Platt took in the Himalayan Mountains and the very real faith struggles this journey produced.
On day 4 of the journey, David and his companions must trek up the side of a mountain. The 1,500 climb/hike takes 2 hours. David describes how he would walk 10 steps, then stop to admire the scenery…and catch his breath. Upon completion of the climb he is met with great news, his friend Aaron tells him, “The only church that exists in these villages is meeting here tonight, and it looks like we’re going to be able to worship with them.”
Do you notice anything interesting about that statement? Aaron did not say, “the only church in the area is here, and people will gather to worship tonight.” Aaron indicated that the church would gather in the village. The church is not in the village, at least not yet. The church is gathering in the village.
Throughout the journey David has described how dark it is at night, and how cold. This is a brutal part of the world. But on this night, before the church gathers, Aaron points out lights on the mountainside. It seems that the same journey that took David 2 hours in the daylight is now being made by those coming worship.
Think about that. A 2 hour walk in subzero temperatures on an unlit trail up a mountain to arrive for worship. Followed by another walk down the mountain when the time of worship concludes. That is dedication!
When everyone arrives around 50 people gather in a small room (David describes it as the size of a bedroom, or small living). And for the next 2 hours they worship. Following the worship there is a time of sharing and encouragement. The encouragement is needed for some as they face persecution for their faith. Others share personal needs which are then claimed by people in the room as an opportunity to serve and help each other.
David makes this observation, “They don’t have a nice building. They don’t have a great band. They don’t have a charismatic preacher. They don’t have any programs. They just have each other, God’s Word in front of them, and God’s Spirit among them. And, apparently, that’s enough.”
I don’t know about you, but this story humbles me. How can so much love and devotion to God come from those who have so much hardship, and so little come from me, who has been given so much?
If you feel the same, we are not alone. In response to seeing this, David comments, “Sure, I have been to seminary, written books, pastored churches, and led ministries, but compared to these brothers and sisters, I know so little of what it costs to follow Christ. Compared to them, I know so little of what it means to depend on and trust in Christ for all that I need. I know so little of what it means to take risks to make his love known.”
This gives me hope. I am not alone in my struggle to surrender to God. I am not alone in realizing how far I am from fully depending on Him for all my needs. I am also not alone in realizing how little devotion to God my life projects when compared to these people.
This leads me to one last quote from the book. It sums up how I want to live, and how I would like for our church to be described. In David’s words this is, “the church as God has designed it to be. A people fearlessly holding on to God’s Word while selflessly sacrificing to share and show God’s love amid need around them.” Amen.
Its normal this time of year. Many embrace the idea of pretending to be someone, or something, they’re not. We virtually celebrate kids’ use of imagination and dress-up with the purchase of costumes and related paraphernalia. Hundreds of costumed superhero’s and cartoon characters attended the CBC Trunk or Treat event and, as I write, kids are starting to beg their parents about getting dressed up for the annual door-to-door candy parade.
Imagination and even pretending really is a great thing. It’s fun and we all benefit from the creative ideas of those with great imaginations. There are some owners of inventions I’d really love to thank: indoor plumbing, microwaves, roadside reflectors and rumble strips, just to name a few.
Of course, God is the ultimate inventor; we just enjoy playing games with His creation. But there comes a time when pretending is not okay. When the fun and games are over, we have to be real with ourselves.
Think of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. They had just really messed up and introduced sin into the entire human existence. They hid, twice, with fig leaves (v7) and then in the trees (v8). God called out to them asking, “Where are you?”, but He wasn’t asking to learn. He knew all about where they were and what they were hiding. He asked so that Adam and Eve would, shall we say, face reality and stop pretending.
There’s lots of ways people hide in the church. There are some who pretend to care. It’s easy to say, “I’ll pray for you”, or “Please let me know if I can do anything for you”, but do we really mean it? Do we really take time to pray or minister to those in true need?
Some pretend to have no problems. “Hey, how are you?” “I’m really doing great. How about you?” But then, in more personal conversations or written on prayer cards, their burdens are quite evident.
Some pretend to really have all the answers as though they were spiritual giants. But the hardened façade eventually crumbles under the pressure of sin and spiritual warfare.
Some even pretend to be Christians. That scares me the most.
Please don’t think I’m casting stones and pointing fingers here: I’m guilty of most of these. In fact, as one who has been in church virtually all of my life, I know the social expectations: I know how to “act right” in church. What I find very humbling is that many of us could continue in our current activities without truly depending on God at all. In other words, we could carry on such a show that each and every time we arrive at church folks would think we’re walking closely with the Lord. We can say the right things. We can teach the right things. We can sing, and greet, and serve, and shake hands … and then just go back to our hiding place.
In Mark 7:6, Jesus said, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.” That gets personal. Every day, I am in need of taking off my masks, being real with myself and others, and honestly confessing my sin. Every day, I need to recognize my weaknesses and dependence on God’s provision. Every day, I need to turn to Him, thankful for His mercy and grace, thankful for His sovereignty and love, thankful for His salvation and plans. He doesn’t want or need what I pretend to bring to the table: He just wants the real me.
Be still and know that I am God.
That verse from Psalm 46 is known, loved, and quoted by many, myself included. It’s comforting and helpful in the midst of the chaos around and in us. That’s IF we actually do what it says. And that essentially means doing nothing.
I was recently introduced to a new song by Amanda Cook that is based on this Psalm. It’s entitled “Still” as it’s specifically based on Psalm 46:10. Hearing these lyrics impacted me in a powerful way. I was reminded that the “and know that I am God” part of verse 10 holds a lot of weight. In those still moments, we can trust God to be who He says He is and we must remind ourselves of who He has proven Himself to be…
- Promise Keeper
- Miracle Worker
- Perfect Father
- Righteous Judge
Take a moment and let that sink in. He is all of these things and SO MUCH MORE… for you! Now, let’s not neglect that second half of verse 10: I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!
Because God is who He says He is, that makes Him worthy of being exalted and worshiped over and by all creation. Our response to the revelation of who God is in those still moments must lead us to worship. This includes, but is certainly not limited to, music. But given my passion and calling to serve you in that way, I want to share this song with you.
Click the link below. Sit at the Father’s feet. Be still. And worship.
Last week, I spent the week studying at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary with leaders from other North American churches. It was a wonderful time of reflection as we celebrated how God is mobilizing churches in North America; however, we also spent time in prayer as we realized how God’s work is not yet complete. My prayer is that God would use our church to further His kingdom in Coats, North Carolina, North America, and the world.
This month is Pastor Appreciation Month. As our church lifts prayers of thanksgiving for Pastors, who are leading us as we pursue God’s mission for Coats Baptist Church, what better way to individually show our support and appreciation for our pastors than by praying for them? When Jesus sends out His laborers in Luke 10, he instructs them to “pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Here are five ways you can pray for the pastors who are laboring over the harvest here at Coats:
- Pray that they would be empowered by the Spirit: Praise God that when Jesus left, He did not leave us on our own! Pray for the spiritual health of our pastors. Pray that our pastors would be filled daily with the Spirit as they lead others.
- Pray for wisdom: In Ephesians 3:7-13, we see that the local church is the means by which the “manifold wisdom of God will be made known”. Pray that as our Pastors are empowered by the Spirit they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understand.” (Colossians 1:9)
- Pray for a kingdom-focus: The local church is the agent by which God’s kingdom is declared. Pray that our pastors would be consumed with kingdom work, and that God would limit the outside distractions that so often keep one from doing God’s work.
- Pray for endurance: Ministry is tough. Pastors experience the brokenness of this world first-hand, as they make hospital visits, counsel broken families, and serve broken people. Pray that God would remind them of the eternal hope we have so that they may endure well.
- Pray for their families: Pray that our Pastors would be able to serve and love their families well as they serve and love our church. Pray that their families would be able to love and serve their husband/father.
There are many more ways that you can pray for our pastors this week as well. I would encourage you to take some time each day this week to pray for Pastor Neal, Pastor Jonathan, and Pastor Jimmy.