*This post was originally written for Cobblestone Community Church’s Pastor’s Letter
Mama taught me to cook. And while I’ll never don the apron of perfection as she does, I have learned a thing or two. Ingredients and flavors and temperature all matter. But Mama taught me the stirring matters too. I know brownie batter likes to be mixed with as few strokes as possible. Frantically whisking cream into a roux is the best way of turning out a smooth gravy. And meatloaf, it can’t be stirred. It must be mushed. Blend and beat. Whisk and mix. It’s when the ingredients are rightly stirred up that a recipe really begins to take shape.
Cooks or not, the author of Hebrews prompts Christians to do some stirring (as translated in the English Standard Version):
“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 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.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)
The instruction to consider how to stir up one another is given to a Hebrew audience—the ones who for centuries had followed the law and repeatedly, endlessly, year after year made sacrifices for their sins. But in the verses ahead of 10:24-25, Christ came and said to God, the Father, “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offering and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, my God.’” The will of God that Jesus desired to do was that we would be “made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (verse 10).
In establishing that new covenant, we now have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus. We get to draw near to God with a sincere heart. We get to hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
In the days following February 8, the students at Asbury University delivered an incredible invitation to the Church—Join us…in repentance, in worship, in a longing for more of God. The world began talking about the students’ worship. As videos and reports swirled the internet, I was first curious. Then I was compelledto join the students in repentance, to meet together with them and worship the Lord who is the sacrifice once for all. So I went.
On February 20th, I stood in line in Wilmore, Kentucky for nearly five hours. Alongside thousands of Christians from around the world, I worshiped on the lawn of Asbury University. We talked and prayed and sang. We marveled at the ones who’d come from Venezuela, Brazil, and Ecuador. We were moved by the family who sold their car to come and see what the Lord was up to in Kentucky. And in God’s goodness, we were admitted into Hughes Auditorium where we joined the generations making music and singing Scripture to God. And in the front kneeled about thirty young people ready to receive and pray for anyone who came. Thank you, Lord, for hearing the prayers of your children.
As the last hour of the last public day of worshiping with the Asbury University students was closing, a woman with a grateful heart came to give instructions for our exit. She began, “God is good, isn’t he? I’m going to…” But the response to her rhetorical question, isn’t God good?, began to crescendo. It went from a low hum of agreement to verbal acknowledgments, “Yes! All the time!” to shouts of “Hallelujah!” and “Jesus saves!” Clapping and shouting and crying and singing erupted throughout the room. And for several minutes it showed no signs of stopping. Lady-with-the-instructions was forgotten and God’s goodness was being proclaimed.
God is good, isn’t he? If she asked me the same question in a place where I hadn’t come to meet together with other believers, I would have smiled and quietly said, “Yes. So good.” Perhaps I would have even shared how I’d seen his goodness earlier in the day. God is good to me, and to my family, and to my church. But in that room full of God’s people, full of the Church, each cry was a testimony: God is the Sacrifice for all.
My heart began to imagine and fold in all the ways God had been good to the people behind the voices. Maybe God soothed that woman’s self-doubt. Perhaps he had restored that family’s relationship. Had God offered freedom? Answered prayers? Alleviated addictions? These praises and proclamations began to stir together. Could it be that we were no longer celebrating God’s goodness in our individual lives, but were now pouring out gratitude for the way he had worked in the lives of the sisters and brothers around us? My voice caught. I let out a short sob, then joined the jubilee.
This. This is what I came and saw: Christ is the Savior of the WORLD! Jesus Christ is the Sacrifice for his Church. Once for all. And the testimonies whirling through the Hall, stirred me up to love him more.
Grace and peace (and a mighty stirring),