Publication:Pastoral Letter, April 2020
Dear Friend in Christ:
I often open my letters with a greeting: “I pray this letter finds you well.” I mean it sincerely every time, but I wish I could convey the depth of my heart when I say it to you now. Wherever you are reading this, the Coronavirus pandemic is affecting your life in some way.
As I write to you on behalf of my father, Charles Simpson, and all of our CSM Team, my purpose this month is to share with you a timely and encouraging word from Scripture, to convey some important information about our ministry, and to examine ways in which we can all respond practically to this unprecedented circumstance in which we all find ourselves.
Events are moving very swiftly. I cannot predict where things will be when you read this letter. But, it is my hope that we can all say that wherever we are geographically or circumstantially, we are IN CHRIST positionally.
In October of last year, I wrote about Adam and Eve, hiding in the Garden of Eden from the Lord following their devastating sin. God came looking for them and asked a vital question: “Where are you?” Here is what I wrote about that:
His question was not because HE didn’t know where they were; it’s because THEY didn’t know where they were. Where we are is not first a geographical question, it’s a relational question. They were hiding from God because they had just deliberately ignored and rebelled against His instructions. Broken relations lead to wrong destinations!
Do we know where we are now? Some of the most powerful voices, some of the most learned experts, some of the most vocal gurus now seem very confused. The promise from Hebrews 12 is coming to pass: whatever can be shaken shall be shaken so that what is unshakable may remain. So often, we pray, “Lord, make it stop shaking,” when it is the Lord Who is allowing the shaking in the first place. But, He also tells us, “Give thanks! I am giving you a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.”
Adam and Eve lost their home relationally in the Lord, which caused them to lose their home geographically in the garden; they lost their way and their place. But, as I said in October:
The remainder of the Bible tells the extraordinary story of the supernatural lengths that God went to destroy sin and death and to restore His fellowship with humanity. The Bible is, at its core, a love story. It’s a gigantic neon sign that points the way home through faith in Jesus Christ.
Folks, that’s what this is all about: let us be found in Christ alone. Everything else is shaking. And no amount of happy talk, false prophecies, partisan bickering, fake news, or wishing is going to change that. Politicians, pundits, and religious superstars do their followers no favors by peddling denial, conspiracy theories, or exotic doctrines.
What do I hear God saying to me? Repent, and call others to repent. If this season cannot drive us to our knees in humility and prayer, with a willingness to change by God’s grace, I don’t know what will. And, I am not repenting for the sins of the atheists and secularists. That’s not what God said to do. We quote it often, but let us revisit 2 Chronicles 7:14 …
“ … if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
“If My people,” He says. And, let’s make it personal. This isn’t about me repenting for your sins or the sins of the man who sits on the pew in front of you on Sundays. As with Adam and Eve, God is asking: “Where are you?” It’s getting real now, isn’t it?
But, the reward for repentance is incalculably precious: not condemnation, but liberation. It’s the joyful journey out of the ways that lead to death and into the ways that lead to life. We are restored in relationship with our very Life Source: “There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, for the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1).
CALL TO ME
Furthermore, as the people of God humble ourselves before Him and repent, He has promised to show mercy and bring healing to our land. Do we need that right now? He said through Jeremiah: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jeremiah 33:3).
How important would you say it is for us to hear from God right now and receive His wisdom? Call on Him accordingly. Many are standing on Psalm 91, and that is a great place to stand. I recommend the entire Psalm, but look at the first two verses:
“He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, ‘He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in Him I will trust’” (Psalm 91:1-2).
The words “dwell” and “abide” are key here. This isn’t a temporary high or a weekly religious ritual. This is a covenantal, eternal, relational position with the Father, through Christ Jesus. To dwell with Him is to abide in His peace. We can trust Him and His Word, because He has proven Himself faithful and He has graciously invited us into fellowship with Him.
I was boisterously singing in the car the other day, *“On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand!”* I didn’t find everything at the grocery store and the pharmacy that I had hoped to find, but I found the peace of God that passes all understanding. Worshipping the Lord in faith carries both power and poignancy in these days. I encourage you to praise Him daily in the process. Practice the presence of God, wherever you are.
As we posture ourselves in humility and repentance before the Lord, we will find our rest in His presence and purpose. Keep His Word in front of you even more than the TV news. Yes, we should stay well-informed on current events. But let us see events, in Christ, from a heavenly perspective. Practice excellent hygiene and health precautions; and do so in faith, rather than fear. Here is a scientific fact: anxiety weakens your body and your immune system. Build up your faith to build up your body and mind.
Be considerate of others regarding their health, their tangible needs, and their need for encouragement. In a time of necessary social distancing, we are still blessed with so many tools to be able to build up one another in the faith. Empathize with those who suffer; do not minimize their suffering or belittle their beliefs.
Be careful of your information sources; who you believe and who you repeat. Avoid giving ear to conspiracy theories, partisan propaganda, distractions, confusion, or unsound directions from unproven voices. Keep in mind also that not everyone who claims to be a prophet is a prophet. And not everyone who posts stuff on social media knows what they are talking about. Selah.
Be prudent, but don’t panic. Be alert, but not afraid. Choose well-informed action as opposed to apathy. Listen to actual doctors, nurses, first responders, scientists, and qualified, credible government officials and agencies. But remember, no matter what they say, or what circumstances say, Jesus is Lord over all. He is at work. None of this has caught Him by surprise. His Kingdom is unshakable. Fear not.
Here at CSM, we are seeking God and taking steps to respond to this crisis as His Spirit leads us. After much prayer and counsel, we have made the very painful and costly decision to cancel our May 12-14, 2020 Gatlinburg Leadership Conference. Our concern and responsibility before God is to bless and protect His people. All of our registered guests will receive a full refund. God willing, we will be able to return again in 2021 and share together what the Lord has done among us. We will announce those dates soon.
On a personal level, I have to admit, this is a heartbreaking decision and a very difficult loss. We’ve held the Gatlinburg Conference every year since 1999, and celebrated our 20th Anniversary last year. The times of fellowship, worship, teaching, networking, and enjoying the beautiful Great Smoky Mountains have been rich beyond words. It’s also been a time of shoring up our ministry support, both in prayer and in finances. Our trust is in the Lord to supply our needs. But we will dearly miss fellowshipping with so many of you.
In the meantime, we will be utilizing more tools to remain in contact with you and to serve you. Expect more videos from us, both Bible teaching, and also regular personal updates. This may require me to trim my beard and wear a nice shirt, but I believe I am up for the challenge!
We are also reviewing our audio archives, and we’re pleased to find a treasure trove of previously unreleased messages — at least, never released in any digital format — and other classic messages that have been unavailable for years. We will be making these resources available to you, as well as upgrading our YouTube channel.
If you don’t follow us on Facebook, visit our official Charles Simpson Ministries Page, and also our CSM Gatlinburg Community Page. You can also follow us on Twitter @CSMinPublishing. Of course, we are always working on our already robust csmpublishing.org website to better serve you.
Let me sincerely ask you to pray for us. As you can imagine, all of these changes have had a drastic impact on us financially. At a time when so many friends are asking us for assistance, we have taken a very major hit. We don’t beg for money; you know our track record. But, can I urgently ask you to prayerfully consider a special gift now, and ongoing support through this crisis? See the card and envelope enclosed or visit our website. You can also call us.
Not everyone reading this can give any money to CSM right now. Many of you are facing significant needs of your own. We are deeply concerned for you and sincerely praying for you. Please keep us posted on how you and your loved ones are doing. We still want to serve you any way we can.
But some of you, praise God, are doing relatively well and have the means to stand with us and others during this season of hardship. If the Lord leads you—and only if He leads you—please do.
For each of you reading, may the peace of the Lord Jesus guard and guide you; body, mind, and spirit. Pray and seek Him, and He will continually fill you with His Holy Spirit. We love you. The Lord loves you. We may be in a storm, but Jesus—the Master over the wind and waves—is in the boat with us, and He cares.
Stephen Simpson and Charles Simpson