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.
One of my fondest memories of celebrating Easter as a teenager was the traditional Easter Sunrise service. This was an annual event for our youth group, who prepared and served a breakfast of ham and scrambled eggs to everyone after the service. I was a morning person back then, as well as now, so it wasn't out of my comfort zone to get up at 4 am to get dressed in my Easter best and head for our country church in the hills of Berks County, PA along with 8-10 other teens to set the tables, make sure the ham was baking, crack some eggs in bowls, and make sure the frying pans were ready to go. At sunrise, we would gather outside on the edge of the church cemetery, with everyone else, to joyously sing songs about a risen Lord and hear a short devotional celebrating that Jesus alive. There is just something special about breathing the crisp Spring air, early in the morning, and hearing outside voices proclaiming,
"Up from the grave He arose,
With a mighty triumph o'er His foes,
He arose a Victor from the dark domain,
And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.
He arose! He arose!
Hallelujah! Christ arose!"
Our Easter celebration this year will be very unique, to say the least, but if you would like to join me at sunrise outside in your backyards, or on your porches, preferable facing the sunrise, and just meditate on the thought, "Was it a morning like this, when Mary went to the tomb and found a very alive Jesus?" Then you can shout "He's Alive!" After that get a cup of coffee and have some ham and eggs for an Easter breakfast!!
As I write this, Easter Sunday is 2 weeks away, April 12, 2020. Amidst all the chaos happening around us, we are still in the middle of Lenten season, waiting to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus. Bella would agree with me that growing up, our favorite time of the year was Easter, when Mom would prepare delicious meatless dishes and we prepared a basket of food that would be blessed. There was a special sense of awe during those few weeks, before and after Easter, when church service just felt grander. We can still sing those songs in Slovak, declaring that Christ is risen! Christos Voskrese! Indeed, He is risen! Voistinu Voskrese! No matter what is happening around us, the fact remains - that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived on this earth as fully man and fully God, then died on a cross to reconcile us to God. The Son of God paid the price for our sins and rose to life again. He did that because He loves us so very much that He wants us to live forever with Him in Heaven.
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him." John 3:16-17
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trails, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." 1 Peter 1:3-7
How can a little virus top that?! We know that it cannot; in fact, NOTHING CAN! Christ is indeed risen! Happy Easter.
One Discipline of the Maturing Christian:
Bible Reading. (This is not the same as Bible Study). Sit quietly and read the Word. (Perhaps read the Gospel of John). Pray Psalm 119:18 before beginning to read. Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (Law here refers to the entire Bible not just the Old Testament sections containing moral and ceremonial law). Read slowly and allow the Holy Spirit to feed your soul during these troubled times.
Thought #1 What to do in the morning and every night:
It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
To declare Your lovingkindness in the morning,
And Your faithfulness every night,
Thought #2 Try your hand at writing a Haiku based on a Bible verse. (A Haiku is a Japanese non-rhyming form of poetry. Three lines...Line #1 is 5 syllables. Line #2 is 7 syllables. Line #3 is 5 syllables.)
A Haiku based on 1 Peter 1:8,9
8 Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy; 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
And glorious joy for me:
Jesus, My Savior
Thought #3 Meditate on a verse of Scripture (pause, think about, 'chew on it' for a while)...perhaps
Psalm 20:7 (NIV)
7 Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
God is not surprised by the pandemic of COVID-19 nor has He lost control of His world. It is safe to entrust our lives to Him.
To my LLC family, I wanted to remind all of us in light of what the world is dealing with that we serve a Holy God and nothing surprises him. I was reminding myself of that and decided to research if in Bible times something like this has happened before. I found this question and answer section that was great, so I have shared that today. I hope this helps you. I wanted also challenge myself through this time to not lose the momentum that we have been building in our family these last few months. The bond that we have been building has been great. We do not have to lose it due to being forced into separation. I am a people person and I thrive on face to face communication, remember we have a lot of technology. So call, text, or video chat with each other throughout this time. Continue to Love one another.
Question: "What does the Bible say about pandemic diseases/sicknesses?"
Answer: Various outbreaks of pandemic diseases, such as Ebola or the coronavirus, have prompted many to ask why God allows - or even causes - pandemic diseases and whether such illnesses are a sign of the end time. The Bible, particularly the Old Testament, describes numerous occasions when God brought plagues and diseases on His people and on His enemies "to make you see my power" (Exodus 9:14,16). He used plagues on Egypt to force Pharaoh to free the Israelites from bondage, while sparing His people from being affected by them (Exodus 12:13; 15:26), thus indicating His sovereign control over diseases and other afflictions.
God also warned His people of the consequences of disobedience, including plagues (Leviticus 26:21, 25).
One two occasions, God destroyed 14,700 people and 24,000 people for various acts of disobedience (Numbers 16:49 and 25:9). After giving the Mosaic Law, God commanded the people to obey it or suffer many evils, including something that sounds like Ebola: "The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation...which will plague you until you perish" (Deuteronomy 28:22). These are just few examples of many plagues and diseases God caused.
It's something hard to imagine out loving and merciful God displaying such wrath and anger toward His people. But God's punishments always have the goal of repentance and restoration. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14, God said to Solomon, "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." Here we see God using disaster to draw His people to Himself, to bring about repentance and the desire to come to Him as children to their heavenly Father.
In the New Testament, Jesus healed "every disease and every sickness," as well as plagues in the areas He visited (Matthew 9:35; 10:1; Mark 3:10). Just as God chose to use plagues and disease to show His power to the Israelites, Jesus healed as an exhibition of the same power to verify that He was truly the Son of God. He gave the same healing power to the disciples to verify their ministry (Luke 9:1). God still allows sickness for His own purposes, but sometimes disease, even worldwide pandemics, are simply the result of living in a fallen world. There is no way to determine whether or not a pandemic has a specific spiritual cause, but we do know that God has sovereign control over all things (Romans 11:36) and will work all things together for the good of those who know and love Him (Romans 8:28).
The spread of sicknesses such as Ebola and the Corona virus is a foretaste of pandemics that will be part of the end times. Jesus referred to future plagues associated with the last days (Luke 21:11). The two witnesses of Revelation 11 will have power "to strike the earth with every kind of plague as often as they want" (Revelation 11:6). Seven angels will wield seven plagues in a series of final, severe judgments described in Revelation 16.
The appearance of pandemic diseases may or may not be tied to God's specific judgment of sin. It could also simply be the result of living in a fallen world. Since no one knows the time of Jesus' return, we must be careful about saying global pandemics are proof that we are living in the end times. For those who do not know Jesus Christ as Savior, disease should be a reminder that life on this earth is tenuous and can be lost at any moment. As bad as pandemics are, hell will be worse. The Christian, however, has the assurance of salvation and
the hope of eternity because of the blood of Christ, shed on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:5; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 9:28).
Source: Got Questions?
Some of you know I lost my job 2 weeks ago. It's now 5 times in 7 years that I have been laid off and honestly, this one hurt. I found, and still find, myself fighting with myself. In one corner, my spiritual side, which knows the promises of God and believes them to be true, fighting with my fleshly side that just wants comfort and things my way right now. I then find myself struggling with the struggle (since I should know better), and it's a downward spiral. Never have the words, "Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?" (Romans 7:24) been more true for me.
A lot of verses keep running through my mind: "I do believe, help me with my unbelief" (Mark (9:24) is a popular one right now. I've repeated it so much it's almost become a mantra for me. There are others, but another one has started to emerge: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Philippians 4:13). See, we use this verse so often to say "you can go and do anything!" Prosperity teachers will add "you want" on the end and conservative Biblical scholars may add "that's in the will of God", but both of those are on the "positive" side. Certainly it applies when you're on the mountain top and looking to do something big for God. But it applies on the opposite side as well. You might be in a valley right now where things are dark and murky, and you might be wondering if you can make it. Well, you know what, you can "do all things through Christ"...ALL things. Even the negative ones.
So whether you're on a mountain top or in a valley, can you do it. God promises it! In both the positive and negative, no matter how much we don't feel like it, no matter how much our flesh tells us otherwise, no matter what the inside of you says... we ARE "more than conquerors" (Romans. 8:37) through "Christ who give us strength" to do "all things". Hold on to hope and reach out to your family in the church and let someone help you though.
Whether it's job loss, wayward children, cancer, sickness...or anything else...you are not alone and we can do this.
In the course of Living Legacy Church we've moved from rented facilities to our own building, from temporary partitions to actual classrooms, from a church planting pastor to no pastor - today we enjoy the full-time ministry of a pastor zealous to nourish our congregation (or, to feed Jesus' sheep), to make a difference in our community (or, to go into the world), and all to advance the kingdom (or, to make disciples). In this, we've also moved from nearly exclusively Sunday morning services, with an occasional several weeks evening study, to a busy schedule of nearly every day of the week offering some manner of study & fellowship.
Sunday morning; Sunday School & worship service
Sunday evening; West Hanover community group
Sunday evening; youth community groups
Monday morning;; worship service
Monday evening; considering the Sunday sermon
Tuesday evening; book study group & women's Bible study
Wednesday evening; Elizabethtown community group
Thursday evening; Hershey community group
Saturday once a month; men's breakfast
And there are also ongoing leadership meetings, once a month fellowship meals after the worship service, etc.
Now, there is a long struggle within many folks and congregations regarding balancing our time, no one can participate in all that is offered so we all pick-and-choose what resources we avail ourselves of, which nights we reserve for family, how much time we keep for ourselves, etc. I refer to these get-togethers are "resources" because that is their intent - we're not just trying to keep busy or fill-up a calendar, but are interested to provide the dictionary definition of 'resource', that being "a supply, support, or aid" and "the collective wealth" of a community. You can't just hear sermons on Sunday or read a few chapters at bedtime and count yourself an earnest disciple of Jesus - you need to desire to be with God's people and you need to study God's word.
The Bible describes Apollos, a contemporary of Paul, as "being fervent in spirit", in fact Paul himself tells us "I planted, Apollos watered" - yet just after referring to Apollos as an "eloquent man...mighty in the Scriptures" we read "when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately."
Now, the point here isn't mere accuracy, being right for the sake of being right, knowing simply to know - the Bible instructs us that "strong meat belongs to those who are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil". How we live our lives, how we serve God, how we love our neighbors, how we recognize good and recognize evil, is unavoidably the result of knowing God and knowing His word. The apostles rebuked those satisfied with milk and admonished believers to give our attention to the meat of the word.
I, personally, look at the struggle with time, with a schedule providing so much, this way; where do I live? Do I live over here, in my own life, using the church to fill my needs, taking advantage of what I feel helps me - or is my real life in the church with His people? What am I preferring to do? Of course we have responsibilities with family, certainly we need time for ourselves - I'm asking, when we can't do 'that' church thing on Monday night because we already to 'that' other church thing on Thursday night, or we needn't go to Sunday School because the worship service is sufficient, what are we in fact choosing? What in 'our own' life is benefiting us (or even more fun) over our church family?
I'm not at all imagining anyone falling short here, any individual may have numerous and perfectly legitimate reasons why they are not at 'this' get-together or 'that' that group meeting, etc. I don't at all participate in all that I've listed above. My point is only, where do we count ourselves to be living? Is our life over here, distinct from the congregation I worship & fellowship with, and I look at their schedule and see what fits with my own life over here - or is my real life over there, with my family where I worship, those filled with the same Spirit God has given me...the LLC calendar isn't an intrusion into my own life that I need to guard my own life/time against its growing encroachment - fellowship with God's people, the study of His word, and the coming together in praise, prayer, and worship, that is my life, that's where I want to live.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:17)
Last week during our time of worship, we focused on forgiveness. It’s a tough topic for many in the church. Some of us have been hurt deeply, and as a result, releasing the person who has offended may seem difficult, unwise, or even impossible.
On the flip side, some of us have offended and deeply wounded others. Maybe you have offended others in ways that have cost you friendships and sent them into emotional, physical and psychological ruination. When this occurs, often we beat ourselves down and reject the notion that after such an offense anyone, including (or maybe especially) the God of the universe, could forgive and love us. As a result, we live in continual bondage to our sin, forever unable to receive healing and restoration.
Yet, the truth of the Gospel tells a very different story. Paul describes Gods unimaginable love for us this way:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. “ (Romans 5:8)
God doesn’t wait on you to clean up your act, rather he comes to you at your worst. He seeks you out, pursuing you, in your filthiness, “While you were still a sinner…” God never excuses sins, but he has accounted for them.
Today my hope is that we find redemption not in our ability to correct sin, but in Jesus as he pursues us and frees us from our indebtedness and confinement. And I pray that as we more fully realize his gift of forgiveness, we are released to live freely and powerfully for him.
It's no secret that a majority of my days are spent with children: my own children, my children's friends, the students I work with, our own youth here at church, children who seemingly just appear...As a result some days feel exhausting and feel just down right hard. But then moments arise that cause me to stop, pause, and remember what a blessing these children are. The innocence of youth and the way they view God so clearly, so simply is just inspiring. While the questions are endless some days, I've noticed there is never doubt. Rather, faith abounds from children without them even realizing it. They possess the ability to openly share without hesitation, especially the youngest of children.
In Mark we find that Jesus says "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not. receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Mark 10:14-15.
We are all called to be like these children, to live with such abandon for Christ. Likely my day to day will not change in the near future, and for this I will be thankful. For it allows me to continue to be inspired by the children all around me and I pray I can continue to be reminded of how easily I too can have faith in Christ and share His love to all those around me.
I'll leave you with what my five year old shared at dinner the other night, "If you want to grow up, you much pray to God and obey Him." I'd say she's got it, and it really is just that simple.
At a recent gathering of our Community Group, we came across a Biblical reference to the judgement seat of Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says "For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." It reminded me of how many people misinterpret exactly what this refers to in Christian doctrine. The judgement seat of Christ does not reefer to Christians standing before Christ and having all our sins replayed before us on a big screen to make us feel guilty and unworthy before we can enter heaven. Our sins have been forgiven and forgotten by God. Psalms 103:12 says, "As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us." This judgement is not for condemnation, but rather for an assessment of our works as a Christian whether they were done to honor God (good ) or to honor ourselves (bad). Our deeds do not determine our salvation, but should demonstrate it. The good deeds are visible evidence of an invisible faith revealed at the judgement seat, and we will be rewarded for them. What is the reward? I can only imagine! What about the "bad" deeds, when we forgot it's not about us? Well, they will be burned up like wood, hay, and stubble and our reward will be the praise we received from men, rather than praise from God.
So as we continue on our Christian journey, may what we do bring honor and glory to God. And when we get to heaven, may we hear "well done, good and faithful servant" and not smell of smoke!
Much of the time, I think we were better off before the age of technology (especially during computer crashes in the middle of work!). But we don't need to look very hard to see how technology has blessed us. This year, when looking at the many choices for reading plans and devotionals in my Bible app, I had a hard time choosing! I came across two short devotional series done by men who walked closely with the Lord, R. C. Sproul and Billy Graham. I saved both. Their insights into God's word are just as relevant today as they were when they wrote them, even though both have died. Actually, look back a little further: John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, Martin Luther - you can find great works written by these men that offer brilliant understanding of God's word, all relevant today. But it doesn't end there! Paul in his letters revealed God's word to the emerging church. Imagine, getting a hand-written letter from Paul for holy instruction! Now, all we need to do is tap a phone or tablet a few times.
This one particularly interested me because as many of you know, I am struggling with vision lately and undergoing cataract surgery. So, I will share with you Billy Graham's words:
Eyes to See
The blind man, Bartimaeus, threw off his cloak and ran trembling to Jesus. And Jesus said, "What do you want me to do for you?" He said, "Lord, that I may receive my sight." In that moment as he said, "Lord," his spiritual eyes were opened. And Jesus said, "Your faith has made you whole." Notice - not your intellectual understanding, not your money, not your works - but your faith. Faith! That's all it takes! Immediately Bartimaeus, who had been blind all of his life, began to open his eyes, and the first thing he saw was the face of Jesus. What an experience - to open one's eyes and look straight into the strong, tender face of Jesus! Bartimaeus met Jesus and the record says he "followed Jesus in the way." When you go back to your business, or your home, or your neighborhood, or your friends, or your school, you don't go alone. Christ goes with you.
Daily Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, for healing me from my spiritual blindness!