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.
Years ago, Point of Grace released a song entitled “When Love Came Down”. The lyrics point to the birth of Jesus Christ, appealing to “everyone on earth to believe that the child was born, the star shone bright, and love came down at Christmas Time”. Last December, Pastor Jon provided a short devotional book to the congregation for reading during the month of December. The devotional, written by Sinclair Ferguson and titled “Love Came Down at Christmas” highlighted each verse of the 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (commonly referred to as the “love chapter”), connecting the most comprehensive description of love ever penned to the birth of Jesus Christ. A friend gifted a book authored by Bob Sorge titled “The Cross” in which he provides detailed contextual commentary on the sacrificial death of Christ in order to
redeem sinful humanity, clearly making the point that Christ’s death is love perfectly manifested.
As I reflect on Christmas time, I am overwhelmed by Christ’s love for me and for sinful man. Christ left the splendor of heaven behind to become a man destined to die a horrible, humiliating death at the hands of the very men (and women) he came to redeem. Phil 2:6-8 states that Christ, “though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.
As I reflect on Christmas time, I am equally astounded by the Father’s love for me and for rebellious, sinful man, in that He created me/us, realizing that we would be sin vessels, unable to be reconciled to God’s holy standard unless God also provided THE way for redemption. That way to truth and life is God’s perfect Son. Most of us are very familiar with John 3:16, the verse that succinctly describes this truth – “for God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”. The prophet Isaiah further states that “it was the will of the Lord to crush him [Christ]; He has put Him to grief, when His soul makes an offering for guilt” (Isaiah 53:19). At Calvary, God demonstrated His massive love for the world by “expending the entirety of His wrath upon His Son. Tipping the cup, He emptied its contents. And then, when His Son was crying out to Him, He
turned His face away and forsook Him – because of the magnitude of His loving plan to redeem us” (Sorge, p. 54).
As I reflect on Christmas time, I am confronted with my inadequacy and inability to love Christ with the kind of love He demonstrated for me. I will also never be able to love God the Father to the degree and magnitude of His perfect love towards me. My humanity and my sin nature also make it impossible for me to love others completely, sacrificially, continually – you get the picture. The Holy Spirit is dubbed “the Helper” (John 15:26). Without the help of the Holy Spirit, not only will I fail to love others
as Christ first loved me, I will also be blinded to the truth of Who Christ is and my need for Christ as a Savior. I often pray for the Holy Spirit to help me love Christ the way that Christ deserves to be loved, having finally recognized that I will never be able to love fully and perfectly on my own . . . and I trust in faith that this prayer will be answered.
Finally, as I reflect on Christmas time, I can’t help but fast forward to the perfect expression of Christ’s love for me demonstrated on Calvary. John wrote that Christ “loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding His blood for us” (Rev 1:5). Recorded in the Gospel of John is Christ’s assertion that the greatest form of love is that “someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Christ demonstrated this love when He died for me, but He improved upon it – I was His enemy when He died
for me. “For God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Thank you, God, for loving me so much that you created me anyway, knowing that I would be a sinner deserving death. Thank you, God, for loving me so much that you created the perfect redemption plan through the death of your perfect and only Son, as a substitute for me. Thank you, Christ, for being willing to leave the splendor of heaven to embrace humanity as a human child, for the purpose of paying the penalty of sin for me through the painful, humiliating, horrific death on the cross of Calvary. Your perfect love is demonstrated from manger to cross, from the cradle to the empty grave. Thank you, Holy Spirit, for bearing witness to “these things” and helping me to better understand the mystery that is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Don't you love Thanksgiving? It is an awesome time of the year. The air is crisp. It is time for pumpkins, apples, harvest, and it is often just a happy, joyful time of the year. It should be a time of celebration and reflection. But I think it is best when it is simple. Simple is good.
I don't know about your life or family but ours is always hectic and fast paced. I need to take or make Thanksgiving time a simple time. That's not always possible and sometimes takes some effort. But as I was thinking about Thanksgiving and giving thanks, I was reminded of a passage of Scripture, Psalm 136. It covers twenty-six verses. Meditate on these verses. It begins with a call or command to give thanks. (vs. 1) Then a refrain that comes to us twenty-six times. "For His lovingkindness is everlasting." Do you think something that God, through the psalmist repeats twenty-six times might be important!
You may be thinking, "well yeah, but this has been a difficult and challenging year." You know it has and I would say that every year is. But think of that refrain, "for His lovingkindness is everlasting." Reflect and remember that with all the difficulties and challenges that come, God is still good. He has been through each of those challenges with you. So, as you reflect don't ignore the difficulties but embrace them and exclaim, God you are good, because your "lovingkindness is everlasting." Don't miss that last word. Everlasting! He has saved us, brought us through, and has been with each challenge, and will be forever!
"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting."
I can’t speak for men, but I think among women there is this stigma. Many of us are always running... taking this kid to soccer, that one to an appointment, trying to get dinner on, making sure the house is put together, laundry done, and so on. In my own life, it has felt like I’ve been running on a treadmill for years, getting nowhere. Every single moment filled with something. After a recent move, this strange thing happened. I dropped my kids off at their new bus stop and rather than spending an hour in the car driving them to and from school, I had this space. This little window before work that I could just sit and enjoy my coffee with the Lord. Sometimes my husband will come in and sit with me, sometimes it’s just me. I found that often I was so not used to having this space that I’d just veg out on my phone, playing a word game or scanning Facebook. I’d miss this beautiful chance to read scripture, pray, or just sit in His presence. I found that if I wasn’t intentional with that time, I’d lose it. I would just squander this little treasure away.
I was considering how this is related to us in scripture in the story of Mary and Martha.
“As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 NIV
I think many of us can really relate to Martha. We know what it feels like to have more things to do than time to get it all done. I believe we can all understand her frustration with Mary in that moment. Jesus, however, doesn’t have the same timeline or concerns that we do. He tells Martha that Mary has chosen what is better.
In our own day to day, hectic lives, it’s not always easy to remember. The way of Martha seems so much more noble and likable but Jesus says few things are needed, or indeed only one. All the things we feel have to be done right now are only temporary in the greater picture. There is nothing more important and no better place to be than sitting in Jesus’ presence, listening at his feet.
I think many people look at religion as a path to peace and safety and comfort and even prosperity. And many of the world’s religions that men have concocted offer just that - they have no power to provide any of it, but they appeal to that desire in men. Even many who give their attention to Christianity, who go to church on Sundays and post vaguely Christian themed notes on social media sites (like pictures of baby angels watching over us or greeting card style ‘be the reason someone smiles today’ memes), are often seeking peace and safety and comfort and hope - not truth and the holy God we are to serve and obey.
But the Christianity presented in the Bible not only doesn’t promise us peace but promises us hardship. Where popular tv and best selling ‘Christian’ authors get the notion that coming to Jesus means entering into a life of safety and comfort, and even prosperity, and how they enjoy the great multitude of followers who believe what they’re teaching is Christianity is a tragedy of the contemporary church era.
Ron, from a hospital bed, with his neck in a brace, and a variety of tubes and cables plugged into him, just the other day told me that he counts his accident and subsequent hospitalization to be a blessing. Now, a lot of churchgoers might announce a similar statement, recognizing it to be the proper religious-based sentiment, but Ron was sharing about his opportunity to share his faith and the gospel message with the staff tending to him, and the personal lessons the Holy Spirit is teaching him through this difficult event.
Here’s what the Bible, not popular tv and best selling ‘Christian’ authors, but the Bible itself (Phil 1:29) says about what those coming to Jesus can expect, what kind of life is promised the Christian -
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to . . .”
To what, to enjoy peace and safety and comfort and prosperity?
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to . . . suffer on His behalf.”
Of course the abundantly joyful end of the Christian’s story is that we will come into an eternal peace and safety and comfort and prosperity that will be far more peaceful and safe and prosperous than any peace and safety and comfort and prosperity this world can imagine.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you.”
~ 1 Peter 1:3-4
Ramona to Jackie: When is my next time to write the article for the LLC Newsletter?
Jackie to Ramona: You are scheduled for the Newsletter Devotional in August.
Ramona to Jackie: Thanks, I thought it was about time.
Ramona's thought process: Hum, I used the word 'article' and Jackie said 'devotional'. Are they the same or does the word choice make a difference in what I send to Jackie? Words mean things and I need to write in the perspective of 'devotional' not an "article". Next action? Go to dictionary and review the meaning of 'devotional'.
Ramona's action: Go to my copy of Webster's dictionary with the prayer, "Lord, make me teachable."
Next step: What is devotion? Back to Webster's: Devotion means ardent affection; zealous attachment specifically religious fervor; prayers or supplications especially as designed for private worship as, a book of devotions.
Conclusion from the word study of 'devotional': As various folk write a 'Devotional" for the LLC Newsletter we are writing something that can lead those reading to engage in prayer and private worship! What a wonderful way to view the devotions that have been submitted over the past months... we have a resource in LLC Newsletters... We have a 'book' that leads us to more ardent affection of our loving Lord. As each of us takes the time to read 'the devotional' in the LLC Newsletter month by month we have as Webster defines devotional, a brief worship service.
Reflecting on 'devotional ' here are two thoughts for the August 2023 LLC Newsletter
#1 Pastor Jon's sermon on July 23 'What is your and my place of serving in the mission and ministry of Living Legacy Church?
#2 A comment I read this morning by SIM USA (a mission organization) president of updates Randy Fairman "It’s through our local churches that we learn how to read God’s Word and how to pray. There, we experience redemptive relationship and walk the journey of discipleship in community. And it’s there that we are encouraged, equipped, and inspired to disciple others in turn."
1. Believers in Prison
I spend every Tuesday with local prisoners; many of them are followers of CHRIST. These prisoners speak about how they used to be slaves to sin. Now, they rejoice is JESUS their SAVIOR. Romans 6:18 states, when you repent and trust in Jesus, “you [are set] free from sin and [become] slaves to righteousness.” While they are still imprisoned, they are now free to be servants of Christ. Such is our calling.
2. 4th of July
On the 30th of June, Ashley and I went to the Hershey Symphony Orchestra’s 4th of July concert entitled An American’s Salute. It was an encouragement to us, and we would like to share it with you all. It was unabashedly God-centered. The conductor of the orchestra is a local pastor and quoted Charles M. Province:
“It is the soldier, not the minister
who has given us freedom of religion…
It is the soldier, not the poet
who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer
who has given us freedom to protest.
It is the soldier, not the lawyer
who has given us the right to a fair trial…
It is the soldier who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag…
He reminded us that we are absolutely thankful for our military members who lay down their lives for us, but we cannot NOT FORGET that the LORD is the source of these good gifts that we freely enjoy in the United States. James 1:17a states, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the FATHER.” With thankful hearts, we praise the LORD this 4th of July for our freedom to praise and share HIM openly. This is not the case in so many countries.