Publication:Pastoral Letter, January 2019
Dear Friend in Christ:
It is a New Year and I pray that it will be a great one for you!
Yesterday is past; the future is not yet here, and today is the transition from yesterday to tomorrow. We are on a journey, sojourners in temporary dwellings. Adjusting to change is a major challenge and it doesn’t get easier with age. We need God’s help and, thankfully, we can receive it!
Transition is that space between where we were and where we want to be. It is the ocean between harbors. It is the valley between mountains and the night between days. It is the inevitable adventure forced upon us by nature. It can be daunting or exciting depending upon how we view it. In this letter I want to offer encouragement for the journey.
Yesterday, I attended the memorial service for a childhood friend. I saw faces that I had not seen for many years that I did not recognize. The day before, I attended the church of my childhood where I first met Jesus. The reality in both places was, “The past is not here anymore.” I drove down roads that had been so familiar to me but now crowded with unfamiliar developments. Change was everywhere. So that was yesterday and it passed so quickly!
Regarding the future, I have heard and read many prophecies from other believers and of course from God’s Word. Now I am also reading predictions about the future. I have a dear friend who is a “futurist.” I read about changing business models, economics, and social construction. Then there are “driverless cars”, artificial intelligence, space travel, internet development, weaponry, and Fortune 500 companies from yesterday that no longer exist. There is the “global community” that seems to be inevitable and the uncertain stock market; it is up and down daily and takes emotions with it.
I confess that I do not know the future. Has the book of Revelation already happened as some say? Is it happening now or going to in the future? Whatever the future is, it is coming. So, what do I do today?
As we look at Hebrews 3:12-19, we see Israel on their journey, the Exodus. They had Moses, a great leader, but they would not listen to him or the Word of God. They hardened their hearts and died while on the journey. The writer of the Book of Hebrews warned the followers of Jesus in his day to not be like those Hebrews of Moses’ day, or they could also die on their journey. Those Hebrews in Moses’ day never entered rest.
So if we listen, can we rest even while traveling? Hebrews 4 encourages us to enter rest today in Jesus’ High Priesthood and in His prayers for us. We can trust Him for the journey; trust means rest in His promises. He understands us and He knows the future to which He leads us. Let’s walk with Him.
Walking with Jesus
We all love Psalm 23. I especially love the verse that says, “Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for Thou art with me; Thy rod and Thy staff they comfort me” (KJV). It is the presence of Jesus that gives us peace in the “Valley of Shadows.” We can have peace even as we walk on; we need not fear. Fear is the enemy’s tool to make us draw back and bring displeasure to our Father in Heaven or die in some wilderness. The Father wants us to keep walking forward to a much better place!
Running away from tomorrow is not an desirable option and we need not if we realize that beyond the “Valley of Shadows” is a prepared table in God’s house — if we continue on in our walk with Him.
The Disciple’s Transition
Jesus’ disciples had the unique privilege of walking with Jesus for three-and-a-half years; they saw amazing miracles, heard divine teaching and real prophecies from Jesus’ own lips. But that was yesterday. Today, as we read in John 14-17, He was about to leave them as He sat with them and made the New Covenant. I encourage the study of John 14-17; these chapters will serve us in our transition. Here are some of the highlights from John 14:
• Don’t be troubled – believe in God and believe in me.
• I will prepare a place for you so you can be with me.
• I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.
• If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.
• You will do greater things because I go to the Father.
• If you ask in my name, I will do it.
• If you love me, keep my commandments.
• I will pray the Father and He will give you the Comforter (One who goes along beside us). He dwells with you and will be in you.
• The Helper, the Holy Spirit will teach you and remind you of all that I said. (We learn from the Spirit as we walk with Him.)
• I give you My peace; don’t be troubled or afraid.
• Arise, let us go from here…
So, the disciples continued on and were very soon in the “Valley of Shadows.”
You know the story that followed, the garden, the sleep, the arrest, the trials, and then the Cross. It was not their faithfulness that brought them through; it was God’s faithfulness. They ran away for a while but the New Covenant held them until the Resurrection came.
I love the old hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” I also love the more recent hymn, “Faithful God,” as sung by the Gateway Worship team. In the latter, there are two lines at the end of the first verse that are so true, “I can’t see past this storm, but I’m counting on a faithful God.”
I have been on the waters when storms came and know that you cannot see past the storm if it is truly serious. I have seen the waves higher than the boat and it was dark even in the daytime. My courageous wife got in the bottom of the boat and cried. I might have done the same but could not let go of the wheel or we would have capsized.
The engine began to sputter as the bow raised then lowered in the darkness. The gas in the tank was missing the engine’s intake. We were in great danger of engine failure.
“Sweetheart! You have to pour gas into the tank from the other tank; I cannot let go of the wheel!”
“I can’t,” she wept, but she did and the engine kept on. She was a hero in the storm. Soon we were across the water and safe. The amazing thing was, that as we tied up the boat in our little safe harbor, the waters that we had just crossed became as smooth as glass. The enemy had tried to take us out but the Lord was faithful!
Life can present some terrible, unexpected storms, high seas, darkness, and sputtering motivation, but don’t let go of the wheel; call on the Lord. If we are faithful, one day we will look back and see that the storm has passed.
The Other Side
Jesus knew that there would be storms ahead for the disciples and there were great storms, persecution, and even martyrdom. But He first told them about that other side — a place prepared for them and for us, Father’s house, Father’s table among Father’s family. When going through the storm, the valley, or the night, remember: it is about getting to that other side, not just surviving. What we see ahead will keep us moving forward.
I love hymns about Heaven; they motivate me. I love hymns about the faithfulness of God, He gets me there.
What we do today prepares us for tomorrow. Jesus’ instructions to the disciples got them through their great transition and will get us through as well. Yesterday is a memory and I hope for you, a good one. But today is an opportunity to prepare for 2019 and beyond. Please … do not sleep through the day of preparation.
The storm that Carolyn and I survived owed much to preparation. We had spent several months bracing, scraping away old paint and caulk, putting on coats of new paint, purchasing a proper chain and anchor and anything else we could think of that needed to be done for our little boat. We were grateful for every effort when the storm came!
Don’t wait until the storm comes to obey the Holy Spirit and to trust God’s faithfulness. I often wonder if I had really heard from God that day when I headed out into that storm. God saw it coming but I did not. If we learn to listen we will likely miss some storms – but not all.
Transition, that space between positions, is when we are most vulnerable. We are walking where we have never been before. Remember the Exodus? Or when Jesus said, “Let us arise and go from here.” That is when the enemy sees an opportunity.
But remember, the Guide is there at that moment. It is not about the enemy, the storm or the darkness. It is about the Guide who is leading us to that beautiful, peaceful other side. Meanwhile, strange as it may seem, we can rest even in the storm and have peace because He is faithful!
I want to thank all of you who were also so faithful to pray, give, and encourage us in 2018. Please continue to remember us in 2019 as we continue on our journey, extending Christ’s Kingdom and declaring His truth in our generation.
Have a blessed New Year!
Scripture reference: Hebrews 3:12-19; Psalm 23; John chapters 14-17
Charles Simpson is an internationally-known author, Bible teacher, and pastor, serving in ministry since 1955. He is also Editor-in-Chief of One-to-One Magazine and ministers extensively throughout the United States and the nations.