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.
Passing by a church sign a few weeks ago, I took notice to its message and, for some reason, this sign keeps commanding my attention. Advertising the current sermon series, it reads:
"If Jesus were alive today."
My first reaction was - IF? Wait a minute - Jesus IS alive today! But that didn't satisfy my curiosity about my continuing thoughts about this sing. I think they meant, "If Jesus were alive as a man today." Well, that is an interesting question! I have heard some people say that the church has to catch up to the current culture, that religion is old and we have to make religion relevant in this age. They say that people can't relate to the message of church. So, what is the message that Jesus would give to us if He were alive, as a man, today? But does it matter when Jesus lived as a man? His Word says:
"Jesus is the same today, yesterday, and forever." Hebrews 13:8
"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any two-edged sword." Hebrews 4:12
"Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will never pass away." Matthew 24:35
How awesome to think that the greatest book ever written, the Bible, is truth 2000 years ago, today, and 2000 years from now. He would say all the same things He said when he was alive, as a man. Are we listening?
"Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing." 1st Thessalonians 5:11
Reflecting on this verse it was easy for me to see the two exhortations...encourage, build up...what was not so easy was the phrase, 'just as you are doing'. The reason? I was also thinking of Elysse Burns. I know it is the desire of many of you to encourage Elysse, to build her up as she continues her preparations for her assignment in a restricted access area of Africa. How do I (we) encourage her and build her up during language school? (Her current assignment is learning French while in Switzerland) How about when she assumes her responsibilities with her teammates already at work? And what about going to a restricted access country? How is that different? What can we include in our correspondence? What must we omit? Along about the time Elysse departed, her mission's magazine published an article... "5 Ways to Encourage a Missionary in a Restricted-Access Country".
#2 on the list is 'Respect the Restrictions'. Here is a portion of Elysse's reply to my request concerning restrictions. "I will not be using any social media but if people want to post something about me online, they should keep things as vague as possible. I would appreciate if people did not use the name of the country or the use of the word missionary or the name of my sending agency. The most that can be posted about me is something like, 'Elysse working in North Africa'. I will be communicating through the app call Signal (or WhatsApp but I prefer Signal). People can feel free to sign up now and the hang of the app."
Other ways to encourage her as suggested in the magazine article...#1...Get her prayer updates and read her letters. #4 Really Pray...She will be facing spiritual oppression every day...ask God to comfort her with His protection, restore her with His love, and guide her with His Word. #5 Ask Them How You Can Help. Find out what specific needs you and your church might help your missionary meet...participating in her work enables you to support Elysse and further God's work there.
And #3 is: Communicate and encourage. Thus my mention of 1st Thessalonians 5:11. Encourage her with promises of God throughout Scripture. It is OK to send a Bible verse in your correspondence. Let her know you are thinking of her. Remind her that she is missed, loved, and prayed over. Do you have a 'Day-Timer'? How about making a note every few weeks..."Time to write a 1 Thessalonians 5:11 not to Elysse"!
Wondering about that camel plush toy perched on top of the piano 'reading the Bible? There is a note left by Elysse with the camel and the open Bible...check it out! Maurice sits there as a reminder to pray for Elysse. Maurice is the name of the camel pictured on Elysse's card telling a bit about her and her work.
Elysse's personal contact information while in Switzerland and how to sign up to get her letters are available by contacting Living Legacy Church office.
I first wanted to say to my LLC family, how much I have enjoyed these past few weeks in church with you all. I love the refocus that Pastor Jon has in his vision for us. The small group prayer and the time to share out loud to each other also last week, circling up at the end and praying together. It all has been very refreshing. It started me thinking why has this element been missing from our corporate worship? The answer is well many different reasons. I think it doesn't really matter if it's never too late to start. My mind then starts to run through the Who, What, When and Where list. I start to analyze what this should look like, who should be doing what? I know CRAZY! Honestly church, this is not too hard. I think we make this CHURCH THING way too complicated. So I decided to recall a small nugget of wisdom I have learned over the years. If you are looking for an answer, there is only one place to find it. Out motto at Living Legacy has been from the beginning DOING LIFE TOGETHER. I have to ask are we or have we been truly doing it? The answer to this found in scripture and I think it is great that we see a strong frame work for this in the book of Colossians. How great is it that we are starting to study this together?
The apostle Paul lays out the frame work beautifully for us. First he starts with laying the foundation, who is the Son? Jesus Christ. He builds his walls on that foundation. First wall is we need to live in the Truth. The second wall is breaking free from old traditions. The third wall is shedding our chains of bondage that can hold us back. The fourth wall is Sharing the truth with others. Now once we have built our four walls on top of our strong foundation, we need to cover it with a roof of prayer. Paul covers this idea in Chapter 4. If we do this we will have a suitable place to carry out his main point in this book. A new life in Christ equals a new family life. All of the above will affect every aspect of all of our relationships.
"How good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1.
I am truly excited to really live together with my LLC family. I truly feel the realness when we gather together. I can't wait for more.
Ever hear of John Flavel? He was a Puritan (1630-1691) and "The Works of John Flavel" is a must read of any serious theologian. Plus, the Old English just sounds cool.
Here is an excerpt from Volume 1 of those works, and while not titled as a separate passage in the original writings, it has since become known as "The Father's Bargain". It's a hypothetical, but not less impactful, imaginative dialogue between God the Father and Jesus discussing who will save us "poor, miserable souls" and the ramifications of that decision.
Outside of Scripture, it has become one of my favorite passages to meditate on. Read it slowly and imagine the scene as you read. The words give me chills every time I read them:
The Father's Bargain
Here you may suppose the Father to say when driving His bargain with Christ for you. The Father speaks. "My Son, here is a company of poor, miserable souls that have utterly undone themselves and now lay open to my justice. Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them."
The Son responds. "Oh my Father. Such is my love to and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally I will be responsible for them as their guarantee. Bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee. Bring them all in, that there be no after-reckonings with them. At my hands shall thou require it. I would rather choose to suffer the wrath that is theirs then they should suffer it. Upon me, my Father, upon me be all their dept."
The Father responds. "But my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite. Expect no abatement. Son, if I spare them...I will not spare you."
The Son responds. "Content Father. Let it be so. Charge it all upon me. I am able to discharge it. And though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures...I am content to take it."
"If I spare them...I will not spare you." What a haunting and frightful line! Yet look how Jesus responds...what a Savior!
Perhaps one of the most familiar passages in Scripture, well known both among Christians and the world, is the caution to not tend to the speck in another's eye while you have a log in your own eye. The warning is both that your first interest should be that you yourself are not offending God with your own wickedness, and that why should anyone listen to you reprimand them on some failing of theirs when you practice such a more severe wickedness yourself... such as judging others as you go about condemning your neighbor's speck.
We are called to rebuke false teaching and identify false teachers, but is our work as Christians to be reforming our neighbor? We all see folks living corrupt lives, whether it's someone publicly drunk and assaulting others or someone simply mowing their lawn rather than attending a Sunday worship service - is our calling to identify every sin of everyone who doesn't know the Lord, or even to point-out ever failing of those who do know the Lord, and condemn them for it?
When Paul was preaching in Ephesus the book of Acts tells us that the people stopped buying statues of idols and brought corrupt books to be publicly burned, personal and cultural reform took place - but the text doesn't tell us that Paul went about instructing people to burn their statues and books, etc, rather the Bible records that "he entered the synagogue and continued speaking out boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God".
Jesus doesn't reform folks He re-births them, when men are saved they don't merely clean-up their acts they become new creatures, salvation is not men changing their actions it's Jesus changing their hearts. Paul preached Jesus, who He is and what He did, and because men's hearts were changed their actions followed suit... they didn't need to be told to stop getting drunk and assaulting people and to get to church - as they were continually taught the truth of the Bible it was no longer their interest to get drunk and assault people and it was their interest to worship God and fellowship with His people.
These men in Ephesus were not merely reforming away from sin - they were conforming to the will and way of Jesus. It wasn't a reform movement that caused them to reform - it was being reborn, becoming new creatures, learning more about Jesus and the Holy Spirit conforming them more and more to Him. Now, lest we shift our attention from pointing-out the failing of others to measuring the progress of those saved but not saved enough for us, the passage telling us of Paul preaching Jesus and the converted coming under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, tells us -
"this took place for two years, so that all who lived in Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks".
Today as I was walking to my car, another car passed right next to me playing laud and offensive music. The lyrics contained a substantial amount of profanity and sexual content. I could feel my face tighten and my lips were pursed; I gave the driver a strong, disgusted stare. I was offended!
Have you ever been in a similar situation? Have you ever taken personal offense at the shortcomings of another, even if their actions aren't directed toward you?
As I pondered my response to the situation, I realized that my initial offense was biblical. The music I heard degraded women and used unnecessarily coarse language that was sexually explicit. All of these violate God' prescription for an abundant life.
Paul tells us to"...Hate what is evil..." (Romans 12:9). My adverse reaction to the music was a result of the change that Christ has made in me. As a result, I now am opposed to what God opposes. I "...Hate what is evil..."
Yet, while my hatred of evil was holy, my response to the unholiness was not. Returning evil with a hurtful glance was neither healthy nor holy. Later in Romans 12, Paul instructs the Romans not to return evil with evil, but he teaches them (and Us!) to "...overcome evil with good" (12:21).
I have come to realize that sometimes I use the evil of others to excuse or condone the evil I harbor in my heart and that which I live through my actions. However, the truth of the matter is, evil is evil. It doesn't matter who does it, what motivates it, or under what circumstances it is perpetrated. As maturing believers in Christ, we must grown to better discern good from evil, not allow excuses for any evil to flow from our hearts, and work to live lives where all evil (ours and others) is "overcome with good."
"He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
I heard this verse shared at a wedding we recently attended. While the intent was to view the verse within the context of this couples newly formed marriage, I though what an impactful verse this could have on all of us.
What does the Lord require of us?
Be just. Show mercy. Be humble.
This sounds so simple, yet can be so difficult to live out some days when it feels the world is not just, you may not want to show mercy and pride begins to creep the way. This verse is a great reminder that not only "should" we do these things despite human desires at times, but that it is required. Imagine what each of our lives and our whole church would look like if each of us acted justly, loved mercy, and remained humble...
On Sunday, my wife and I had the opportunity to attend an 80th birthday party for an old church friend we have known for almost 40 years. It was great to reminisce of past memories about the church with her, and the families that attended there, and also talk with some of those folks that were also attending the party. It's amazing how time rewinds and the connections made years ago seem so current. The joys and sorrows that were shared together as brothers and sisters in Christ on our life journeys become so vivid again. It's more than an emotional tie, and not really a physical tie, but in reality a spiritual tie that unites us together by the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. It takes more than a village...it takes a church to bring purpose to our lives and glorify God!
1 Blest be the tie that binds
our hearts in Christian love;
the fellowship of kindred minds
is like to that above.
2 Before our Father's throne
we pour our ardent prayers;
our fears, our hopes, our aims are one,
our comforts and our cares.
3 We share our mutual woes,
our mutual burdens bear,
and often for each other flows
the sympathizing tear.
4 When we are called to part,
it gives us inward pain;
but we shall still be joined in heart,
and hope to meet again.
5 This glorious hope revives
our courage by the way;
while each in expectation lives
and waits to see the day.
6 From sorrow, toil, and pain,
and sin, we shall be free;
and perfect love and friendship reign
through all eternity.