Deb’s Devotions 9/8/2022

The September Bible reading plan for adults and children is based on the word “Rest.” The scripture for the first day is Genesis 2:1-3 “Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.” NJKV

God commanded that His people "remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy," Exodus 20:8-11. Every person and animal is to rest. Every so often I wonder: If evolution is true, how did rest and sleep enter into an ever-evolving natural world? If you Google that question, you will find that actual scientific studies have been conducted to find an answer.

But for those who hold the Bible as God’s Word, and believe that He is the Creator of everything, we know that rest is a Divine gift to us. Was God exhausted from all His very-good creative activity, so that on the seventh day he collapsed into His Lazy-Boy for a nap? And He enjoyed it so much that He added it to His list of commandments? No, I think not.

The biblical concept of rest is based on belief that our Creator has created everything we need, SO THAT we can rest from all activity on the seventh day; and for the Jews this command extended to the seventh year and included letting the land rest, Exodus 23:10-12, and the Year of Jubilee on the 50th year (the year following seven sabbath years), Leviticus chapter 25. During this year everything rested; people, animals, and land—it was a year of liberty dedicated to rest, restoration of property, and freeing people from debts, servitude, and slavery.

All of this resting is a declaration of dependance on God and His care for His creation. They could rest because they knew God had provided for all of their needs on the previous six days, six years, 49 years! And all of that was to be a witness to the surrounding nations that God was their King who actively cared for them.

How, then, do we understand sabbath rest? Answers vary from more strident guidelines of what can and cannot be done on a Sunday, to a more general concept of a day to not work and spend time doing things that are restorative to body, mind, and spirit. That is a good topic for discussion in your small groups and families. We also recognize that some people have jobs that require they work on Sundays (which includes pastors!), so it is important to choose another day of the week to rest.

Attending Sunday school and church for corporate worship of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ is vital for our spiritual formation, for mutual support and encouragement in the body of faith AND is a declarative act to the world that we CAN rest because we know God has, is, and will care for our needs. I believe sabbath rest is a commandment because of that very fact—I trust in my Creator to care for me in every way.

I pray that during this month of reading about REST, we each will be drawn closer to the heart of Jesus who offers the invitation: “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.” Mark 6:31.

I’m praying for you.

Pastor Deb



Deb’s Devotions – 8/31/22

I don’t use the word “remain” very much in everyday speech; it seems too formal. I use the word “stay” for the same purpose; Stay here/there, stay put, stay silent. But a quick grammar search helps me understand a slight difference between the two words: remain emphasizes where you are already. I could say, “I am going to stay at my daughter’s house next week.” But I wouldn’t say, “I’m going to remain at my daughter’s house next week” unless I’m already there.
When Jesus was in the upper room celebrating Passover with his disciples, as recorded in John 13-17, he continued to teach them; these were his final face-to-face lessons before he was arrested and crucified. John 15:1-17 is a beautiful image that depicts the richness of the word “remain” (or “abide” which is the same Greek word).
A branch is already connected to a vine; in order for it to stay alive, grow, and produce fruit, it must remain connected to the vine, which gives it life. Jesus told them, “As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” 15:9-11 NKJV
These followers had been in daily relationship with Jesus for three years. Jesus knew what was about to happen to him and that it would be a terrifying shock for them; the human response to watching him be tortured and die would be to run away, give up, and hide. But Jesus encouraged them that no matter what happened, they were to continuously remain in his love, steadfastly hold on to his teachings, and that when they had done so, the remaining result would be joy and love!
In light of our study in Ephesians, what can we learn from this? Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love…” And what commandment did he emphasize?
-“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” V 12
-“These things I command you, that you love one another.” V 17.
There is a mysterious beauty in the tri-command to remain in love-obedience-joy with the Father-Son-Spirit, and remain in the loving community of believers. I think the apostle Paul was working this truth out in his letter to the Ephesians; you have already been made alive in Christ, unified in Christ, and are members of Christ’s body—remain there—and then live in loving-obedient-joyful community:
“Instead, be filled with the Spirit [who remains in you], speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit [remain in loving community]. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [joy remains].” Ep 5:18b-20
Christ-like joy is not dependent on our circumstances or our feelings; the joy of Christ is a reality for those who remain where they already are–in His love.
In light of Jesus’ command to remain in His love, read John 17:20-26.
May we, the believers at The Grove, learn this truth that the Spirit is teaching us; the fullest expression of Christ’s joy is when we steadfastly remain in loving community with Him, and with each other.
I’m praying for you,
Pastor Deb


Deb’s Devotions – 8/24/22

What do the people around us, say about us? ”Oh, that Wakemans Grove bunch; so humble and so gentle, so patient, so caring,” said pastor Jim Hardenbrook in his sermon on Sunday, when he brought us God’s Word from Ephesians 4:1-16. I appreciated how he encouraged us in our daily life as faithful followers of Jesus Christ, especially as we live in our current divisive culture. When the apostle Paul wrote this letter to the church at Ephesus, he encouraged them to “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” When we live like that, people will take notice!
When pastor Jim mentioned the story in Acts 18:24-26 of how Priscilla & Aquila invited Apollos to their home and gently and humbly “explained to him the way of God more adequately,” I began to think about how we incorporate that attitude and action into our lives.
The pandemic changed how we “do church.” The move, for most churches, to online services has allowed for continued virtual presence which provides numerous opportunities for those who cannot attend church for one reason or another. But this also created challenges for, and loss of, in-person attendance. For three years, I have been involved in conversations with church leaders and congregants that revolve around the desire for everyone to return to in-person worship.
And what really drives that desire? We can listen to sermons online 24/7, if we want. Coming back to in-person attendance isn’t about listening to the preacher (much as I’d like to think)! The desire for return is about fellowship; for corporate worship and prayer, for presence, for oneness, Ephesians 4:4-6. Together “we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” 4:15-16.
Speak gently and humbly to each other; begin your invitation to return to church with the words, “We miss you. You are a vital part of the body and we want to grow in the knowledge of Jesus, together.”
“Oh, that Wakemans Grove bunch; so humble and so gentle; so patient, so caring.”
For Sunday August 28, please read Ephesians chapter 3, and 4:17-5:20.
I’m praying for you.
Pastor Deb


Deb’s Devotions – 8/17/22

On the street where Bob and I live, city trash pickup is Thursday mornings. So, Wednesday evenings we go around the house and empty trash cans, place the bags in the Toter trash cart and wheel it out to the curb. Early Thursday mornings, the trash trucks empty all the carts and haul the trash away to the city landfill. One of us wheels the cart back into the garage where it silently waits to be again be filled with our trash.
I like the Wednesday evening trash round-up; having a clean and empty bag in each trash can is satisfying. Putting that trash out by the curb where it disappears from our home and our life makes me happy. A fresh start each week! But we know it doesn’t really disappear; it goes to the city landfill and I don’t know what happens to it there.
This past Sunday, the CBYF and leaders shared about their trip to the Momentum Youth Conference, at which the theme was “Rewired” based on Ezekiel 36:26, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.”
They each shared an experience that has stayed with them, and I was deeply grateful for their testimonies! Here is the summary of the theme:
“What causes us to sin? What moves us to holiness? What part of
us initiates belief? What is inside of us that generates doubt?
There is only one thing – our hearts. Only the Gospel is beautiful
enough to REWIRE our heart and produce in it all the affections
that will cause us to live new lives. Throughout the Bible, God is
chiefly after our hearts. Enjoy Jesus, and he will change your
heart.”
While the trash from my home is removed weekly to the landfill to slowly (or never) decompose, the trash/sin in my human heart is completely removed and destroyed through faith in Jesus Christ our Lord!
“The LORD is merciful and loving, slow to become angry and full
of constant love. He does not keep on rebuking; he is not angry
forever. He does not punish us as we deserve or repay us
according to our sins and wrongs. As high as the sky is above the
earth, so great is his love for those who honor him. As far as the
east is from the west, so far does he remove our sins from us.”
Psalm 103:8-12
Thank you CBYF for reminding us of this great and wonderful truth!
“There is no condemnation now for those who live in union with
Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit, which brings us life in union
with Christ Jesus, has set me free from the law of sin and death.”
Romans 8:1-2


Greetings

Greetings brothers and sisters! I am “back in the saddle” after a relaxing Florida vacation with our family. And I [mostly] have the sand vacuumed out of our car!
I listened to Brother Kevin Daggett’s message from this last Sunday, and was drawn to his summary that, “God called us into life; He called us for a purpose. God invited us. Paul reminds us, that though we were dead because of our sin, God gave us life.”
God’s “immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe” is the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at God’s right hand! Ephesians 1:19-20. This power, God’s gift to us, is what gives us the power to LIVE each day.
In the Christ-less life, the YOLO life, offers no hope for now & eternity.
In the Christ-filled life, the made-alive-life, we have great hope for now & eternity!
What are you doing with this Good News today?
Lean into God’s strength; He will provide you with all you need!
Pastor Deb


Greetings Brothers and Sisters

Greetings Sisters and Brothers!
This past Sunday we were blessed by the message given by Brother Joey Lear as he shared his personal testimony of grief and loss, and victory and joy. “Life is too short….to worry, Mt 6:25-34; to have broken relationships with others, Romans 12:16-18; and to not be right with God, John 21:15-17. He emphasized that our relationships with other believers reflects our relationship with God, and these relationships are a testimony of Christ’s love and unity to the world. I am thankful for such a reminder and challenge to us as we strive to love God first, and faithfully follow Jesus every day.
This Sunday 7/24 the message will be “Open my eyes,” Ephesians 1:15-23. As I pray over this message and over each of you, I ask that the Holy Spirit will truly open our spiritual eyes so we better understand God at work inside each of us, and open our physical eyes so we will notice God at work all around us.
Peace in His name,
Pastor Deb


Salutations

To the saints at the Grove, who are faithful in Jesus Christ, good afternoon! What a lovely thunderstorm we had earlier this morning-thank You God for nurturing Your creation.
I encourage you to continue thinking about and discussing the following from this last Sunday’s message:
-If you were to write a letter and begin it with a salutation, how would you identify yourself as a new creation in Christ?
-What is distinctive about how we live, and how we worship, that makes us identifiable as Jesus followers?
This coming Sunday, July 10, the sermon text will be Ephesians 1:3-14, and the message title is “In Him.”
Remember the theme verses from Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”
May we each be listening to the Spirit of Jesus who has showered us in God’s grace and peace as we embody His Good News in this world.
Pastor Deb