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.
I wonder if any of the Israelites got it, that they were wandering around a desert 40 years because of their disobedience. I'm not talking about Moses, Aaron, or Miriam, Joshua or Caleb - I mean the unnamed people, the people who complained there was no meat so take us back to Egypt. Did any of them understand when God handed down a punishment, then they forgot? I Numbers 14, they rebelled:
Then all the congregation raised a loud cry, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the people of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The whole congregation said to them, "Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in the wilderness! 3 Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our littles ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back to Egypt?" 4 And they said to one another, "Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt."
The people were actually going to stone Moses and Joshua, but God stepped in, showing them His glory.
11 And the Lord said to Moses, "How long will this people despise me? And how long will they not believe in me, in spite of all the signs that I have done among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they."
Good thing for Moses that he didn't take God up on that offer. He declined God's offer to make it be about Moses.
It is said that Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)
I am not so meek. I am more like those Israelites, wandering around the desert, having to be reminded, over and over again that God is sovereign and good and just and omniscient and faithful and holy and immutable and merciful and loving. I keep trying to take control, thinking I know best, and when things don't go right, I want to go back to Egypt. Then God teaches me that He is in control, He knows exactly what He is going, and that I just need to rest in Him. As Pastor Jon said on Sunday, God knows the future and though it may seem painful at the time:
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28
Every time it happens, I think it's a revelation as if I am learning something brand new. Then I remember that I learned this already. But every time it happens, I get a little closer to God. I remember more quickly and the lesson brings me greater peace. And every time, I learn something a little more, a little bit differently. God will have His way because He is our Creator. I might think I can take control, but I cannot - nor should I, because I don't know the whole story. But I do need to be obedient. Even though I am not in control, God does have something for me to do - and I need to do it. But the outcome is for God's glory. And in that, I can rest and have peace.
I love the Lord for many reasons...near the top of my list as to why I love Him is the love He shows to me through our local church, Living Legacy. Coming to the congregation less than three years after Ken's death the search for my new identity and God's plan for my life were unclear. What was clear was that God had led me to Living Legacy. The blessings have filed my cup to overflowing. A large part of these blessings is the Hershey Community Group. Are you part of a Community Group? If yes, I pray that you are finding the blessings I have found in such a group. If not, I encourage you to become part of one and see how God uses the study and the fellowship of the group to grow you in the likeness of Christ.
I am writing this on a Friday afternoon following our Thursday eve meeting. This morning, via our group phone messages our leader, Doug Miller, sent a question for us to think about that flowed out of our discussion of 1 Peter 4. He admonished us not to discuss our answers on the text messages but to bring responses to the meeting next week. I will follow his directions about phone messages; however, I do want to share what came to my mind today as I read his question. What I will be sharing will not be printed in our weekly LLC Newsletter until after our next meeting. So...here goes...
As some of you know I have been using CH Spurgeon's "Morning and Evening Readings" as part of my daily devotional times since last September. When Doug posted his question this morning I immediately thought of Spurgeon's "Morning Reading" from yesterday, (February 11, 2021) Here is Doug's question and an edited version of what Spurgeon said. The question..."Based on our conversation, how do we as a church or community group help the world around us see/notice the love of Christ we have and display for one another? How will the world see our interactions as unique if they do not observe us when we are together?"
Spurgeon based his meditation on Acts 4:13 "Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus."
Spurgeon says, "A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ, beautifully and eloquently written, but the best life of Christ is His living biography, written out in the words and actions of His people. If we were what we profess to be, and what we should be, we should be pictures of Christ; yes, such striking likenesses of Him, that the world would not have to hold us up, look and say, 'Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness'; but they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, 'He has been with Jesus; he has been taught of Him; he is like Him; he has caught the very idea of the holy Man of Nazareth, and he works it out in his life and everyday actions"....Spurgeon concludes, "Be Godlike then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that all may say of you, "He has been with Jesus".
Something to think about in answer to Doug's question to our Community Group, don't you think?
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
The Prophet Isaiah foretells of a dark time to come to God's people. Isaiah tells of judgment to come in the form of captivity by the Babylonina nation. We in this day and age do not have to worry about being taken captive from another foreign power. We do face a form of captivity by being separated from society because of the pandemic. So society is held captive from each other and continuing in progress. So what can we learn from the prophet Isaiah? The book of Isaiah can be broken up into two sections. Chapters 1-39 gives an account of accusations by God and warnings of his upcoming wrath. Chapters 40-66 focuses on the promises of restoration and peace to come later. So what do we do after we come through different trials and tribulations? What do we do after we make a request known to God? What do we do in the meantime when we feel like we are in a holding pattern?
Chapter 40 gives us the answer to those questions: We accomplish it by renewing our faith in the Lord, through waiting on him with those answers. We show spiritual maturity by not taking things into our own hands. We give control to the only one who should have it: God. This is a very difficult task for any mortal man because we like to feel like we are in control.
Fortunately for us Isaiah Chapter 40 gives us some steps for us to take for renewing our faith in the Lord. In the earlier verses of Chapter 40 Isaiah reminds those that God is our unending source of strength. He generously gives to all who asks.
So our first step to renewing our faith is by staying close to him. So how do we practically accomplish this first step? One thing we could do is to cultivate a habit of a daily quiet time. As we spend time in God's word and talking to God in prayer it gives us a change to lay our burdens down at his feet and it can rejuvenate our Spirit.
The second step we need to take is to walk a narrow path of faith; this is not an easy road for us. One thing we need to do is to lean on only God for our sense of strength. How do we practically accomplish this? By waiting on God to act first and trusting in him alone. God's supply of strength never diminishes and it will always be available to us. As we accept our weakness and we depend on our heavenly father and trust in his perfect ways we will find his power never runs dry. With his grace our faith will grow, leading us on to Christ's likeness.
The third step we will find in Isaiah's example of submission to God. Isaiah's submissive heart showed how his heart longs for everyone to come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Isaiah's name means "the Lord is salvation". By submitting to God and walking in his salvation we avoid his wrath and experience his many blessings.
So to recap the NEXT STEP in our sanctification we need to take is to renew our faith by waiting on him. We do this by staying close to God, lean on him along and submit to his ways. By doing this he will give us everything we need to move onward and upwards.
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “ (Matthew 6:33)
Ampliatus. Urbanus. Stachys. Apelles. Aristobulus. Do any of those names sound familiar? Do you recognize them from Scripture? Do their spiritual accomplishments and stature of faith ring loudly in your mind as you hear their names? Probably not. In fact, not even the finest Bible scholars could tell you specifics concerning their service to God. Yet, Paul records each of these names as saints and servants in the Roman church in Romans 16.
Last Sunday as I spoke with several of you after worship, I noticed Fawn quietly lifting a chair to carry and stack at the back of the sanctuary. Knowing how bulky and heavy the chairs can be, I approached her and shared that she need not worry about carrying the chairs, others would be happy to put the chairs away. Without missing a beat, she responded saying, “Oh no, we all should pitch in and serve. I’m happy to do it!”
Those of us like Fawn are quiet, unassuming, meek and humble, and consequently many of us may at times overlook their service and strong faith. They serve not for human attention, but selflessly give of themselves in unseen ways, for God’s glory and to satisfy him. They have the same legacy of Urbanus and countless others throughout history. Today, let’s rejoice over and be thankful to God for our brothers and sisters who so faithfully serve, but much like Ampliatus, Stachys and Aristobulus, do so without accolade, simply seeking the glory of God and the good of his church. And as we do, let’s ask God for that same heart, that same passion, that same humility seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness above all else (Matthew 6:33).
9 The Samaritan woman said to him, "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (John 4:9-10)
28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:38)
"12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body - whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free - and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many...21 The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we threat with special honor." (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 & 21-23)
Last Sunday we began a study of the book of Habakkuk. Through our time together, we learned that Habakkuk's struggle with violence and injustice was not at the hands of a foreign advisory, but with this own people. They were hurting and taking advantage of one another, harming the ones who they should have been helping. As a result, their community was in peril.
The other day I was talking with two friends and was reminded of the beautiful culture we have at Living Legacy. We are a community of very different people, who seek to serve, support, understand, and love one another. And we do so not because we are all the same, but because we have embraced the truth that our difference are by God's design and that our strength as a community is partly attributed to our willingness and purposefulness in pursuing, learning from and living in an active relationship with those who are different than us. We learn more about God and better reflect God's beauty to the world, as we live in community with people who are designed differently than ourselves. This diversity of experience, gender, age, race, knowledge, interests, income, and personality serves us well as we see facets of Christ we wouldn't otherwise see, gives us the opportunity to use our gifts and talents sharpen and strengthen one another and creates a human tapestry that more fully displays the beauty and majesty of our Creator God.
Yet, we must remember, that this culture didn't happen by accident and won't continually flourish without us intentionally working to make it so. Daily we must be willing to lay down our lives and follow Christ, selflessly seeking out one another and pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones. We do this to serve and provide for our community, building relationships that go beyond affinity and are founded on a more solid foundation, the Rock, Jesus Christ. Let us not grow weary in seeking to make LLC a place where all people can find Jesus and in him find a home where they we will be loved, accepted, disciplined, and provided with an opportunity to sacrificially give of themselves to the God who has given them everything.
I totally agree with Patti's statement last week that she doesn't understand the idea of making New Year's resolutions. Another thing I don't understand is eating a fermented leafy vegetable, that really stinks when heated, and combine it with some totally acceptable pork, that tastes just fine by itself, and somehow think that eating this concoction will somehow give you good luck in the New Year. As a Christian, luck shouldn't even be in our vocabulary. Our lives are now ordained and orchestrated by the very creator of the universe, and there is nothing we can do or say or eat that modifies the will of God for our lives. As James says in chapter 4 verses 13-16, "Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit." Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while, and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that." But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil." Now don't get me wrong in thinking making a New Year's resolution is boasting or that making goals is a bad thing, but for some Christians perhaps seeking the Lord's will is not their first thought when making those goals. Perhaps that is why so many resolutions are never kept. The intentions were good, but not in the Lord's plans for our lives long term.
For me, I like the idea presented in Ecclesiastes 9:9-10a "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love all the days of your futile life which He has given you under the sun, all the days of your futility; for this is your reward in life and in your work which you have labored under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might." As I wake up each morning, my desire is to please God through my journey each day, even as I encounter the unexpected, I will enjoy life, serving my Lord with all my might!