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.
* a group of people who come from the same ancestor * a group of people living together * a group of things sharing certain characteristics *
By the young age of 25 I could count my close family members on one hand. All of my grandparents had passed away, my mother's fight with cancer ended and with it we lost touch with several "family" members. My story is not unique or unlike many of yours, as many have unfortunately experienced a similar loss. However, at this same time I redefined family. I gained many new family members, many brothers and sisters through deep, honest, and supportive friendships.
At the recent mother/daughter banquet I had the privilege to spend time in conversation with another woman who very adamantly described Living Legacy as a family, a family I myself felt I found a few years ago. I couldn't help but think, YES; how true this was of our church! It is evident when you walk in the doors of Living Legacy how much each of you truly care, love and support one another. Pastor Jon reminds us weekly that not only does this make us feel good, but it is what God calls us to do. "So we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another." - Romans 12:5. Through being a family we can hold each other accountable, we can grow, and then we can effectively do what God has called each one of us to do. "How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!" - Psalm 133:1
I feel blessed to have found, with my loving husband's help, more sisters and brothers to call my family. So I'll leave you with a few lyrics to a new family favorite song that is played many days in our house. I can't help but think of all of you when I hear it. As Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors say, "You don't choose 'em, you can't lose 'em, We all have a song to sing, Some are crazy, some are amazing, All got a little bit of everything...Family, all in this together. Family, taking a chance. Family, like birds of feather. Family, kick off your shoes and dance."
I may suggest we dance, but in matching family pajamas next Christmas; who's with me?
Shortly after Easter, my 5-year-old granddaughter and I were having a casual conversation, the way granddaughters and grandfathers do, when suddenly she very abruptly told me that the "bad guys made a hat out of twigs and thread and needles and put it on Jesus' head." I asked if it was like a crown with thorns that hurt Jesus when it was put on his head and she told me that indeed it did. I proceeded to ask if the bad guys nailed Jesus to a cross, but her mind was going elsewhere, then she asked, "so if Jesus is God and we can't see them, how can that be?" Sensing a teachable moment, I asked her if she had ever heard of the Holy Spirit, at which she acknowledged that she had. I dug deep into my Christian beliefs and told her that Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit are really 3 different invisible people, with different purposes, but still they are one person. Having said that, I stated that this is a very hard thing to understand, even for me. At which point my granddaughter bluntly stated, "oh PaPaw, God can do anything."
Matthew 18:2-4 And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven."
Reading books has been a favorite past time of mine since I was young. If you think about it, books are just a bunch of marks on paper that come together to form shapes that we call "words." But what exactly is a word. The dictionary defines a word as a sound or a combination of sounds, or its representation in writing or printing, that symbolizes and communicates a meaning and may consist of a single morpheme or of a combination of morphemes. There are other definitions - a discussion, an expression, news, a command, a promise, an order, a slogan. I'm typing this article on a computer program called - Word! Words themselves have not emotion. But when we carefully connect those marks that form words, we can tell a story. We can read words callously and find no significance in them. Or we can read with intention, looking for value in those words and how those words are put together. The idea of "words" is pretty important. Think of how much different our lives would be without them. How would we communicate?
Another dictionary definition of "word" is the Scriptures, Logos, as in the Word of God. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 includes the following statement on the Scriptures:
"The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God's revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation."
There are 35 entries in my NASB Study Bible concordance for "word" and an additional 20 for "Word of God" and "Word of Truth." One of those is John 1:1-2. - "In the beginning was the Word, and the Words was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God." Then in John 1:14, "And the Word become flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." Jesus is THE WORD! Think of how much different our lives would be without THE WORD!
Although we know it is so much more, the Bible is a book. We can read the words callously and find no significance in them. Or we can read with intention, looking for value in those words and learn how to grow closer to THE WORD, our Jesus!
"Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated on the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things."
Clearly, the scripture is a command.
The question then becomes,
'How do I obey the command?'
One answer is PRAISE!
PRAISE God for who He is and PRAISE God for what He had done. PRAISE sets my heart and mind on things above. Dwelling on cares, schedules, routines of daily living...all these can turn my heart and my mind from things above; however when I think of them in the context of PRAISE my heart and mind are turned to God. When consumed with cares, PRAISE will turn 'care thinking' into thinking of God's unfailing love and care. When consumed with schedules, PRAISE will turn the 'schedule god' into the worship of God who gives every moment of every day as a gift to be used to His glory. When consumed with the routines of daily living, PRAISE can turn each activity into the opportunity to practice the presence of God even in the routine.
The discipline of praise can be learned. And yes, praise is a Christian discipline. The little book, PRAYING THROUGH THE NAMES OF GOD* is a helpful resource for getting to know God better and thereby knowing better how to praise Him for who He is. The book is a collection of prayers using various names of God arranged in the ACTS format. Adoration. Confession. Thanksgiving. Supplication.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above you heavenly hosts. Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
*Praying Through the Names of God, Tony Evans, Harvest House Publications, Eugene, Oregon.
Below is an article that reminded me of the true meaning behind what we celebrate this weekend. While I enjoy candy, gifts, and time with family, none of them are the foundation for our Christian Easter celebration. Yet, if I'm attentive to God's leading, an Easter egg hunt or family meal can present an opportunity to establish or strengthen relationships with neighbors, friends, and family and offer me the chance to share my hope in the risen Savior. I hope you are challenged by the article below and encouraged to use the Easter Bunny as an opportunity to share about Savior.
So, look, I get it. Life is crazy. Sometimes it feels like you're just trying to just survive the day. And when you look at a long week ahead of you, you wonder if you can even make it. Dealing with sin, death, friends getting divorced, negative co-workers, unfair bosses, stressful work, running the kids to whatever umpteenth thing they have to do tonight, bills piling up...all this is to say nothing of your needs, your hobbies, and all you need to get done. Then you realize you haven't prayed in 3 days, it's been over a week since you read your Bible, and you can't even remember the last time you shared your faith with someone... and so on top of everything else, you have a helping of guild on the side.
There's a song out right now I want to encourage you to listen to: " Breathe" by Jonny Diaz. It's a really good song that slowly swells and speeds up through the verse and then breaks down to nothing but a heartbeat at the chorus where Jonny reminds us to "Breathe, just breathe. Come and rest...at my feet. And be...just be. Chaos calls, but all you really need, is to just breathe."
Every time it plays, it serves as a great reminder to refocus and...just ...rest. Even if only for a moment while driving down the highway. All we "need to be" is to "just be". I actually have that written in the first page of my Bible: "It's about being. Just be." Everything else, for all their importance, can and should fall away when we go to God, collapse into him...and just breathe and just be.
God can handle everything else.
If you would like, click here for a list of Bible verses to read or study about Stress and Anxiety: www.openbible.info/topics/stress.
In the last 100 years or so, and then very much more in the last 50 years, American Christendom has very largely traded the gospel of salvation for a path to happiness...the message from too many 'evangelical' ministries today is that Jesus can help you feel better about life, that you can have victory over loneliness, defeat depression, enjoy victory from hurt feelings, etc, if you just let Jesus help you. This is kind of a stunning message for the church to come-up with since the Bible repeatedly cautions us that in life we will have tribulation, that we should expect persecution, that if this world hated Jesus it will certainly hate His followers as well.
And yet, this notion that the Christian message is instruction on how to deal with hardship and illness and divorce and all the miseries this life heaps on us is very popular among those who identify themselves as 'Christian'. Here at LLC we very regularly hear the phrase 'it's not about us' - yet I think a reminder in that regard is always wise and hopefully profitable. Another way to phrase that idea is "It's not about what makes us happy - it's about what is true'. And very directly put you could say, 'we don't need good advice - we need saved'.
Now by "saved" I don't mean merely rescued from punishment, I mean fully redeemed, made new, or in other words, God hasn't saved us so we can be happy - God saved us to know and love and serve Him. However, to know, love, and serve God we have to know who He is and what His truth is, what exactly He expects from us. Our calling as Christians is not to escape the difficulties of life - our calling is to be His witnesses...I mean, that's what Jesus Himself called us to do as he ascended to be with His Father. In what we call 'the great commission' Jesus told us to "Go into all the world and preach the gospel''. But Jesus included in that commission that we are to "make disciples". That doesn't mean 'get men saved', as in 'make men disciples rather than rebels', it means 'teach those who are added to the church through your 'going into all the world and preaching the gospel'. That "make disciples" literally means 'to teach, to give instruction'.
The normal, expected, course of the Christian is that he be a disciples, a student, one who seeks after truth and learns - the follower of Jesus studies His word. The apostles rebuked those satisfied with milk and admonished us to give our attention to the meat of the word...you can't do that just hearing sermons or reading a few chapters here and there - you need to study; on your own, in groups, and with teachers. Being a Christian is not about feeling happy and enjoying relief from life's hardship - it's about knowing the truth and being His witness.
"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus"
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Last night I met with a group of leaders from our congregation. During our time together we discussed our prayer lives. One individual shared how his prayer life is strongest during times of great turmoil.
To be honest, the same is true for me. When I struggle, my prayer life tends to be robust. I'm not confident I know all the reasons for this malady, but I am sure of this --struggle has a way of clarifying my absolute need for God. It's easy to lose sight of prayer when life is lived in the security of the mountaintop. Trial and tragedy have the ability to reveal my frailty and insufficiency in a way that seasons of prosperity all too often mask.
Yet, how might things change if I maintained a posture of prayer during ALL seasons of life? In what way could my perspective change? Would I be a more powerful force for the Kingdom of God? Could my local church experience renewal? Would the lost see Christ more clearly through me?
Perhaps this week (an all that follow) we should commit ourselves to praying at all times and in all seasons of life (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Philippians 4:6). Praying when life is easy and when times are tumultuous. Praying when life is easy and when times are tumultuous. Praying on our knees in the privacy of our homes or even while driving our car. May we pray corporately and individually.
I long for the day when we become so acquainted with our state of desperation that we are seldom deceived by the trappings of life and are positioned to maintain a continual posture of prayer before God. When our needs intersects with God's provision, we are positioned to fulfill His call.
My prayer is that we become more keenly aware of need for God and as a result our permanent posture in one of prayer.
You heard the cry of our hearts
And you came down
Freely you gave us your love
Showing us how
Make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred let me show love
Where there is darkness let me shine light and
May your love cause us to open up
Cause us to open up our hearts
May your light cause us to shine so bright
That we bring hope into the dark
All that we do without love it means nothing
Grant us the courage to give as you're calling.
Open Up by Brilliance
A dear friend recently shared this song with me. After I listened to it several times on repeat, I got to thinking...what an incredibly awesome gift of love God gives each of us. He freely gave His love, not by force but by choice. Through His love that we each receive daily we can bring light, and hope into the world. We don't have to go far to shine brightly and share the love of Christ to a broken world. We can shine right here, in our work, our schools, our neighborhoods. My prayer for each one of us is that we truly seek God's courage to follow his calling, and shine brilliantly!
When my wife and I led the pre-school group for our church's Awana program, we simply told the children that prayer was "talking to God." As an adult reading Hebrews 4:16, "Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need," we realize there is a lot involved when we talk to Him. With boldness, we can approach the very throne of God, the creator of the universe, and request, "please sir, can I have some more?" and by the promise found in John 16:24 "...ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full," God promises to give us a joy-filled life, if we ask. Awesome! And it's not a trick. God won't send us to Africa's mission field if we ask to serve those around us (then again, he might). He won't give us a snake if we ask for a fish. He loves us! So why are we hesitant to pray that we be used to further God's ministry here on earth? Where is the sense of adventure in your prayer life? I mean, we prayerfully thank God for our food before meals, and ask Jesus to give missionaries safe travels in a foreign land, and we request quick and complete healing for the health of our family, friends, and acquaintances, but what about the big exciting stuff? Let's pray, "Lord use me, a broken, sin-filled, saved-by-grace vessel that wholly belongs to You!"
On January 19th, we hosted the youth group at our home for a movie and make-your-own pizza night. Our youth are to be commended for their teamwork, respect for one another, and cleanliness! They worked together in the kitchen, cleaned up after themselves, demonstrated good manners, engaged in mature conversation, and agreed to deposit their cell phones in a basket by the door - it was a joy to have a house full of teenagers! But what I would most like to share with you about the night is what I see on my windows now every day. A few months ago, I decided to purchase some glass markers and write Bible verses on my window so that I see God's Word frequently throughout the day. I wasn't sure what the teenagers would say when I asked if they would write Bible verses on my kitchen windows, but the response was overwhelming! And I want to share with you those verses that I get to see on my windows everyday:
Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
"Let all that you do be done with love." 1 Cor 16:14
Jesus replied, "You do not realize now what I'm doing but later you will understand." John 13:7
This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24
Be still and know that I am GOD. Psalm 46:10
The mind set on the SPIRIT is life and peace. Romans 8:6
1 Cor 13:8 - Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4
God is light. In Him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
As I was preparing that morning, I asked God how to pray for our youth, what I should write on my window before they arrived. Here's what I wrote and continue to pray, not only for our youth but also for our church family:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Act 2:42
From time to time I write out my prayers centered on a name of God. I invite you to pray this prayer I wrote on January 6 just as Jon was coming as our pastor. I had just read another prayer written using God's name EL BETHEL and I was led to use that name for God as I wrote...
Oh, mighty and loving God, Triune in Nature and Essence. I come to you in prayer this day knowing that You are never busy, asleep, or unconcerned. Your name is El Bethel... the God of the House of God. Oh, El Bethel, You are the God of this House... this local congregation that we know as Living Legacy.
You are the Shepherd of this flock. I know that You can do all things and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. You have revealed Your purpose and Your strength in countless ways. El Bethel I give You praise for who You are.
We are a congregation that is saved by grace. You have reserved for Your own glory and our good those who love You and desire to see You continue Your work of transformation in us. I confess that we are saved by Grace and nothing can take that away but I also confess that as Your children we still have our unredeemed flesh. This can cause us to act in ways that can bring difficulty to those who serve among us. Jon has answered Your call to serve You here at Living Legacy. Help us as a congregation not to grieve the Holy Spirit as Jon challenges us by faithfully preaching the Word. We know that our ongoing transformation is Your work. And You choose to work through Your Word. May Jon, as Your Under-shepherd be diligent to study and pray. Give him...give us...a hunger for Your word - a hunger that only Your Word can satisfy. And give us the inner desire to obey Your Word.
El Bethel, the God of the House of God, thank You for making Yourself known to us. Thank You for taking up residence in the believers at Living Legacy through the death, burial, and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ. This miracle makes us a local congregation, a family. We come today in grateful thanks for Pastor Jon Weigel. I pray Your blessing on him, his wife, Dottie, and his daughters, Kate and Maggie. Jon has served as a pastor before. Dottie knows something of being a pastors's wife. Maggie and Kate know something of being 'Preacher's Kids'. These can sometimes be difficult roles. Help us as a congregation to be encouragers to this family. Help us to remember to prayer for them.
El Bethel, abide in us as individual believers and thus in Living Legacy. Set up Your home in the depths of our souls. Let your words dwell in us that we may know and live by them and for You. Reveal to us the sin we must confess and turn from so that we may be pure and blameless in Your sight. Show us how to best honor You through the temple that You have set up within us as believers.
How grateful we are to You in giving us a pastor. We love You and look forward to all You are doing and are going to do in this House of God.
In Jesus' matchless name, Amen.