As I write to you this month, we continue to see tremendous turmoil around the world. Here in the United States, extreme weather and the persistence of the COVID pandemic have brought misery and death to many. A turbulent social climate and tense divisions have sapped the energies of even the strongest believers. But, there is hope, and that’s why I am writing to you.
Revelation 11:15 says, “The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever!” His Kingdom is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). As earthly kingdoms shake, we will see more clearly that which is eternal and unshakable. God is revealing what is in Him, and what is merely a temporal façade.
This experience can be unsettling and frustrating. It can even seem grievous. The “fire” of this present age is revealing that which will endure – whatever is built upon the solid foundation of the Lord Jesus Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3). My father addressed this issue of foundations in last month’s Pastoral Letter, “What Will the Righteous Do?”
I wish we could read all of Hebrews chapters 10-12 today so that we could better understand the context of the unshakable Kingdom. Hebrews 10 tells us that our hope and confidence are in the Lord. Hebrews 11 is a wonderful chapter about faith and great men and women of faith throughout Scripture. Then, the writer moves into chapter 12 to talk about how we who have received their legacy can carry onward in the journey of life set before us,
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1-3).
The first key for us in running the race with endurance is to focus our eyes on Jesus. “Fix” your eyes … a steady, unwavering gaze … even as Jesus fixed His eyes on the Father and on doing the things that pleased the Father.
Focus on Who He is—King, Savior, Deliverer, Redeemer, Healer, Friend
Give thanks for His great unfailing love
Seek Him first and seek His Kingdom first above all else (see Matthew 6)
Consider His Cross and how He has set us free from sin and shame
Take up your own cross—die to yourself—so that you can live for Him and follow Him
Tell others about Him, and disciple them as followers of Jesus
Thanksgiving and worship to Jesus is not only right because He is worthy; doing these things also brings great wisdom, perspective, and strength into our daily lives. Thanksgiving lifts our eyes off of our circumstances and onto Jesus. We see beyond our needs, all the way up to our Source. It raises our perspective into Heavenly places to see Him and to see as He sees.
Thanksgiving provokes joy, and the joy of the Lord is your strength (see Nehemiah 8:10). Seeing the example of Jesus brings hope and inspires faith to act. Being filled with His Holy Spirit releases His power, love, and wisdom in our lives (see 2 Timothy 1:7).
When I was a teenager, my pastor, Bill McLaughlin, took several of us in the youth group on a ski trip into the mountains. I had never snow skied before, so I took one lesson. After that, he invited me to ski with him, so we rode high up on the ski lift to the top of the mountain. When I looked down the steep slope, my knees turned to jelly! But, he said, “Follow me. Watch what I do. Ski where I ski. When you see my skis move, then you move yours. Ski in my tracks.”
Bill was a great skier. I was a novice. He knew the mountain. I had no idea where I was. But I fixed my eyes on his skis and watched what he did as we zoomed down the mountain. To ease your suspense, let me say that the fact that you are reading this means that I made it down the slope!
The way ahead for us in 2021 is tricky. None of us has been here before. But, Jesus knows the way, and He calls us to follow Him. Watch what He’s doing. Do what He does. Say what you hear Him saying. Walk as He walks, even in great difficulty and hard circumstances. Jesus had a joy set before Him that He saw, by the Holy Spirit, which empowered Him to endure the Cross, defeat death, and to reign in Heaven as King—where even now He is praying for you!
THE UNSHAKABLE KINGDOM
Hebrews 12 continues and tells us about the discipline of the Lord. Wait—keep reading! Don’t skip ahead! Those whom the Lord loves, He disciplines, as a good and loving Father to His children. His discipline is not given to harm us; it is not abusive or cruel. He disciplines us to disciple and train us in the ways that lead us to life and to deliver us from the ways that lead to death. He shows us how to build our lives on that which cannot be shaken or destroyed. Why is this important?
“See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.’ Now this, ‘Yet once more,’ indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace [or rejoice and give thanks], by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear” (Hebrews 12:25-28).
Times of shaking are a fact of life; we’ve seen these times in the past, we see them already in 2021. When shaking and turmoil happen, we want it to stop. But God allows times of shaking so that the things that cannot be shaken will be revealed.
Many things in America and around the world are shaking now. My hope is not in a politician, or in the economy, or in my own strength and wisdom; my only hope is in King Jesus and His Kingdom. The writer of Hebrews tells us that because our hope is in the Lord, we can rejoice and give thanks during these difficult times. We know that He is Sovereign, in control, holds all power, and He is good. He is faithful and His lovingkindness endures to all generations.
Because of this, we can receive a peace that goes beyond all understanding that will guard our hearts and minds (see Philippians 4:7). This keeps us clear, focused, and steady during this time of shaking. Circumstances are unsteady, but our God is the Rock, and we abide in Him. “Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion; unshakable, it stands forever” (Psalm 125:1).
In these days, I am often reminded of the powerful hymn, “Be Still My Soul,” written in 1752 by Katharina A. von Schlegel: “Be still my soul, the Lord is on thy side. Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain. Leave to thy God to order and provide; in every change, He faithful will remain. Be still my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.”
Can we trust Him in these days? If so, we can be like Mount Zion. We can even give thanks amidst the shaking, knowing that He has set our feet upon the Rock that cannot be moved. And should our hope grow weak, we can call on Him to give us strength, and in His lovingkindness, He will renew us.
Despite many challenges, we have been able to continue with our mission. We’re learning to be more “agile” and to re-allocate resources and energies where we can be most effective. As we have sought the Lord, we have determined that once again, our annual 2021 CSM Gatlinburg Conference will be online, rather than a physical gathering. We hope to do this in mid-May, and we will announce dates for you soon, as well as a “physical” re-gathering in Gatlinburg in 2022.
In the meantime, we are profoundly grateful for your prayer and financial support which has helped us to not only publish and preach, but to equip churches and believers worldwide, to offer needed humanitarian relief to places like Kenya, Lebanon, the Philippines, and to persecuted Christians in the Middle East. Of course, we continue to invest in the Hidden Treasures Costa Rica Children’s Home, and also in prison ministry across America.
Please continue to remember us in your prayers and in your giving this month. Visit us online: csmpublishing.org and our Charles Simpson Ministries Facebook Page, or on Twitter @CSMinPublishing.
Due to ongoing nationwide issues with the postal service, we are finding that some of our mail is not reaching you, or is reaching you late; likewise, some of your mail is not reaching us or is very late. We are still getting mail that some of you sent in early December! Some of you may find online correspondence or giving to be easier and more efficient (see our website). If you wish to use the envelope provided in this letter, you may find that adding a postage stamp to it will ensure a faster delivery time. Please pray for us in this process; as you can imagine, it’s caused major challenges for us and many ministries.
Please let us know any way we can stand with you in prayer and serve you. Thanks again for your friendship!
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.