Be still and know that I AM God.
It sounds so easy. Eight simple words. But in a world that manufactures business and rewards it, finding a quiet place for the soul is about as easy as getting to the bottom of the Grand Canyon…in the dark!
That’s what my friend and I set out to do on a warm Arizona night back in our college days. Without a reservation for a campsite on the canyon floor, the only way we were going to experience the view from “down there” was to descend the Bright Angel Trail at midnight. We were assured that if we hiked down in the cover of night, and up and out before noon, the sixteen-mile round trip in the searing heat wouldn’t wipe us out.
Though not the canyon’s steepest trail, Bright Angel’s eight-mile journey still takes you almost a mile down on a skinny path. And, once we dropped below the South Rim we sank into the very definition of darkness. Not to mention, we were under constant “threat” from the wild donkeys we’d be warned about, and whatever else was out there beyond our flashlight’s beam.
Several hours later we arrived at the river’s edge and laid down on a sandy patch where the water bent. By now our eyes had remarkably adjusted to the dark, but we still could only hear the Colorado rushing by us. And, all we could think about was the tough return ascent ahead of us…and the fact that we’d only get a brief sleep before we’d be awakened by the dawn.
The only place to look was up, and when we did our minds were blown. Dripping overhead, the canopy of stars felt so close I literally reached up to touch them. Absent of so much as a remote glimmer of light, the heavens hung low, dazzling us with their brilliance.
We were exhausted, with the hardest part of our adventure still to come. But for a moment we were enraptured, and felt very near to God. We were swept up in the vast symphony of creation, the overture of God’s glory playing in the skies above.
It felt like the title of the piece the stars were playing was: Be still and know that I AM God.
As awesome as that moment was, fortunately we don’t have to make an excursion to some remote place to experience the rest of God. Wherever you are today, at the rewarding end of a long arduous stretch or still facing a steep and challenging climb, you can find that place of quiet trust in God that will still your heart and inject confidence into your circumstances. That’s what Sabbath is all about.
The word Sabbath comes from the Hebrew word SHABBAT, which means “to cease.” From this word we get the phrase, “be still.” But “cease” from what? Cease “striving,” as one translation puts it, and agree with God that He is God and we are not.
For us, Sabbath is more than just doing nothing, it is doing everything from a place of rest—an assurance that God is with us and in us, and that He is sufficient to accomplish all He has called us to do. Thus, God urged through the Psalmist, “Cease striving, and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10.
We Are Called Into God’s “Already In Motion” Plans
Sabbath rest is remembering that God calls us into His plans, He doesn’t call us to create the plans and make them happen. At the outset, God invited Abraham into the unknown. But that invitation was not without a promise. God had been planning all along to make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars, to make him the father of our faith. But God’s timing and God ways required Abraham to trust Him every step of the way.
At a point of desperation in old age, Abraham gave up on the promise and had a son by his maidservant, because his wife Sarah was unable to bear him the child that would accomplish God’s plan. Like us, Abraham became burdened with the weight of making the plan happen, when all God asked of him was to be available to what He was going to do.
God wants us to work with all our might as we participate in His plans. But Sabbath is about remembering that while we are responsible to step into the opportunities God sets before us, He is responsible for the outcomes. In the end, God did come through, and He did fulfill His promise for and through Abraham’s life.
By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore. Hebrews 11: 8-12.
What lessons can we learn from Abraham’s experience?
1. That we are called into the plans of God, not to create the plans of God.
2. That we can be confident in God’s ability to fulfill His promise, even when the circumstances look bleak.
3. We should expect that God will work in supernatural ways to achieve His plans.
4. We must set our gaze beyond today, and live for the great reward.
5. We must believe God is going to do what He says He will do, without or without us.
Faithful Is He Who Calls You, He Also Will Do It. 1 Thess. 5:24
I love the end of Psalm 46:10, “I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” God says I will be two times, meaning His plans are going to come to pass. Thus, we can “be still,” assured that our great God will do everything that is in His heart to do.
What are you striving to make happen today that God alone can do?
What shortcuts are you taking to get the end result that God has promised?
What burden are you carrying, thinking that you have to accomplish it all on your own?
What gaps of faith have you created, forgetting to ask and expect God to come through in supernatural ways?
Has the view from “here” eclipsed the view of the great City of Rest God is leading us to?
Wherever there is an absence of rest, come to Jesus. His invitation is—Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Matthew 11:28-30.
Jesus believes in you and has done the work necessary to bring you from death to life. Jesus has made you righteous before God in Him. He also lives in you by faith, and makes His life available to you each step of the way. But to experience His power we must cease from our belief that we can do it on our own, believing that in rest before Him is our greatest strength.
So take a Selah moment. In the stillness, abandon those places where you feel the weight of determining the outcome. Confess your hope in the great and sovereign plans of God, plans for your good and His glory. Breathe in hope. Exhale fear. Repeat.
“Waiting on God ascribes to God the glory of being all to us.” – Andrew Murray
Once again, it’s time for our Passion City Church family to celebrate Sabbath together. As a House, we want to pause and remember that God is the source of all we have and are.
Specifically, we’ll not be gathering on Sunday August 24 or 31, and our offices will be closed August 25-29. We know it’s a little unconventional for a church not to meet, but since our inception we have intentionally paused as a church to breathe in His faithfulness and anchor our hope in the truth that Jesus is building our House. Though He is using each of us to play a part, the lasting work is being produced by Him.
For us Sabbath is not just a good idea, it’s the cornerstone of our walk with Jesus and a reflection of our understanding of the rhythm of His grace. In fact, the earliest accounts of Scripture tell us in Genesis 2:1-3: Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. At the end of the first week on earth God rested from His work. How can we not do the same?
As well, when God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses, Sabbath was again front and center. In fact, the longest of the commands requires us to “remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.” While we don’t live under the letter of the law, the spirit of the law still guides us. Thus, the principle of rest is still a vital part of the fabric of following Jesus.
So what is Sabbath? Sabbath is more than a day off, it’s really a day up. Sabbath is an attitude of the heart that prompts us to remember that our lives are not simply the products of our hard work and ingenuity. Sabbath is the art of breathing in and acknowledging that we are what we are because of the grace of God. On the sixth day, when humans entered the Creation story, God had ALREADY made the heavens and the earth. He did all that without any help or assistance from us! Then, when things were just as He wanted, we were created by and for Him, and placed into an “already in motion” story of His greatness, power and grace.
So, do we have to not meet to celebrate Sabbath? Of course not. Sabbath is actually woven into the fabric of our daily living by the power of the Spirit and the life of Christ who lives in us. Yet, sometimes our best move forward is to pause in our tracks, our greatest worship is giving God glory by trusting Him in our rest.
The Jesus Way is the pathway of quiet rest, a lifestyle of trust in the greatness and sovereignty of God that ushers in rest for weary souls.
While it’s true God gives us work to do and roles to play in His story, He wants us to remember that we are dependant on Him, not the other way around. In the midst of our efforts God calls us to seek stillness…that quietness of heart that allows us to hear His voice and envision our lives as they were meant to be.
So, if you consider yourself a part of our PCC family, I want to invite you into this season of Sabbath with us. Some of you are asking, “So what are we supposed to do? We’ve never done anything like this before.” Here are a few ideas to make the time as meaningful as possible for you and your family.
When we wait, God works, bringing forth supernatural results without our knowledge or assistance. When we rest, we embrace our finite limitations, and we honor Him by letting Him know that Jesus is all we need!
We’ll be back at 515 on Sunday, September 7, at 10/12:30/5, as our whole team returns for a special Sunday gathering you’re not going to want to miss. And get ready! The next twelve months are going to take us places we’ve never been.
Shelley and I think it’s stunning to see what God has done in and through PCC in a few short years, but we believe the best is yet to come. Thank you for leaning into the vision of our House with us and for serving so faithfully as we create a place where Jesus can wreck people’s lives in the very best way with His healing, truth and grace.
Honored to be your pastor!
Passion City, THANK YOU for your stunning generosity! Thanks to YOU, hundreds and hundreds of children went back to school yesterday, equipped with a brand new backpack full of supplies.
What a privilege to invite children and their families from our neighborhood to 515 last Saturday to pick out their backpacks. People started arriving as early as 7am to get in line and we hosted more people this year than ever since we’ve been doing Project Supply! The word has spread about the generosity of this House!
Let’s continue to pray for each family and child who received a backpack…over 1500 of them! Not that they would just see a backpack full of supplies, but that they would see our love for them, which is the love of Jesus, as we have the opportunity to be His hands and feet in our neighborhood.
Passion City, let’s continue to be a light to the city of Atlanta and its people and let them know we are for them. We’re so grateful for all Jesus is doing in and through our House and how each of you continue to lean in with us.
For God. For People. For the City. For the World.
THAT WE MAY!
Dear Passion City Church Family,
Thank you so much to all of you who were a part of our Generosity Sunday giving. What a powerful time for our church as families and individuals prayed, sought God and gave freely. And what a special time for our staff and team as we were able to pray over each person who gave, trusting God for His provision to meet every need in their lives.
We say we want to be a church of stunning generosity. That’s because at its heart, that’s what the gospel is all about. God, being rich in mercy, extends life and grace to us through Jesus Christ. Though it cost Him everything, this lavish gift is free to us, received by faith in the work that Christ has done. It’s in that same spirit that we give, not out of obligation, but in response to what God has done for us.
It was amazing to see so many new givers joining ranks with us on Generosity Sunday as our tribe continues to grow and invest in Kingdom endeavors here and around the world. Through our Generosity Sunday giving we were able to fund seven projects locally and globally, ranging from support for ministries that focus on the public middle/high schools closest to 515 and scripture translation for the peoples of the Kalahari Desert in Africa. What a privilege!
In addition to fostering a culture of generosity, Sabbath is a core value at Passion City. If you are new to our family, we’re going to be taking a Sabbath Break later this summer. During this intentional time of rest, reflection and refueling we will not gather on August 24 and 31.
It’s been a life-changing summer at Passion City and we are already excited for what awaits us in the fall. The Sabbath Break will leave us refreshed, focused and ready to pursue all God has for us.
Thanks again for your generosity that allows our House to reflect His glory!
What a privilege we have as a House to hear and celebrate the stories of people coming to faith in Jesus and moving from death to LIFE! This is why we do everything we do around here…Generosity Sunday, the WINSOME wall…not because of numbers, but because of individual lives and stories.
Some of our favorite Sundays are Baptism Sundays, so we’re excited to start celebrating them more often. Moving forward, on the 1st Sunday of every month, we’ll be celebrating Baptisms as a regular part of our gatherings. We want to give more people a chance to share their story.
How encouraging to see all Jesus is doing in and through our House around our city. #WINSOME
Congratulations to all who were Baptized on Sunday…
There is an inextricable link between grace and generosity. Where one is found you can be assured the other is close by. This is because the very nature of grace is the unconditional and unmerited favor of God, a kindness and forgiveness that emanate from His heart solely because He is a God of love. Nothing we have done, or ever will do, triggers God’s generosity of mercy toward us. In fact, the opposite is true. Without God, we were dead as a result of our sinful choices, separated from God’s love and helpless to improve our plight on our own.
That’s when Christ stepped in and offered His life in our place, His righteousness for our guilt, providing a future arc with God that landed us in His family forever, free and clear of the debt of our sin and shame.
In one act, God’s stunning generosity turned religion on its head, completely upending the system of works and offering equal and complete justification to every single person who puts their trust in Jesus.
This is not just “church talk,” rather the miracle language of the gospel of grace. And once this grace touches our hearts an explosion happens within. Awakened from the dead, our lungs are filled with His breath and our hearts beat with the steady rhythm of gratefulness and generosity. We open our hands, our plans, our dreams and our pocketbooks to God. Not because we should, but because we can…because we may.
We find this spirit of “that we may” lodged in this beautiful text of scripture:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvelous light. For once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God, once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. —1 Peter 2:9-10
Worship is not something we choose to do, it’s something we may do. It’s not something we have to do, it’s something we get to do. The same is true of our generosity, of our giving.
Investing our money in God’s Kingdom purposes is not a penalty inflicted on us as a way of penance for our sins, it is a privilege afforded us when they were wiped away by the mercy of God through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We don’t have to give a dime to God (heaven knows He doesn’t need the money), but we may participate in the most select of all mutual funds, putting our dollars (those entrusted to us by Him) to work earning dividends for us that will outstrip all earthly investment by an astronomical margin.
This is the genius of God’s generosity. He brings us to life, doing all the work necessary to free us forever from the damaging effects of our sinful choices. God’s Son suffers, we are set free. Jesus is crushed, we are cured. Alive from the dead and back from the brink, God invites us to invest the life He has given us (our opportunities, influence, gifts, possessions, abilities) in the story He is already writing in history and eternity. As we do, our investments rack up serious long-term reward for us, treasure in heaven that will never fade away. As well, our open-handed generosity toward God is always met by the return of His limitless provision, the constant supply of heaven meeting every need we will ever have on earth and then some.
The beautiful thing is that our generosity toward God and others is not a labor, but a natural by-product of the kindness of God’s grace striking close to our hearts. As Pastor Randy Alcorn has brilliantly stated: “God’s grace is the lightening, our generosity the thunder.”
Our generosity doesn’t earn us God’s favor anymore than the thunder makes the lightning crack open the atmosphere. In the same way, our giving couldn’t initiate God’s gift of heaven’s priceless Son nor repay Him for the precious blood poured out for our salvation. Though while we cannot repay, we can respond.
On June 22, we will have the opportunity to celebrate God’s grace through our Generosity Sunday giving. For us at Passion City Church, our giving is woven together with the gospel. Grace, worship and generosity are inseparably wed. This is our culture, not a special emphasis. Our heartbeat, not a campaign.
Some have asked is there is a specific goal or cause for Generosity Sunday? Not necessarily, although we will be allocating the first $268,000 from Generosity Sunday giving to seven local and global causes. Rather, Generosity Sunday is an occasion to do more—to give above and beyond our normal giving so that our lives will be aligned with God’s grace and the cupboards of Passion City Church will be full.
For some, this will be the moment you give for the first time. For others, God will be calling you to greater levels of trust and sacrifice. But, hopefully each of us will take a personal and progressive step, one that unites our hearts around the reality of what Christ has done and reflects what our lives look like when lived as thunderous applause to the grace of God that has shocked the world.
Pray. Listen. Reflect. Respond.
That We May,
THAT WE MAY, Locally & Globally:
TOTAL = $268,000
Our favorite Sundays are Baptism Sundays as we celebrate all Jesus is doing in and through our House. How encouraging to hear the stories and see the smiles of people going from death to life in Him!
We’ve just wrapped up two amazing events in Manila, worshiping together with over 17,000+ Filipinos in the Araneta Coliseum and all we can say is—WOW!!! Our prayer is always for these nights to be marked by the power and presence of God, and that was never more true than as we gathered and saw hundreds respond to Jesus the last two evenings.
We’ve loved the opportunity to carry those of you back home at Passion City Church on this journey with us…we’re so grateful for how strongly you’ve supported and given us a sense of unity! Manila gave us an even greater sense of home as some of our Passion City Church family, Crowder and Brett, stepped in to lead with our team.
A few Door Holders from PCC even figured out a way to make it to Manila. One Door Holder shared with our team how many of you back home got together and paved the way through sponsorships for over 70+ Filipinos to be able to attend the events—so amazing! Love the generosity of our House!
Shout out to our on the ground partner Becca Music who did a phenomenal job organizing the event and hosting our team well.
We are headed now to Singapore, for an evening sound check and then leading all day Sunday at 4 gatherings of a local church. Thanks for being in this with us and lifting up our team. Pray for continued strength and energy…Sunday is going to be a long day but we are pumped at the opportunity and incredible privilege we have to lift up Jesus with the Big “C” Church around the globe!
That we may,
When we dreamed of coming to India, we never dreamed that it would be as good as these last two nights! Tonight was amazing as 8,000+ people packed (and I mean PACKED!) into the Thyagaraj Stadium in Delhi. From the downbeat of the first song they were with us, at many times singing so loudly that we had to just step back and listen to the sound of people so excited that they could hardly contain it.
We don’t take for granted the privilege of hosting a worship event in the capital city of the 2nd biggest country in the world, and before we started our prayers were joined with those from leaders from all over the city, that Jesus would be lifted high, people would come to know Him, and that God would use what happened tonight to breathe wind in the sails of the Church in Delhi.
We felt such a sense of togetherness with you as tonight we kicked off over here just a few minutes before the 10AM gathering started in Atlanta at 515. Our house was worshipping at the same exact time on opposite sides of the globe! It is so great hearing the amazing stories of what God is doing at PCC today—Great job Aaron, Shelley, Daniel and team!
We’ve had three events in four days and it has been full, but worth every second! Our team gets a much deserved day off tomorrow (some were on a plane at 4AM this morning after Hyderabad last night!) and then we head towards Manila to reunite with our beautiful Filipino friends.
It may seem repetitive, but we can’t say enough how much we appreciate your prayers. We are seeing Jesus change peoples lives through them!