2 Pasadenians

From David, a servant striving to pursue the Lord, to the junior high and high school and college ministries at First Baptist Church in Pasadena, those with whom I have been blessed to spend the past three months leading, working alongside, and most of all, learning from:

I thank the Lord for the opportunity to know each and every one of you, each unique and special to my heart. I take great delight and am deeply thankful for each opportunity we have had to gather together over the course of this summer, and it is with a greater sadness that I know I must now leave, if only for a short while. The mere thought of being apart from you truly does pain me, and I am not speaking hyperbolically. I pray continually not only that the Lord would guide myself in a proper manner befitting to a leader, but also that He would guide you all to lead one another, spurring each other on into greater faith and greater discipline, edifying each other with words filled with Spirit and Truth. I pray that both Josh and Austin will continue to lead you all faithfully; cling to their words, for they are men seeking after the Lord and have much wisdom to pour into you, and they go to great efforts striving to make the Gospel in which we delight easily accessible to each of you with whom we commune. Do not take for granted their teachings, but cling to their words with careful attentiveness, planting in your hearts the messages that they preach and modeling yourselves after the examples that they set.

When one sees light as it pours in through a small hole in the wall, the beam appears bright and radiant while all around seems deep and dark. It is only by stepping into the light that all things come into greater view, for by stepping into the light you are drawing yourself to its source, and by standing near the source of the light, you can survey your surroundings with greater clarity and greater understanding. Staring at the light and staring along it are thus two different things, and we seek to stare along. We seek to change our perspectives. We seek to change our minds. This is called repentance, metanoia. It is not to merely ask for forgiveness, but much more than just that; it is to turn away from the direction you are heading and go along the way you ought to have been headed in the first place. In our time together, we have talked of this to a great extent. We strive to live a life of constant repentance, recognizing our errs and returning to the First Love who awaits our return as the father for His prodigal son.

When I was with you in the past, we spent a great deal of our focus on finding our meaning and purpose in Christ and He alone, and it was by carrying this same theme forward that we this time reached repentance, striving to change our mind – our perspectives – to apply such meaning to our lives. If He is the Light of the world, then we must look at all things through Him (that is, along Him), that our sight might be made clearer according to His Spirit and our understanding might be rid of all ignorance. As it is written, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” Cling to He who is the Light of the world, for in Him you, too, are the light of the world, the light from which all darkness will gain their sight. In my last letter to you I wrote of the great power lying within this light which you now wield. Remember, with great power comes great responsibility; do not take that responsibility for granted.

During my time with you over these past months, it was made known to me that there has been some quarreling amongst you, dissension amongst your leadership roles and of things that you feel entitled to own, clinging to with closed grasp. Do you not know, as it is written, that “the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body? The body does not consist of one member but of many. God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” In your conflict with one another, tell me this, whom do you seek to glorify, yourself or God? When you claim ownership of that which you been placed as a leader, I ask you, whose church are ministering to, your own or the Lord’s? Your talk towards one another should be edifying and pure, without malice but instead clinging to the hope found in He who is the head. It should not be you who lives, but Christ who lives in you; not you who receives the glory, but Christ who receives the glory; not you who makes the decision, but Christ who makes all decisions. Set any pride and selfishness and quarrelling aside and turn your eyes again to Him who is the goal – that is, our God, the First Love who has earned our every praise. Do not quarrel about needless, inconsequential matters; instead, heed my warning, for a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Though I say all this, do not let my words make you afraid to partake in difficult discussion – in fact, challenge one another in the faith to live from faith to faith by grace upon grace – but do not challenge to the point of division. Keep away from trivial theorizing and endless conspiracies, but challenge each other to serve more, to glorify more, to be of greater discipline of body, mind, and soul. Do not appear reckless – which is to say, irresponsible, thoughtless, uncontrolled, impulsive – before God nor accuse Him of, in any manner, being reckless Himself, or else you will be of reckless doctrine that might give the devil a foothold to unravel you further. For if the devil is granted a foothold, he will burst through the door and take authority over the house; choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house we will serve the Lord. Be slow to speak and careful to listen. Be slow to judge but quick to discern. Be slow to defend man but be hasty to defend our Lord. If there is any question of whether or not something will bring glory to our God, err on the side of caution and do only that which you can be certain of, less you unintentionally speak heresy against our Almighty King.

 In your worship, ask yourself this: Are you going about the worship that you prefer or the worship that God prefers? When you defend a teacher of question, ask yourself this: Are you defending what he has to say about God or what God has to say about Himself? In the heart of any dissension, ask yourself this: Are you pining after the way that you choose to view God or after the objective reality of who God is? In each of these, refrain from the former and cling to the latter. Test all things by Scripture and do all things for the glory of God. Do not forsake true worship for emotive manipulation or empty theology; as it is written, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

As I have said already and as you already know, the time has come for me to depart for a short while. Though I leave, however, let this be no excuse for you to return to your old ways, but instead cling to the teachings I have tried to impress upon your mind and strive to never take for granted any work that the Lord might have done through any of the wonderful men and women who have ministered to you. Do not regret my departure, for it is for your benefit that I now leave, so that some of you may step up and fill the role that I once held. Where I once led, you can now lead. Where I as one man could minister to many, so now you, the many, can minister to even more. For most of you, this very thought might strike fear into your very veins, and like Moses said before the Lord, you might now say, “I am not eloquent. I am slow of speech and tongue. Please send someone else.” But I say to you: What then is Josh? What then is Austin? What then is David? Servants of the Almighty God, incapable of doing anything that He did not first equip and then make them capable of doing. There was a time when I was at the very place which you now are, and for many of you, I have seen that you are much further ahead than I was even then. In saying you are not eloquent, you might speak truly, but God did not call the eloquent. He called all to serve Him, and those who obey Him He calls His friends. Moses was not eloquent. Paul was not eloquent. Did the God who now calls you to service not also give you the very lips and mind which you now use as excuses against Him?

I am most certainly not calling all of you to be teachers, for as it is written, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” But I am calling you to persevere in the faith, to fan into the flame the gift of God and to resist all urges that the devil might give you to return to your ways of the past. When Christ was with His disciples in the boat, the nets broke and so would their faith – yet in this, He would be with them to restore them. When the disciples tried to return to their old way of life, Christ was away from them, standing on the shore, but they obeyed His words and cast their nets and those nets held strong and so would their faith, serving even unto death. When the teacher is present, he can teach and rebuke and correct and train; when the teacher departs, the students must arise and teach that which they have already been taught. The student must become the teacher, or else the teacher has taught in vain. When the Shepherd ascended to the right hand of God, He left many fishermen to tend His sheep. I am not Christ, but my charge to you is the same: Rise up and serve in any manner possible, as it is written, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” I may be gone, but I am nothing but a vessel being poured out. You have that same Spirit dwelling within You, so what prevents you from doing the same? Anything I have done for you – unless I have wronged you in any way or have stolen even the slightest bit of glory from God – was not work done on my own part, but Christ’s work through me. Let it also be the same with you.

Reject the pride and lust and lies that so easily ensnares. Cling to the faith and refrain from idolatry, but also debauchery and any form of sexual immorality. Do not test the Lord by seeking His limit but honor the Lord by asking yourself how much you are willing to give up for the sake of His glory and the church’s edification. Walk in the truth of love, for the world will know you are Christians by your love. We are to love in a way that the world does not. Love unconditionally; be slow to anger and quick to forgive, zealous for the Lord and heartbroken for sinful man.

In all things, act in response and recognition to the Lord’s ever-abundant and overwhelming, unmerited and steadfast grace. As it is written, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” These fruits are now yours to bear. Love is grace expressed. Joy is grace accepted. Peace is grace comprehended. Patience is grace practiced. Kindness is grace administered. Goodness is grace manifested. Faithfulness is grace repeated. Gentleness is grace embodied. Self-control is grace remembered. Humble yourself and look towards the Lord’s grace, and you will be like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season.

I, David, am praying for you and will continue praying for you, and I ask that you pray that the Lord will continue to work in me and through me, that His kingdom come and His will be done. If any of you has a request to make of me or needs me for anything at all, you know how to reach me and should not hesitate even a moment to reach out. Though I am away, I shall still be with you.

I will return as frequently as I can.

The grace of our God be with you, and my love be with you all in the name of our First Love. Amen.