Publication:Pastoral Letter, August 2020
Dear Friend in Christ:
In these difficult times, we are praying for you, and continuing to do our best to stay in contact with you and to share what we hear the Lord saying. One thing we continue to hear from Him is that He is still calling us outward into His harvest field (see Matthew 9:35-38).
The “harvest” is anyone who is still weary or scattered, without a Shepherd, in need of God’s tender mercies and healing. Jesus loves these and wants to bring them into His Kingdom; will we love them like He does? Jesus was moved with compassion. What moves us? Can we be moved?
Often when we look at the world, we see only the darkness. But God is light, and He calls us to look to His light, to see by His light, and then to reflect His light among the nations. Though we are not of the world, we are called to live in it and to love the people in it. A right relationship with God will not only bring salvation and life to our own lives, but it will be light and life to others who relate to us.
GOD IS LIGHT
In First John, the Beloved Disciple tells us that the purpose of his letter is that our joy may be full. And here is the Good News, the reason we can have this joy: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:5-9)
I love the Star Wars movies, but we must understand that our God is not “The Force” … there is not a light side and also a dark side. God is not moody, He’s not evil. He doesn’t have bad days. He is light, all light is sourced in Him, and He calls us to walk in His light with Him.
“Then Jesus said, “A little while longer the light is with you. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you; he who walks in darkness does not know where he is going. While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light” (John 12:35-36).
It doesn’t take a prophet to see the darkness, but it does take God’s grace to see the light. Proverbs 29:18 says that where there is no vision, the people perish, they cast off restraint … they live in chaos. Do we see any chaos in our world lately? Is anyone weary and scattered?
In times of darkness and confusion, people often rise up in their frustration and pain. But, what an opportunity for the people of God to know their God, to display strength, and to take redemptive action (see Daniel 11:32)—to be witnesses and ambassadors for King Jesus! Kingdom people see opportunity to serve the harvest in the midst of trouble. The Holy Spirit looks at an angry, hopeless, broken person and sees a precious child of God, destined for salvation, healing, deliverance, restoration, and purpose. What do you see? Who do you see?
God—Who is Himself light—spoke a word, that there might be light in the universe. One word from Him created billions of suns and galaxies of stars and planets. That word was so powerful that the infinite universe continues to expand under His Sovereign reign.
HIS WORD LIGHTS OUR WAY
God not only made the heavens and the earth, but He also created mankind in His own image. As Creator and as Father, He loves the people He has made. He has not left us without His wisdom; He has given us a Word by which we may have life. He has not condemned us to wander blindly on paths leading to death, but He has graciously spoken to us and given us commands and precepts that show us where and how to walk. His Word and Holy Spirit lead us to the green pastures and the waters of refreshing. However, we have to decide to receive the Word that He has given; to love it, honor it, read it, study it, preserve it; to allow it to do its work in our lives. King David wrote:
“I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:100-105).
God’s Word brings light and understanding leading to life. King David hated anything that could rob him of the Word and the understanding that it brings, because he knew that life and blessing are the results of following the Word. David said that the Word tastes sweet; what is shaping and affecting your tastes and your appetites? Is it something nourishing or something toxic?
God loves you just the way we are, but He loves you so much that He won’t leave you the way you are. He receives and loves you as His son or daughter, but He is always at work in you so that He can work through you to bless others.
JESUS IS THE LIVING WORD REVEALED TO US
God not only gives to us His written Word, but He gave us Himself. His light became incarnated in human flesh. The Living Word of God is Jesus Christ, Who was not created by God when He was born to Mary, but was with God in eternity, from before time began. God is the eternal Father and Jesus is the eternal Son. Jesus wasn’t God’s emergency back-up plan to save mankind; Jesus was part of the Father’s Sovereign plan from the very beginning.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it…. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:1-5; 10-13).
Throughout human history, there have been some people who rejected God’s written Word. There have been some who even rejected God’s Living Word. But their rejection did not dim His light; it only caused their own hearts to be darkened. But, praise God, there have been many who did receive the Word, and they were adopted into God’s family as God’s own children. Receiving the Living Word of God in Christ not only directs your steps and lights your path, but it gives you the right and the grace to call the Great Creator your own Heavenly Father!
In Jesus, the Word moves from the written page into our very hearts. We read earlier from John 12, where Jesus calls His followers to walk in the light. He said “a little while longer” which implied an urgency. He also said in John 14, John 16, and Acts 1, that He was going to send His Holy Spirit to guide us.
HIS LIFE LIGHTS OUR LIVES SO THAT OTHERS MIGHT SEE
The more we walk with Him, the more we understand that it’s not about us, but about Him, and His message going to the world. I referenced some portions of 2 Corinthians 4 in my June Pastoral Letter, but I want to look at these verses now:
“For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us“ (2 Corinthians 4:5-7).
Even when we are going through struggles and trials, if we will continue to look to Jesus, His light will shine on us and through us. Even in our weakness, His strength will be revealed. If we know that we are not the end of the matter, we will be more focused and willing to allow Him to work and speak through us. We will look for ways to shine, in words and in action. Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
This is our calling. We weren’t chosen so that we could simply go to heaven when we die. We are called to demonstrate His praise now, in every circumstance; to manifest His Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit here on earth in the land of living today (see 1 Peter 2:9; Ephesians 5:8-11).
So, we must carefully guard our vision and all of the things that affect it. Jesus says that where we place our vision will determine our direction:
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:22-23).
Let’s walk together in the light, not only for our own sake, but for His, and for the sake of those who are still trapped in darkness. Thank you so much for continuing to stand with us in your prayers and giving, as we seek to shine the light of the Gospel among the nations. Please remember us this month. These are challenging days, but what an opportunity we all have as Jesus’ disciples to be life-saving beacons in the dark. Let your light shine!
Stephen Simpson, President
Scriptures referenced: Matthew 9:35-38; 1 John 1:5-9; John 12:35-36; Proverbs 29:18; Daniel 11:32; Psalm 119:100-105; John 1:1-5, 10-13; John 12, 14, 16; Acts 1; 2 Corinthians 4:5-7; Matthew 5:14-16; Ephesians 5:8-11; 1 Peter 2:9; Matthew 6:22-23
STEPHEN SIMPSON is the Editor of One-to-One Magazine and the Director of CSM Publishing. In addition to publishing ministry, Stephen has served in leadership for churches and ministries in Costa Rica, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, and Michigan, as well as being the Senior Pastor of Covenant Church of Mobile (2004-2013). He continues to travel in ministry across North America and in other nations.