A Letter from the Pastor: Answering What’s Next?

Friends & Family,

Last night the latest recommendations of the CDC were published on my newsfeed, which strongly suggested no public gathering with more than 50 people for the next 8 weeks. Governor of Washington Jay Inslee followed suit and levied a similar ban, and then subsequently instituted the same internal requirements for all bars and restaurants. Our team had been anticipating at least two weeks without the ability to gather, but now this number has grown. We still anticipate reevaluating where we are at the end of March. Regardless, this is no longer a blip on the radar.
As a church community, we’ve strived to maintain a healthy perspective on our gatherings: that the Church is not an hour-long service on Sunday, but rather a people… a family. If you’ve been around Generations for any period of time, you’ve probably heard this or seen it stated with joy repeatedly. We have chosen to emphasize the everyday adjective. We have intentionally chosen both liturgical and Spirit-led practices in regard to our gatherings, wishing these to form how we live in response to what Jesus has done throughout our weeks.
Yet this doesn’t make the news last night any less jarring. As a pastor, I love gathering to worship with our Generations family! I love how Charles and the team lead us in worship through song. I love the casual environment where anyone can feel welcome. I (and I never thought I’d say this) even love the hard work of pulling all of our equipment out of the trailer setting it up, tearing it down, and putting it up again because it is a beautiful picture of what family united by Jesus does when they come together. Gatherings never have been our everything, but they’ve been a significant part of our practice of loving God and neighbor. They have marked us as a young church.

 

The circumstances have forced us to learn how to navigate a world without a Sunday Gathering at the American Legion. On one hand, I grieve the time we are losing together. Yet on the other, I see these days ahead as an opportunity to step more fully into our calling to (here I go again) be everyday people who expand the family of God because of Jesus for generations to come. What a time to hold our methods of doing church open-handed and allow God to shape us. As I’ve repeated, our gatherings may be moved or canceled, but Church is not.

 

So where do we go from here? Because the Church is family, maintaining and growing both spiritually and in community throughout these coming months must be an intentional focus. For most of us, we’ll likely not be in a room with more than our family or a few other folks. We are committed to two important steps in the coming days:

  1. to invest and equip our people through online resources and connection points (like social media or video conferencing), and
  2. meeting the tangible needs that will inevitably rise moving forward, both inside and outside our walls.

This week, I will be launching online community opportunities via Zoom Video and/or Google Meets. These are video platforms that will hopefully be accessible to the majority of our people and provide interaction and encouragement through the days ahead. For those who won’t have access to these tools, we’re committed to finding ways of equipping them with resources and connections as well. We will be experimenting, see what works, and keep our focus on Jesus.

 

On top of this, we’re aware of the financial strain that many of our own may be facing in the days ahead. We have maintained that the best way to make known both needs and resources for people inside and outside the walls of the Church is through texting 360.295.4141.  As these changes continue, we anticipate these needs to grow exponentially, and we want to be the kind of Church where “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them (Acts 4:33b-34).” The church is family, right? Together, we can be that family through caring for the needs that arise. So in the coming days, if you find yourself in need, please – do not hesitate to contact us.

 

Finally, I want to encourage us as individuals moving forward in following Jesus. In the days ahead, it will never be more important to care for our souls through practices of both loving God and loving neighbor. As I’ve sought to navigate what is ahead, here are some of the practices I’d encourage:

 

  • Engage with God. We must remember who we are and whose we are in these troubled days ahead. This doesn’t happen by accident. In the weeks ahead, renew your commitment to abiding in the presence of God through Scripture and prayer. We will continue to equip you with resources, but it won’t happen by accident. Allow the Story of God in Scripture to be the lens through which you see the world around us – not the other way around.

  • Disengaging from the news. It’s important that we are informed and follow the guidelines that our authorities give us for our protection. Yet it’s one thing to be informed… and another to be engrossed. Spending our days in the constant stream of information and opinion will only further our anxiety and drive us further into scarcity and fear. As a discipline, learn what you need to know, then love your neighbor and yourself where you are. It’s ok to turn it off for some time.

  • Embody care for your physical needs. I don’t know about you, but this change has thrown any family rhythms that I had completely off. On my own, I’ll spend too much time sitting around, distracting myself with entertainment and not taking good care of myself. It’s important in the weeks ahead to care for our physical needs through exercise, eating as healthy as we can, and rest (there is a difference between rest and escape).

  • Reach out. I have heard is said that “our greatest poverty is loneliness.” We already live in one of the most isolated and lonely cultures in history, and this difficult season will surely accelerate the problem. In the days ahead, make it a habit of reaching out to 2-4 people every week. Check-in emotionally. Pray for one another. Learn of needs that may need to be met… in short, be family. Whether by phone, text, social media or another way make it a discipline to grow relationally with others in the days ahead.

  • Love your actual neighbor. You have neighbors. Physical neighbors. And in these times, they’re probably battling the same cycle of emotions that we are facing as well. In the coming weeks, reach out to your neighbors. If they need groceries, a yard mowed, or just a conversation, don’t hesitate to be the hands and feet of Jesus right where you are by loving your literal neighbors!

  • Pray. Intercession (a type of prayer) is simply asking God on behalf of other people, places or situations. In moments like these, the Church needs to mobilize in prayer for the healing and wholeness of our world. May we be quickened to prayer for God to break the power of this sickness over our world and bring healing! Resources for how and what to pray will be shared shortly.

In the days ahead, take courage. In an anxious world, let your faith steady you and embolden you beyond your own interests towards a love that looks like Jesus. Have the courage to love well. In the words of Paul, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love (1 Corinthians 16:13-14).”

 

Friends and family of Generations Church, I love you. I am thankful for you. This challenge is an opportunity. God is present and at work among us, and I can’t wait for the stories of his faithfulness to rise and move us forward into a bright future.

 

In Christ,
Kyle Davies

Meditation Connections

God has been teaching me to meditate more on specific passages throughout the day. Meditation has been a reoccurring theme in what I have been reading. Books, blogs, social media posts have drawn my mind toward focused thought on Scripture.

I have disciplined myself to get in the Psalms during my morning time with God because I am less likely to analyze them. Studying poetry in English class throughout school always produced more frustration than any other subject. Instead of dissecting the passage, I am more likely to just read, listen, and let the words sink in throughout the day. One of the Psalms I have been “working” through has connected to some other interesting quotes.

Psalm 103:13-18

My soul, bless the Lord,
and all that is within me, bless his holy name.
My soul, bless the Lord,
and do not forget all his benefits.

He forgives all your iniquity;
he heals all your diseases.
He redeems your life from the Pit;
he crowns you with faithful love and compassion.
He satisfies you with good things;
your youth is renewed like the eagle.

The Lord executes acts of righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
He revealed his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.
He will not always accuse us
or be angry forever.
10 He has not dealt with us as our sins deserve
or repaid us according to our iniquities.

11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his faithful love
toward those who fear him.
12 As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed
our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.
14 For he knows what we are made of,
remembering that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass—
he blooms like a flower of the field;
16 when the wind passes over it, it vanishes,
and its place is no longer known.
17 But from eternity to eternity
the Lord’s faithful love is toward those who fear him,
and his righteousness toward the grandchildren
18 of those who keep his covenant,
who remember to observe his precepts.


“Digital life isn’t real life, and virtual experience is no substitute for real experience. Most of us say that, but we don’t live that way…We need habits that act as mile-markers in our lives and remind us there’s more to the world than what we see. Spiritual disciplines are a crucial part of this process, and we particularly need disciplines that engage the heart, the imagination, and the body. Things like praying the psalms, Ignatian prayer and meditation, fasting, and feasting. Even the simple practice of praying over a meal—stopping to thank God for his provision—helps to reorient the heart and remember there’s more to life than what we see.” – Mike Cosper

“Most Americans believe that what their problem is something that has happened to them, and their solution is to be found within. In other words, they believe that they have an alien problem that is to be resolved with an inner solution—when the gospel says that what we have is an inner problem, and the only solution is an alien righteousness.” – Albert Mohler

“The public and personal reading of Scripture offers us, first of all, our true identity as a people. Scripture teaches us to know ourselves not as autonomous, self-inventing “consumers” driven aimlessly by market forces, but as God’s people, the body of Christ. We are given purpose and hope by the biblical story in which we are caught up. And we’re given one another, a community of brothers and sisters that transcends national identity and breaks down the barriers we erect to protect ourselves.” – Richard Hays

Living In Tension

One of the great hopes in our present world is that people will eventually choose to do good instead of evil. Given enough time, space, education, and opportunity humanity will always make the right choice–or so we hope. The vision is human flourishing. Apart from God, no true human flourishing will happen. Yet, we try anyway. We seek to see competing values expressed and lived out. However, these values remain ungrounded in anything but our societal constructs and philosophical ideologies emerging reactionarily from human experience.

The reality is that there will always be tension as we hope for improvement. In some ways, the achievement of the vision comes down to one’s definition of improvement. For many, improvement can be defined by the amount of unrestrained personal liberty one can achieve as an individual (or a small group). The right to define oneself and express the heart’s desire without hindrance is the ultimate. This desire manifests itself in the right to bear arms, sexuality, and speech For others, improvement can be defined as the moral advancement and goodness of society. As a culture, certain values and systems must always win out. This desire manifests itself through the calls for tolerance, desire to eliminate poverty and provide healthcare for all. At first, both of these definitions of improvement seem like achievable goals. Clearly, taking care of and valuing people are worthwhile goals.

However, inevitably personal liberties and societal’s “perfect” system will come into conflict. These always do. At some point, the individual will be limited if the success of the whole is to win out. Should the individual’s rights triumph some part of society will experience oppression. Liberty fully teased out assumes a common morality, which has been discarded readily. Ultimate liberty results in inequality. Perfect societal structure organized in such a way to promote fairness, equality, and universal goodness fully teased out is totalitarian. The individual is reduced to a cog in a machine. Their worth is reduced to their usefulness. Today, our culture is attempting to fight for both at the expense of the other (No kidding!). We are cannibalizing ourselves because of the lack of acknowledgment that we cannot have our cake and eat it too. We clamor for individual liberties at the expense of others. We clamor for societal betterment without personal sacrifice. We just assume that everything will get better apart from actually conversing with people about their worldviews.

“It seems that we are to evolve out of men the good that is already in them. You will not get much good if you attempt the process! I am afraid that in the process of evolution you will develop devils. I do not know much else that will come out of human nature, for humanity is as full of sin as an egg is full of potential meat. The evolution of sin must be everlasting evil.” – Charles Spurgeon

Most of us do not become aware of our worldviews until they clash with the one held by other people, usually in contexts of moral debate and cross-cultural exchange. Then we really notice them—or we might, at any rate, if we struggle to understand why intellectual foreigners seem to strange to us, so alien. We then either seek to understand and connect, or we react and use our fear to justify our abrasive actions.

Christians believe the Bible teaches men and women are made in God’s image but that men and women are also wicked. When those who claim to be Christians go wrong in their treatment of people, it is usually because they have not quite figured out how to hold these equally important truths in tension. Until Christians begin to effectively live in that tension and see how it affects both individuals and society, we will be seen as outdated, ineffective, and hypocritical.

Failure to realize other humans are made in God’s image results in judgmentalism, objectification, and hatred. Failure to realize humans are sinful results in self-reliance, ignorance, and apathy.

To further communicate the point: Every worldview deals with human evil in its own particular way. Every system (except for Christianity) suggest salvation, enlightenment, fulfillment, achievement through adherence to a certain set of behaviors, codes, or steps. Jared C. Wilson in his book Unparalleled responds to the point this way:

“Then Christianity comes along and says that not only do we fail to obey God’s rules perfectly but we can’t obey them perfectly. This sounds like a bummer, and in a way it certainly is. But it’s also, to my mind, surprisingly refreshing. Because the more I think about it, the more this pessimistic view of humanity actually seems to make the most sense of humanity.”

I agree with Wilson. In light of our current cultural setting, people are flabbergasted that such evil and hate still exist. Of course they do! No matter how many social experiments we try, we cannot socially engineer our way out of the pervasive problem of human evil.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins 2in which you previously lived according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit now working in the disobedient. 3We too all previously lived among them in our fleshly desires, carrying out the inclinations of our flesh and thoughts, and we were by nature children under wrath as the others were also. 4But God, who is rich in mercy, because of his great love that he had for us, 5made us alive with Christ even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace! 6He also raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavens in Christ Jesus,7so that in the coming ages he might display the immeasurable riches of his grace through his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift— 9not from works, so that no one can boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do. – Ephesians 2:1-10

May Christians figure out how to effectively live in the tension that we are wicked, yet God has loved us so much. May Christians figure out how to champion the value every individual and work toward the betterment of all because we are willing to lay down our lives/rights like Christ laid down His. There are good works which have been prepared for us to do in order to display the heavenly riches of God in this broken world. We will only achieve human flourishing through the submitting to the Creator God of the Bible.

Our Grand Object

One of the great benefits of continuing in my education is the exposure to books which I would have personally not thought to read. I am currently making my way through The Soul Winner by Charles Spurgeon. My time at Midwestern has certainly grown my knowledge of Spurgeon and definitely my appreciation of him. Until my Evangelism and Discipleship class, I had not read anything written by him. After beginning to read one of his works, I now understand what made Spurgeon such a powerful force in his day.

“…our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures.” – Charles Spurgeon, The Soul Winner, 10.

Even though I would say I grew up in the church, I had little working knowledge of any contemporary and historical Christian thinkers. Luther, Calvin, and Edwards were easily dismissed. We even tended to devalue Christian thinkers within our own tradition. I still have never read a Jack Cotrell book. Christian History is important within the diet of the believer. Pastors should not neglect to weave history throughout their regular communication of God’s Word. To hear and understand how God has continued to work after the pages of the New Testament through men and women who have been obedient is both encouraging and challenging. Our lack of historical reflection in conjunction with a biblical vision has led us to some of the disheartening controversies in the news today.

For those of you who may not know, Charles Spurgeon was the preacher at Metropolitan Tabernacle, London in the 19th century. Spurgeon is known as the Prince of Preachers because of his “thrilling description, touching anecdotes, sparkling wit, startling episodes, striking similes, all used to illustrate and enforce the deep, earnest home-truths of the Bible.” Spurgeon provided compelling and powerful reasons for a biblical worldview when naturalism, rationalism, and the beginnings of modernism were challenging many assumptions of the Christian masses.

Even in the midst of turmoil, controversy, and competing worldviews Spurgeon remained committed to seeing men and women transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. Spurgeon writes, “We would labor earnestly to raise a believer in salvation by free will into a believer in salvation by grace, for we long to see all religious teaching built upon the solid rock of truth and not upon the sand of imagination. At the same time, our grand object is not the revision of opinions, but the regeneration of natures. We should bring men to Christ, not to our own particular views of Christianity.”

I am convinced Spurgeon’s words are appropriate and timely for us today. Christians are so consumed with changing of what they view as a flawed opinion, instead of working for the regeneration of hearts. No wonder the American culture is so fed up with Christianity. They should be when Christians are seen fighting for the correct opinion, instead of the beautiful expression of the Gospel we see in Revelation 7:9-10. No wonder white Christians have such a hard time empathizing with their ethnic brothers and sisters in Christ. We fight battles which ultimately have no eternal consequence. We are more concerned with the revision of opinions than being marked with grace. A Christianity built on anything but the Gospel is built on sand.

As we look out into the chaos which threatens to consume our world, may we be focused on displaying true faith in Jesus whose one sacrifice is the model for us all. May we rush to lay down our life for our neighbor. May we see each person as truly made in the image of God, which causes us to first listen and empathize before all else. Let us not seeks to convert people to our particular views of Christianity, but bring them to the cross and to the real Jesus. It is only at the foot of the cross where true repentance and belief can take place. It is at the cross where people are moved from a color-blindness and color-bounded faith to a color-blessed faith where the fullness of Christ is experienced. The cross causes us to worship; it also opens our minds and makes us think. What will help us achieve the grand object?

We are all naturally blind to spiritual realities as a physically blind person is to their surrounding environment. We look at history and cannot see God’s hand, so we take credit for things that are his gifts. We read the Gospel and find it a foolish story–it really cannot be about sacrifice. Even believers find that there is a dullness to their vision, that they do not see everything clearly. However, it is the Gospel that makes a way. It is the Gospel which awakens our eyes to the reality that we are all children of God and accepted by Him. He alone is supreme. When God’s people set our minds on Christ, who is our life, we are empowered by the Spirit to progressively mature and reflect that great day in the future.

May we pray for a wonder of divine grace to be worked upon the soul which far transcends anything that can be accomplished by the power of man. May we pray for the Spirit to work in our life so that we see the sin in our own heart we used to be blind to.

Links of the Month (June 2017)

 

For Christian Parents – What Christian Parents Can Learn from Atheist Churches by Natasha Crain

For Evangelism – What If Unbelievers Aren’t Miserable? by Mike Leake

For Your Soul – What to do if You’re on the Wrong Seat in the Bus by Chuck Lawless

For Missions Trip Planning – Consider These Five Things Before Planning by John Kimbell

For Your Preaching – Five Words That Weaken Every Sermon by Jason K Allen

For Problem Solving – McDonalds Vs. Chick-Fil-A by Jon Acuff