Children are very important to us at Tabernacle, and at this week’s Worship Service, our pastor offered prayer for our children who are beginning their school year. He also prayed for members who are involved with children’s work in the church and for the staff of the Tabernacle Learning Center, many of whom were visiting in the service. Later, the Children’s Message included encouragement for children as they go back to school – especially those who are going into 1st grade.
On August 25, the Chapel Choir enjoyed a dinner hosted by Ernie and Meghan Rushing with the assistance of Ernie’s parents. After a brief reception and welcome in the Choir Room, the Choir moved to the dining area for the dinner and then listened to the Christmas cantata that Ernie has selected for the upcoming holiday season. Lovely decorations, delicious food, inspiring (and challenging!) music, and delightful company – a wonderful evening.
(Click on the pictures below to enlarge them.)
They devoted themselves to the teaching of the apostles and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer (Acts 2:42).
For many of us, food and church just go together. Meeting for church without ever gathering for a meal would be kind of like going to the movies without ever enjoying some popcorn on the side. Or maybe we could compare it to attending the NC State Fair without purchasing anything fried to eat. Or how about going to a pig pickin’ without filling up a plate with BBQ….I could go on and on! Somehow we just instinctively know food and church go together.
But what we might not fully appreciate is the spiritual significance of Christians eating together, especially when it’s paired with devotion to prayer. Authentic fellowship—that is, our efforts to work together for the building of God’s Kingdom—does not and cannot exist without intentionality and labor. Unless we work to strengthen the ties that bind, our natural drift will inevitably be away from each other. Consequently, starting with the earliest Christians, the Lord has provided common meals and prayer as means by which believers can renew and fortify their fellowship. Despite their simplicity, the Holy Spirit infuses our breaking of bread and our prayer with an unparalleled power.
Far too often we simply take eating for granted— “It’s just something we all have to do,” we might think. Yet the first disciples understood that eating together has a unique leveling effect because it reveals our common humanity. No one can live without sustenance, and so eating together serves to remind us all of the fragile and tenuous nature of human life. In other words, food shows us one of our most basic, inescapable needs.
The Spirit’s unifying power becomes most apparent, however, when we recognize and when we acknowledge the Presence of God in our midst through prayer. Breaking bread discloses our equal standing before God, but prayer knits us together as God’s redeemed people in Christ. It is vitally important, therefore, that we carve out times in the life of our church when we earnestly and purposefully gather to break bread and pray.
That is why we have scheduled a Covenant Gathering for Sunday, August 20, at 5:00 PM in the dining room. We hope to look back on the ways we have seen God at work in our fellowship, as well as prayerfully look ahead toward where God might be moving us in the days ahead. To keep this from being merely another social get together, I challenge us all to come hungry (physically and spiritually!), to come with a devoted mindset, and to come prepared to feel the power of authentic fellowship. May the Spirit make it so!
Dedicate yourselves to prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. And pray also for us, that God may open a door for the word, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should (Colossians 4:2-4).
In just over a week, our Guatemala mission team will be boarding a flight toward the destination we believe God has called us to serve. While Tabernacle is only sending 12 individuals to Quetzaltenango, there remains a vital task we need every single member of our local body of Christ to carry out—namely, prayer! I hope we will all join together in asking the Lord to open doors of gospel-centered ministry through this trip.
1. May the Lord open a door by granting our team safety. We recognize the fact that we live in a dangerous world, and certain dangers are inherent to any form of travel. Therefore, in light of our conviction that God has called us to go and to serve, we are entrusting our lives to His providential care.
2. May the Lord open a door by granting our team opportunities to share the message and the love of Jesus. Although we know where we will be working and although we know the kinds of labor we will be asked to undertake, there are still many opportunities that have yet to be revealed. Our prayer is that the Lord would show us what He would have us to say and to do, as well as where He would have us to go and not go.
3. May the Lord open a door by granting our team flexibility. I have yet to participate in a mission endeavor where something did not go according to plan. No doubt, there will be events and circumstances to distract us and tempt us to shirk from our primary mission. May the Lord give us the flexibility we need to follow the Spirit’s leading in all circumstances—especially in situations we find to be unfavorable.
4. May the Lord open a door by granting our team perseverance. Missions work can be exhausting, physically and spiritually. That’s because we cannot rely on our own strength to carry out God’s mission in the world. On our own, we will inevitably become tired, discouraged, and ineffective. May we trust the Lord to supply the vigor we need to carry out the mission.
5. May the Lord open a door by granting Tabernacle a renewed passion for missions. One of my earnest prayers for this trip is that God would use it to ignite a red-hot passion for missions throughout our church family. I pray we would not only prioritize missions but that missions—God’s Mission—would drive our decisions, our programs, our allocation of resources, and our collective energy.
Thank you for praying with me!
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all of Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth
In just over three weeks Tabernacle will be sending 12 missionaries overseas to Guatemala. While the team will be assigned many different tasks, the primary undertaking is to assist vocational missionaries in constructing additional housing for orphans at The Good Shepherd Children’s Home, a partner ministry of the Baptist Children’s Homes of NC. Clearly, such a major endeavor is costly. Some might even wonder if it’s too costly…
“Surely,” we might reason, “we already have our fair share of human misery and need right here in Raleigh. Why in the world would we be spending our valuable and limited resources down there when we have plenty of opportunities right here? Is this worth it?” It’s a legitimate question, and it merits a thorough response.
1. At their best, Baptist missions have always been characterized by a both/and dynamic, not an either/or dynamic. Jesus issued all-inclusive instructions for his first disciples and for us, their spiritual descendants. Jesus didn’t say Jerusalem OR the ends of the earth; He said Jerusalem AND the ends of the earth. We support both “home” missions and “foreign” missions.
2. We follow an Infinite God who possesses infinite resources. As finite and sinful human beings we wrongly assume we’re living in a zero-sum world—“If I help that person I must be withholding something I could use for myself or someone else.” But such thinking fails to trust that the Lord is sovereign enough to encompass both Raleigh and Quetzaltenango, Guatemala. Who are we to claim that what God is doing in Raleigh is more significant than what God is doing in Guatemala? When the power of the Holy Spirit moves us to go, we go—regardless of where the Spirit sends us. Consider the Macedonians who gave generously and sacrificially to alleviate the needs of people they had never met, all despite the likelihood of depriving themselves of much-needed help (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1-6).
3. We’ve been charged by our Savior to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:19-20). Despite what we might prefer, we’re not entitled to withhold the gospel from any people group. On the contrary, when we carry out missions to the ends of the earth we can already see a foreshadowing of that glorious Day when the redeemed from every tribe, nation, and tongue will stand before the Throne and the Lamb of God (Rev. 7:9).
So, is it worth it? Here’s what I believe with all my heart: it’s worth it because Jesus says it’s worth it.
At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Having called a little child to him, Jesus placed the child among them. He said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:1-3).
As you can see in this issue of our church newsletter, Vacation Bible School is almost here! Our teachers are preparing their lessons, colorful and creative decorations are being assembled, and donations are piling up. It’s always an exciting time of year, and of course what we await with the most eager anticipation is the arrival of the children. They are the reason we host VBS year after year. We look forward to sharing the gospel with them, and we treasure the opportunity to see the Lord cultivate a sincere and lasting love for Christ in their lives.
Yet I wonder how many of us have considered the ways we can become the ones learning from the children. We usually assume, rightly so, that VBS is about introducing children to their Creator, Savior, and Sustainer. But according to Jesus, every moment we have with children can also become a chance to learn more about living in God’s Kingdom. For us adults, that means getting ready for VBS is not only about making sure we’re primed to teach and serve; it’s also about ensuring we’re willing to learn from the children.
In the ancient world of Jesus’ earthly ministry, children were often considered an inconvenient burden. Their dependence on parental support was frowned upon, and they were easily overlooked within their cultural context. It was nothing short of stunning, therefore, when Jesus responded to his disciples’ heated dispute regarding greatness by placing a child in their midst. True greatness begins with humble reliance upon God to give us the security we need and to determine our worth. We cannot experience life in God’s Kingdom, says Jesus, until we’re willing to humbly accept God as our King and until we acknowledge our need for His provision.
Our efforts to earn greatness through our achievements and our performance count for nothing in God’s Kingdom. On the contrary, when we derive our worthiness from them they drive us farther and father away from the Lord. One of the primary antidotes Jesus offered for such futile endeavors is to spend more time learning from children.
Learn from their helplessness, learn from their curiosity about what they don’t know, and learn from their simplicity. Even if you’re not actively volunteering with VBS this year, I encourage us all to spend more time with our church’s children. They need us, and we need them!
Gideon said to God, “Please don’t let your anger burn against me. Let me make just one more request. Please allow me one more test with the fleece. Let it be dry and let the ground be covered with dew.” God did so that night… (Judges 6:39-40a).
The account of Gideon’s fleece remains one of the most memorable miracles recorded in the book of Judges. It’s a story that easily and vividly communicates God’s undeniable power to children. Who else but God could accommodate Gideon’s request to make the fleece wet while the ground was dry, as well as his request to make the fleece dry while the ground was wet (6:36-40)? As awesome as this miracle is, however, it pales in comparison with an even greater miracle displayed in the story. Although we might easily overlook this miracle, it holds the key to understanding this striking passage.
The miracle that most clearly shows the Lord’s character is not what happens to the fleece but what God is willing to do to convince Gideon of his call to serve. Despite receiving an unmistakable revelation of God’s will for his life (6:11-24), despite experiencing the empowering influence of the Holy Spirit (6:34), and despite witnessing Israel’s desire to follow his lead (6:35), Gideon remained doubtful of his call. Nevertheless, God calmly and gently assured Gideon of the irrevocable nature of His promises.
For all those who, like Gideon, have struggled with self-doubt and worry, this story encourages us to remember God’s purposes are far bigger than our sense of inadequacy. It is simply mind-boggling to see how the sovereign ruler of the universe condescended to interact with Gideon, one of the most weak-kneed and fickle characters in the Bible. Yet God was determined to save Israel by working in and through an obviously limited vessel so that no human being could ever claim credit. The Lord met every single one of Gideon’s demands for proof not to validate our obsession for “signs and wonders” but to emphatically demonstrate the extent of His mercy toward sinners.
Standing on the other side of the Cross, we can be persuaded of the certainty of God’s Word by the ultimate miracle: “God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). “For us, God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). If what God accomplished through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus doesn’t convince us of God’s abounding grace for feeble and cowardly sinners, then what will?
May the Spirit convince us of our call, and may we never take God’s merciful patience for granted.
The LORD looked at Gideon and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel from the Midianites. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14)
Like many individuals named in the Hall of Faith (Hebrews 11), Gideon was not actively listening for God’s call. In fact, by the time Gideon received his call to serve, he had already given up on any hope for divine intervention. No doubt the last thing Gideon ever expected to hear was, “The LORD is with you, mighty warrior” (Jdg. 6:12). Ironically—and even humorously—when Gideon heard those words he was sheepishly cowering inside a secret winepress to prevent his hard-earned grains from being stolen by the marauding Midianites. Instead of following the usual practice of threshing his wheat in the open air where the chaff could be blown away, Gideon was hiding inside a rocky crevice. Understandably, Gideon’s first response was to say, in effect, “Um, Lord, I think you’ve got the wrong number…”
Like Gideon, we often question our competence to answer God’s call to serve. We fixate on our circumstances— “If the Lord is with us, then why has all this happened to us?” (Jdg. 6:13a). We feel overwhelmed by the obstacles in our way— “The LORD has forgotten us and given us into the hand of Midian” (Jdg. 6:13b). We doubt our background and qualifications— “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s family” (Jdg. 6:15).
Yet what the Lord impressed upon Gideon was the reassuring and empowering message that He provides all the competence we need to do what He has called us to do. God does not call us to serve without also equipping us for the task at hand. “We are not competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves; our competence comes from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).
When faced with situations that challenge our conviction that God is faithful, He says, “Go in the strength you have” (Jdg. 6:14a). God promises to give us what we need, when we need it. However limited and frail we may feel, God tells us to rely on the Holy Spirit. When we are smothering under the weight of the burdens we carry and when we cannot see any way forward, He says, “Am I not sending you?” (Jdg. 6:14b). Because of Christ Jesus, we know God does not ask us to go where He has not already gone—even when the way leads to the cross. When we suspect our skills and experiences are not sufficient, He says, “I will be with you…” (Jdg. 6:16a). Even when we pass through fiery trials and even when we pass through engulfing floods of sorrow, the promise of God’s presence stands (Is. 43:1-2).
May the Spirit teach us to lean more and more on the competence God provides.