So for Sunday worship we were back in the worship center where we had experienced the ZOE prayer meeting two nights prior. We had just enjoyed the cry-fest that was the ZOE debriefing process, and like a dummy I thought I wouldn't need any more tissue for worship service.
I picked a spot on the straw mat, between a few ministry students I had the immense privilege of locking arms with for a few days, the sun was streaming in through the window (the sunniest morning we've had this week), and Pidetch, a man I had seen working tirelessly as part of the outreach and prevention leadership, started tuning his acoustic guitar. Ministry school students poured onto the stage: drums, bass, electric guitar, five additional vocalists, Yaw on keys. It looked an awful lot like Sunday mornings at Evergreen: a group of Asian lovers of Christ preparing to usher their brethren into the courts of praise.
Then the first G chord struck, and I was a lost cause. It was a song in Thai, and there were no words on the screen--a worship aperitif, as it were. The staff and ministry students I described to you, these giants in the faith who every day plunge into the darkness to pull souls out for God, were there lifting their hands and praising the God who calls them, equips them, and smiles over them. The precious children you heard about yesterday were singing at the tops of their lungs for the One who is doing the work of redemption and restoration in their lives. And as the presence of the Holy Spirit was rising up in a tangible way, they transitioned to sing,
"I lay my life down at You feet, for You're the only one I need, I look to You and You are always there!"
"In troubled times it's You I seek, I put You first that's all I need, I humble ALL I AM all to You"
These humble people who dwell in the presence of the Most High were communing with their Lord, declaring their dependence on Him. They continued to sing,
"You are the Way, the Truth, and the Life, we live by faith and not by sight for You. We're living all for You,"
Not an ounce of cynicism. No irony or hypocrisy. This is what they live. They live the constancy of Jesus. They see that He is always there, and that He will never ever change, no matter how troubled the times. When they sing "Lord I give You my life", as they did next, heaven smiles and affirms their worship. Their mission feeds their worship, which feeds their mission. That is the definition of integrity.
Next, they had words of encouragement from some of the children. A 9 year old girl strode onto stage with her Bible in hand. John 10:10,
"The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly." This child of God who had lost everything she had on earth knows life abundantly because she is surrounded by the love of Christ. In her small but wise voice, she boldly declared "I know I have it, and I hope you have it, too".
By this time, I didn't care that I didn't have any tissues because wiping my tears away wasn't going to do any good anyway. How humbling to know that a 9 year old child knows more about God's provision than I do. She was one of the little ones singing at the top of her lungs, worship that was an outlet for the abundant life she knows in Christ.
God has placed eternity on our hearts so that we might desire something beyond the world we can see, that we might desire God Himself. ZOE is a place where this pan-dimensional tapestry that God is weaving into His love story folds in on itself and we can see a glimpse of the glory He is bringing about. Here is a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, where the broken are pursued and brought back into relationship, tears are wiped away, and the least of these are put in the place of highest honor. And this is all done because of His provision. Yes, He has and continues to provide for ZOE's financial needs, but moreover, He continues to open doors to ministry, raise up spiritual warriors, and bring hope to bear in these kids' lives. None of these things happen apart from the Lord; the ZOE family lives out that desperate dependence.
Brothers and sisters, let me humbly encourage us to take a hard examination of the areas in our lives where we have become comfortable. As the history of mankind shows us again and again, comfort leads to complacency and then to selfishness. Selfishness keeps us desiring comfort and we become paralyzed in fear of losing what we think we deserve. Stealing a saying from Pastor Rocky, the enemy doesn't care how you're deceived just so long as you're deceived. How is the enemy deceiving you in order to keep you from doing something (no matter how big or small) for God? In Southern California, it's easy to become comfortable and ultimately forget who the Giver of all comfort is. Let's ask Him to replace our complacency and selfishness with an ever-growing desire for Him, whatever that may look like. Because when we make the Lord our desire, He fulfills that desire with life abundantly.
Jason (on behalf of your Evergreen ZOE team)
PS on the plane for our return trip tomorrow! I'll try to reflect and send a closing message in a few days. Please pray for our return trip. We are all spiritually filled but physically drained! Please pray that our re-entry goes smoothly and that the lessons we have learned this week stick in our hearts and make a lasting difference in our lives!