Each week a member of LLC offers a short devotional to support you in your walk with Christ. We hope each week is an encouragement to you and leads you deeper in your relationship with our marvelous, ever loving God.
Each day this week our family has written a word of thankfulness on a small paper leaf and hung it on a "tree" in our living room. It has been a wonderful experience for our family to recall all that we have to be thankful for this holiday season.
Surprisingly, the most influential part for me has not been recalling the tangibles I possess, experiences I've had, or friends and family that love me (as great as they are!). No, the greatest blessing this experience has afforded me, is that the memory of each blessing draws my attention to our provisional God. And in the end my thankfulness is not much for the possession, experience or people, but for the gracious God who gifted each of them to me.
I pray that your Thanksgiving will be full of similar experiences. As the Holy Spirit reminds you of the many ways God has graciously provided, may you be freed to focus less on the gifts and be more concentrated on the giver, so that we like the Psalmist can declare to one another and the world:
"I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O most High." (Psalm 9:1)
Recently I attend the memorial service for my aunt, my mother's sister, which started a flood of memories, mostly from my childhood. As my aunt's pastor was sharing the activities Aunt Anna was involved in, even wanting to remain on the church prayer chain as a prayer warrior while being hospitalized herself, I realized I had missed keeping up-to-date with her in recent years. Most of my memories were from years ago when we would have family gathers and I got to visit with my cousins. As I glanced around the room and noticed the many grandchildren and great grandchildren, I realized their memories were different from mine. What kind of legacy had my aunt left with each one of us?
What is a legacy, anyway? The dictionary says it could be a monetary gift designated in a will, or it could be something that is part of your history that remains from an earlier time. Let's use the latter for this discussion. It's been said that on our tombstone we highlight our birth and death, with the bulk of our life designated by a dash between those two dates. Your legacy is that dash. On my tombstone I want to use a ~ (tilde) instead of a - (dash). But I digress. Do we live a legacy or leave a legacy? Yes. Just by our daily living, we create a legacy for others to see and experience and remember; so we need to live wisely. Will folks remember me as being self-reliant, with a streak of independence, and a reluctance to take any help? Or will they see through the shortcomings of my personality to see a servant of Christ, using his gifts to bring honor and glory to our Savior? Only time will tell.
Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, then Joshua led them in the conquest of the promised land. Both men recognized that success was not due to their leadership or strength, but that God was in control. Mistakes were made, to be sure, but both knew that God was their true King and the only genuine authority to follow. The Israelites followed Joshua's lead: "The people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who survived Joshua, who had seen all the great work of the LORD which He had done for Israel." Judges 2:7
But then Joshua died, everybody forgot the mighty works of the LORD, and chaos ensued. "Then the LORD raised up judges who delivered them from the hands of those who plundered them. Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they played the harlot after other gods and bowed themselves down to them . They turned aside quickly from the way in which their fathers had walked in obeying the commandments of the LORD; they did not do as their fathers." Judges 2:16-17. They were conquered, they cried out for deliverance, God sent a judge to help them but when the judge died, they acted more corruptly than before. They failed to see that God was their King and protector. They forgot that God fought and won their battles when they sought His will. So, when Samuel appointed his corrupt sons as judges for Israel:
Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. The LORD said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them." 1 Samuel 8:4-7
God told Samuel to warn the people of the procedure of an earthly king. An earthly king would take their children and servants for his service, impose taxes, take the best of their livestock, and impose limits on their freedom. "Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles." 1 Samuel 8:19-20
Our King and sovereign ruler is the LORD. He alone is our protector and provider and the sole authority to which we are held accountable. And His Word provides all we need to know about our King and Savior. We need not be troubled or dismayed, for our God, just as in Joshua's time, has everything under control.
On September 29, 2020 I went to my storage room and opened the box of journals that were all blank. (I have seasons of journaling and seasons when that is not part of my daily routine.). I selected a small journal and began...Have had this journal many years - pages still all blank - now have begun to yellow - Today-September 29, 2020, I have read something I want to remember so I go to the box in the storage room where I have journals waiting to be filled...This is the first one pulled from the box - so - this is the note I want to remember:
Look back...high school...I think my senior year...English class...the teacher's interest was "A Theme a Week". One page. No more. No less. She gave the paper and the topic and we had the remainder of the class to fill the page. One particular week the topic was 'Three Times Happy'. I wanted to write in some creative way...more than just fill the page with a 1.,2.,3., list of when I had felt happy. Maybe try to think of 'times' as in math class 'times=multiplication' and thus much more than a list of three things. As I recall I was not particularly successful in that endeavor. but I have through the years thought about that assignment and what '3 Times Happy' might really mean. Several weeks ago Pastor Jon challenged us in a sermon to consider 'Disciplines of the Christian Life' and from that I decided to 'dust off' a copy of C.H Spurgeon's Morning and Evening Daily Readings and to once again reading these short yet insightful devotions. In addition I took an old hymnal from the shelf determined to start at the beginning and read one a day in the order they were printed in the hymnal. So far, the hymns are mostly unfamiliar with the lyrics coming from men living in the 16 and 17 hundreds. Yesterday the hymn by Isaac Watts (1719) is based on Psalm 84. Its title is LORD of the WORLDS Above. To my surprise in verse four I have found one who wrote about THREE TIMES HAPPY!!! Here are the words...'God is our sun & shield, Our Light and our Defense; with gifts His hands are filled: We draw our blessings thence, "THRICE HAPPY he, O God of Hosts, whose spirit thrusts alone in Thee."
It only took me 63 years to discover 3 times happy is ALL about trusting God.
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
Many churches today are stumbling toward the Kingdom of God. They are tripping over the various programs, products and performances that make up their worship on Sundays. It looks good on paper and by the numbers and some churches are big enough to hide it. However it's the same as trying to walk into your bedroom in the dark at night. You stub your toe on the corner of your bed or trip over your shoes that you left in the middle of the floor. These are good things that are needed but not in the main path way. We need to remember to walk in the light. The light is the true calling for God's church body.
Let's ask a few questions. What does the word church mean? "Church" is the translation of the Greek term ekklesia, and is used in the New Testament to identify the community of believers in Jesus Christ. It literally means "assembly," "congregation," or "meeting". A similar term was used in the Old Testament referring to experiences such as "the day of the assembly," "the Lord's congregation," or "meeting before the Lord." Thus, when Jesus declares: "I will build my church" (Mt. 16:18), it did not come as something unfamiliar to the common listener. Shortly after, in the New Testament, the word is confined strictly to refer to the congregation of believers in Jesus Christ.
It is worth mentioning that in the New Testament, no synagogue, temple, chapel, tabernacle, building or any other meeting place was ever called a "church". The term always referred to the Christian assembly and, in the New Testament, it was used for both the local community of believers and the overall collection of Christians.
What is the role of the local church? The ministerial responsibility of the local church falls upon the members as a whole. As the members we need to identify our gifts and take on the responsibility of administering them under the leading of the Holy Spirit, the church increases its capacity to bless and to fulfil its mission on earth.
Some have identified the condition of the modern church as the "80/20 syndrome": a small percentage of the members (20 percent) take on the responsibility of ministerial work, while the other 80 percent are mere spectators. Or are in it for what they get.
When I hear that, my mind pictures the church like a football game where from the stands, a crowd observes a small number of players who offer a great show. Those that put forth an effort on the field urgently need rest, whereas the spectators desperately need to exercise. This image illustrates the reality of the church. The crowd of believers that fills our temples and chapels each Sunday must discover how useful and necessary they are in the divine plan of evangelization and the building of the body of Christ. For some of you that do not get sport illustrations. I also remember our church family a few years ago. When I would count heads on each Sunday morning during service there were more people there to listen to Pastor Larry's sermon then there were to engage with one another before the sermon would start or even to sing. Also there was a major struggle to get the masses engaged into a community group or Sunday school. Now we struggle to start service on time because everyone is so engaged in talking to each other. This is the proof that we have truly learned what the point in gathering together is all about.
I am truly excited for our new leadership and direction. We are smaller in number than before but we are more in number when it comes to the percent of our body that is onboard and involved together in ministry. Because we are walking in the light more of us can see the purpose and the reason to go. Lets pray for the churches that are still stumbling toward the Kingdom. Also lets pray that we can be the example to those churches and maybe even be a partner in their redirection of their purpose.