He’s Been There {Thoughts from a PK on Year #20}

For He has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
{Hebrews 13:5}

It’s hard to believe that my church celebrated our twentieth anniversary this month. I was nine years old when New Life Baptist Church was organized and was the second believer baptized into our fellowship. Growing up as a PK has been an absolute privilege I wouldn’t trade for anything. God has taught me so much through this experience and if there’s one theme that consistently rings true it’s this: He is faithful and will always be there.

He was there when the scary spider was floating in the murky green baptismal waters.

He was there when believers gathered in my living room every Thursday night.

He was there when we had our first Sunday morning service on a cold January morning in the Rileys’ living room. (And so was their pet Pekingese, Cocoa.)

He was there when Bro. Randy would faithfully come to our house every Sunday morning to help my dad transport the keyboard to our hotel conference room.

He was there when I rode squished in the backseat under said keyboard.

He was there when I made my first bulletin.

He was there when we copied bulletins on the ginormous copier in our dining room, which sat perpendicular to the church keyboard, which sat next to our real piano. Oh, and there was of course our dining room table and six chairs in there too since it was the dining room.

He was there when there were only 5 of us for Sunday Evening service.

He was there when we had to pull out extra chairs for Sunday Morning service.

He was there when I was first learning how to take notes during a sermon.

He was there when I started teaching littles sitting next to me how to take notes during a sermon.

He was there when we voted to move to a tiny tiny tiny storefront in Idle Hour that only had one bathroom.

He was there when He immensely blessed us at that tiny tiny tiny storefront in big big big ways.

He was there when a cat was stuck in the sanctuary ceiling. (We had a pet salon as neighbors once upon a time.)

He was there the first time I tried to play my flute during service when I was in sixth grade and a rod popped out and it wouldn’t make a sound.

He was there when a visitor tried to light up a cigarette in the middle of service.

He was there when the same visitor suggested (in the middle of service) that one of our members with cancer try marijuana as a cure.

He was there when I had Sunday School in the continental breakfast room at Best Western.

He was there when I had Sunday School in the Mailroom.

He was there when I had Sunday School by the dumpsters (and fled from bumblebees).

He was there when I had Sunday School behind a little wall partition.

He was there when I had Sunday School in an actual Sunday School room with a pole right in the middle of the room.

He was there when I had Sunday School in an actual Sunday School room with no pole in the middle of the room!

He was there when I had Sunday School behind folding doors as a teenager.

He was there when I faced the elements to walk to another building for Sunday School. 0189

He was there when I joined a group of adult ladies for Sunday School.

He was there when I started teaching teen girls behind those same folding doors.

He was there when we moved to Woodhill.

He was there when we’ve had countless missionaries and pastors over for Sunday dinner.

He was there when my heart was wounded (and He’ll be there when it’s hurt again).

He was there when the grape juice had stayed in the fridge a little too long before communion.

He was there when we had our own baby boom, living up to a different sense of our name.

He was there when my heart was missing Trinidad and a Jamaican walked in.

He was there when the Congolese started coming and we found a French translator who also “happened” to speak Swahili.

He was there when my best friends left because the Lord was leading them elsewhere.

He was there the first time I ever played the piano during service.

He was there while I attempted to learn how to play the organ.

He was there at the nursing home ministry we had every third Saturday for years.

He was there as we ministered to veterans every second Sunday afternoon…and He was there when we gained the humbling honor of ministering to veterans in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia unit every week.

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He was there when I played wrong notes. He was there when I played right notes. And He was there when the notes wouldn’t even play at all.

veterans piano

He was there when we fed hundreds of our neighbors and gave them the Gospel on Tuesdays throughout the summer.

He was there when we threw an emergency baby shower for a quick adoption.

He was there on the many occasions my heart was pierced by the Word.

He was there when we planned a wedding in two weeks for our friends from Nepal.

Nepal Wedding

He was there when we planned another Nepali wedding in just three days!

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He was there when we had a baptism in a hot tub for a paraplegic.

He was there in 2006 when my Filipina sister walked through the door and quickly took a place in my heart.

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He was there during my frequent fights with the church copier.

He was there when my friend from the Philippines brought a friend from Nepal who had never heard the story of Jesus.

He was there when the Gospel was faithfully proclaimed during every service.

He was there when my Wednesday night kids class was bursting at the seams.

He was there when I only had one kid in my Wednesday night class.

He was there when a precious family from the Congo prayed to find a church and “just happened” to find ours via Google.

congo

He was there every single time another member went to be in His very presence.

He was there when we got some more interesting neighbors.

He was there when those neighbors left.

He was there when my grandparents moved to Kentucky and He gave me the sweetest privilege of worshipping with them every week!

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He was there when the end of that one Sunday evening service took a somewhat scary twist as a man in a solid red suit came running in and started yelling with someone chasing after him.

He was there when my faith was weak.

He was there when my faith was strong.

He was there when several of our friends from the Bob Brown House put their trust in Christ and followed Him in baptism.

He was there even when I felt all alone.

He was there when we celebrated twenty years of His continued faithfulness.

famHe was there…in every single memory I have, which are too many too list.

He’s still here. He will no-not-never leave me. He will no-not-never forsake me. His love has never wavered. His love never will. His faithfulness remains and His Word is so faithful that it is called truth. He will always be there.

—–
Other Posts about church life from this PK’s perspective:
Enough. // Surround & Share // The Church Secretary’s Ode to the Church Copier // If You Give the Church Secretary a Free Saturday // Open Wide // Grace for this (recovering) Good Girl [And you can read some of our church history here, but will somebody puh-lease tell the church secretary that it needs to be updated?]
We were blessed to have Dr. Bishop E. Carter III, pastor of Bethsaida Baptist Church, preach in celebration of New Life’s 20th Anniversary. He reminded us that the church is built on the Rock, Jesus Himself, and Hell cannot stop the church. The Rock is the One who has kept us all these years. Listen and be encouraged and challenged by his charge from Matthew 16:13-20 here.

Draw from Him

“God, even our own God.” {Psalm 67:6}

It is strange how little use we make of the spiritual blessings which God gives us, but it is stranger still how little use we make of God Himself. Though He is “our own God,” we apply ourselves but little to Him, and ask but little of Him. How seldom do we ask counsel at the hands of the Lord! How often do we go about our business, without seeking His guidance! In our troubles how constantly do we strive to bear our burdens ourselves, instead of casting them upon the Lord, that He may sustain us! This is not because we may not, for the Lord seems to say, “I am thine, soul, come and make use of Me as thou wilt; thou mayst freely come to My store, and the oftener the more welcome.” 


It is our own fault if we make not free with the riches of our God. Then, since thou hast such a friend, and He invites thee, draw from Him daily. Never want whilst thou hast a God to go to; never fear or faint whilst thou hast God to help thee; go to thy treasure and take whatever thou needest—there is all that thou canst want. Learn the divine skill of making God all things to thee. He can supply thee with all, or, better still, he can be to thee instead of all. 


Let me urge thee, then, to make use of thy God. Make use of Him in prayer. Go to Him often, because he is thy God. O, wilt thou fail to use so great a privilege? Fly to Him, tell Him all thy wants. Use Him constantly by faith at all times. If some dark providence has beclouded thee, use thy God as a “sun;” if some strong enemy has beset thee, find in Jehovah a “shield,” for He is a sun and shield to his people. If thou hast lost thy way in the mazes of life, use Him as a “guide,” for He will direct thee. 


Whatever thou art, and wherever thou art, remember God is just what thou wantest, and just where thou wantest, and that He can do all thou wantest.


-Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning & Evening // April 27 (Morning)


This was absolutely, positively the best thing I could’ve ever woken up to this morning! Draw from His strength!

Because You Say So

bcYousaysoHave you ever been slow to obey? I sure have. It’s easy to drift into disobedience by over-analyzing situations, weighing pros and cons, and questioning why you would be asked to do something. But delayed obedience is disobedience.

Certain blessings God is waiting to pour out on you may have an expiration date. For example, one day last week I was prompted five times throughout the day (FIVE!) to ask someone if they needed dinner. The first time it was early morning (but who asks someone if they need dinner during the morning hours?! …apparently people who are obedient). Around noon, I had the same thought, but brushed it off again (because, you know, they were probably eating lunch). Then around 3:00…still brushing it off (they were probably busy with their job and wouldn’t respond anyway). Again at 4:00 (but by this time, I had made dinner plans with my parents…let’s not mention the coupon I had with me for another extra free meal). The last time I was prompted is the kicker and just shows what a stubborn, stiff-necked person I can be. This time, it was a little after 6:00, I was way early for an event we were both at, and they even mentioned that they hadn’t had dinner. What kind of hard-hearted jerk still ignores the still small voice telling her to offer to run across the street to grab some dinner?! This girl. I missed an opportunity to be a blessing…actually five opportunities. I could’ve been the vessel God used to remind someone He is faithful, to confirm that He’s looking out for them, and to reinforce His promise that He will provide, but that opportunity expired because I didn’t hasten to the Spirit’s prompting.

Granted, this may seem like a trivial example to some, but if I can’t obey God in the “little” things He’s guiding me to do, how can I ever expect to obey Him in the “big” things?

Is there a heart that will not bend
To Thy divine control?
Descend, O sovereign love, descend,
And melt that stubborn soul!
[from Songs for the Sanctuary, 1874]

“I will hasten and not delay to obey Your commands.” -Psalm 119:60

When He tells you to do something, DO IT. Right then. It may seem odd. It may put you in a humbling position. Do it. There’s a reason He wants you to. But what if what He has laid on my heart sounds crazy? Well, it wouldn’t be the first time God had asked someone to do something that sounds strange to our finite minds, would it?

Take the Israelites for example. They’d been wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and all that stood between them and their new home was Jericho. How in the world would they be able to destroy this great city? God gave them explicit instructions and the Israelites showed exemplary faith and obeyed, even though the instructions sound a little unusual.

Now the gates of Jericho were tightly shut because the people were afraid of the Israelites. No one was allowed to go out or in. But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.” [Joshua 6:1-5]

Can you imagine? God promises you He’s going to give a city into your hands, all you have to do is march around it once a day for 6 days and then 7 times on the 7th day with priests blowing horns. Then the priests are to give one long blast on the horns and all the people will shout as loud as they can…then the walls will fall. Ooookay, really?!

But the Israelites had FAITH that God would keep His Word. “It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down.” [Hebrews 11:30] They trusted that He would follow through on His promise. And God definitely gets the glory here because, let’s face it, a marching band and thousands of others just walking around a city and then yelling most likely wouldn’t make it fall down. As David Platt said, “When the people of Israel take the city of Jericho in Joshua 6, what you don’t see is all the Israelites going up to the trumpet players and telling them what an incredible job they did. ‘Ralph, I never heard you play that well. Harry, you hit the high C and it was awesome.’ No, you see people on their faces saying ‘Only God could’ve done this.’” (from NOBTSThe Israelites got it. They had faith to obey God no matter how odd His instructions sounded.

Mary got it also. When the wine ran out at the wedding in Cana, she told the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” [John 2:5]

Simon got it, too. He and his friends had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught a thing. Jesus was at the same lake and a crowd had gathered, so He hopped in Simon’s boat to teach them. When He had finished teaching, Jesus told them to let down their nets for a catch (why in the world should they expect to catch anything now?!). But, Simon took Jesus at His Word and let down the nets. “Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.'” [Luke 5:5]

They caught so many fish their nets were breaking. Oh if we would just take Him at His Word and obey. When you obey and people see God at work through you, they will be astonished. They will be amazed by the hand of God. “For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken…” [Luke 5:9

Isn’t His Word good enough? Because You say so, I’ll do it. He’s always working for my good. He’s always working for His glory. If only I’d trust that and truly believe that and obey without delay what He tells me to do.

As Spurgeon said, “We accept the Lord Jesus by faith, and He teaches us obedience, and creates it in us. The more of faith in Him you have, the more of obedience to Him will you manifest.” To increase my faith, I must trust Him more. To trust Him more, I must know Him more. The more I know Him, the more I trust Him, and the more I trust Him, the more apt I will be to obey right away.

But for all the times I fail, for all the times I disobey, for all the times I stubbornly do what I think is best, I thank God for sending His Son who lived a life of perfect obedience and humbly obeyed to the end, becoming the sacrifice for my sins and giving me His righteousness. “For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.” [Romans 5:19]

Oh that we would do what He says without hesitation or question. May He shine brightly through our lives as we empty ourselves in humble obedience, following His lead no matter how absurd His instructions may seem. Because You say so, I’ll do it.

——————–
And may I encourage you to read a Spurgeon sermon on “The Obedience of Faith” that was preached on an August Thursday at The Metropolitan Tabernacle in 1890? It’s great. Read here.

Abide with Me

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After a long week that ended with a Friday that felt more like a Monday, it was incredibly refreshing to meet up with a friend for dinner and head down to see a former student perform at Asbury University this weekend.

The whole concert was excellent, but my favorite piece was Abide With Me, performed by their concert band. This particular piece was arranged by Jay Dawson, in which he juxtaposed bugle calls of Last Post, the British equivalent of Taps, adding an even greater sense of desperation and gravity to this popular hymn.

The overarching theme of the song is a petition for God’s presence–especially in death. Henry F. Lyte, an Anglican priest, penned these words as he was dying from tuberculosis at age 54, and actually passed into eternity just three weeks after writing this heartfelt plea.

This hymn is commonly associated with funerals. But if we need in Him in death, don’t we also need Him in life? I need Thy presence every passing hour; What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r? 

We sing a lot of hymns at my church, but I never recall singing this one. I’m committing to learning this one on my own because its lyrics would undoubtedly serve me well as I go about everyday life. I especially like the second verse which reminds me that though things around me are constantly changing, God remains constant.

Abide With Me
[Words by Henry F. Lyte | Music by William Henry Monk]

Abide with me; fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide;
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see—
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

Thou on my head in early youth didst smile;
And, though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee,
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?
Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;
Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” {Hebrews 13:5}
What a comforting promise. He will abide with me. Always. Even on the Fridays that feel like Mondays…and during the long work-weeks that never seem to end…when you get fabulous news…and when you receive devastating news…in all the ups and downs and monotony of everyday life…in the uncharted waters of death…through it all…He’ll be there. Always. Isn’t He good? 

P.S. I wasn’t able to get a video of Asbury playing, but thank God for the YouTube so you can hear a sample of this gorgeous arrangement played by a school band in Qatar. 

[And if you want to read more about the story behind the song, check out Tim Challies’ post on his ever-informative blog.]

Forget Not

“Forget not all His benefits.”
{Psalm 103:2}

It is a delightful and profitable occupation to mark the hand of God in the lives of ancient saints, and to observe His goodness in delivering them, His mercy in pardoning them, and His faithfulness in keeping His covenant with them. But would it not be even more interesting and profitable for us to remark the hand of God in our own lives? Ought we not to look upon our own history as being at least as full of God, as full of His goodness and of His truth, as much a proof of His faithfulness and veracity, as the lives of any of the saints who have gone before?

We do our Lord an injustice when we suppose that He wrought all His mighty acts, and showed Himself strong for those in the early time, but doth not perform wonders or lay bare His arm for the saints who are now upon the earth.20130709-083453.jpg

Let us review our own lives. Surely in these we may discover some happy incidents, refreshing to ourselves and glorifying to our God. Have you had no deliverances? Have you passed through no rivers, supported by the divine presence? Have you walked through no fires unharmed? Have you had no manifestations? Have you had no choice favors? The God who gave Solomon the desire of his heart, hath He never listened to you and answered your requests? That God of lavish bounty of whom David sang, “Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things,” hath He never satiated you with fatness? Have you never been made to lie down in green pastures? Have you never been led by the still waters?

Surely the goodness of God has been the same to us as to the saints of old. Let us, then, weave His mercies into a song. Let us take the pure gold of thankfulness, and the jewels of praise and make them into another crown for the head of Jesus. Let our souls give forth music as sweet and as exhilarating as came from David’s harp, while we praise the Lord whose mercy endureth forever.
{C.H. Spurgeon in Morning & Evening | July 9, morning}


I think my favorite devotional is Charles H. Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening. He takes one verse and treats it as a precious diamond, examining every little facet to make the often overlooked parts appreciated, which, in turn makes the diamond even more beautiful as a whole.

“Forget not all His benefits.” That’s a command.

Lately I’ve allowed myself to be too busy to recount God’s faithfulness. What a sorry thing to put on the back burner. I can say from experience that listing out the little and big ways God has shown you grace really does bring you more joy. But the beautiful thing is this: though I have not been faithful to thank God for the countless gifts He’s blessed me with, He’s still continued to shower me with them.

“If we are faithless, He remains faithful—for He cannot deny Himself.” {2 Timothy 2:13}

When I take the time to write down how I’ve seen God at work in my life, I’m forgetting not. God becomes bigger in my eyes. It’s like a collection of trophies of thousands of ways He’s proved His love for me though I am so undeserving. And looking back at these only makes me trust Him more.

So here’s to a renewed commitment for writing down His love-gifts. Perhaps you will join me?

What are you waiting for? {Psalm 62}

Ever have a verse smack you right dab in the middle of your heart? Hello, Psalm 62:1. And hello again, Psalm 62:5. What are you waiting for? O soul, be content. Wait for God alone in silence.

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He won’t let you be shaken, so don’t start shaking yourself up.

He is your Rock, He is your salvation, He is your fortress, and your hope comes from Him. He is a refuge for us and you can pour your heart out before Him.

He can be trusted at all times. So trust in Him at all times.

Don’t set your heart on empty things. Set your heart on Him alone.

God will carry out His plans because He is all-powerful.

His love is steadfast and unchangeable even though we sometimes change. The Lord has pledged Himself to the faithful and it is absolutely safe to trust Him.

So what are you waiting for, O soul? Be content and confident that He is enough. Wait for God alone in silence.

{read all of Psalm 62}

Guarding Your Heart

“Guard your heart.” I’m sure girlfriends who are younger than me get really sick of me saying this whenever they ask me for advice. That’s my default answer to just about every situation they can throw at me–but obviously, it’s extremely important to guard your heart because everything that we do flows from it. Image from Disciple Magazine [http://www.disciplemagazine.com/www/articles/144.478]

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
{Proverbs 4:23}

Secure it. Shelter it. Shepherd it. Shield it. Tend to it. Defend it. Watch it. Preserve it. Keep an eye on it. Guard it!

It’s easy for me to tell them to guard their hearts, but it’s much more difficult to actually apply it–especially when I forget to remind them that it’s only through Christ that a heart can be guarded.  

For several years now, I’ve pondered this verse and how it corresponds to Philippians 4:7. The relation between these two verses is so beautiful!

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
{Philippians 4:7}

If I am trying to guard my own heart, I will fail every time. But as Paul closes out his letter to the church at Philippi, he reminds them that the peace of God is what guards our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus!

The peace of God will guard it! Where does the peace of God come from? First off, you must realize that there’s nothing you can do on your own to please the holy and righteous God of the universe. We are at enmity with Him. There is no peace. The good news is that the holy and righteous God of the universe has provided a way for us to have peace with Him! He provided a way for us to escape His just judgment through His mercy in sending His Son. Jesus Christ died the death that you deserved to die. And when you place your faith in Christ and what He has done, He cleanses you from your sin–just as if you never sinned!–and clothes you with His righteousness. THEN we have peace with God!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
{Romans 5:1}

Since I have been justified by faith, I have peace with God through Jesus Christ, my Lord. He is my Master who knows what is best for me and I serve Him out of a heart of gratitude. I have eternal peace, but sometimes I can lose that sense of peace when I stray from what He wants me to do. When my heart becomes zoned out and lazy, unwatchful and unalert, my guard is down. It becomes easy to default to my fleshly depraved nature and lose all sense of peace.

But to add peace in my life, I simply need to obey what God has told me to do.

My son, do not forget my teaching,
but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
and peace they will add to you.
{Proverbs 3:1-2}

It seems like God is always teaching me the same lesson: Get in the Word, apply what He shows you in the Word, and He will always bless you with peace as you’re obeying.

But the Lord is faithful; He will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one.
{2 Thessalonians 3:3}

The Lord will be faithful to keep my heart for all eternity. May I be swift to obey all He has laid out in His Word!

Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.
Put away from you crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from you.
Let your eyes look directly forward,
and your gaze be straight before you.
Ponder the path of your feet;
then all your ways will be sure.
Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn your foot away from evil.
{Proverbs 4:23-27}