One of the highlights of my week is to spend a few minutes after dinner with my kids reading and discussing a short devotion. This seems to usually happen on Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays, and sometimes Saturdays.
Currently, we’re going through a little devotional book called “Tune My Heart to Sing” which contains ninety devotions on hymns. We enjoy sharing the stories, taking turns reading, and (most of the time) singing the hymn which is the focus of each day’s devotion. (“Most of the time” meaning most of the time we do sing the hymn, and sometimes we enjoy it !) There is usually a lot of laughter – reading aloud in front of people is not easy ; sometimes words get twisted around. Singing in front of each other is not easy either !
I’ve been amazed at how many of the writers of the great hymns we know and love experienced terrible tragedies in their lives. Their songs provided comfort in times of distress and were powerful testimonies of God’s faithfulness in hardship. Philip Bliss, who wrote the words and music to “I Am So Glad That Jesus Loves Me,” was actually killed at age 38, along with his wife, when a bridge collapsed and the train they were riding crashed into a ravine. (Funny how we have in our minds that the writers of these hymns were old people – he died a young man.) He knew that our greatest comfort in life or death is not that we love the Lord, but that He loves us (1 John 4:10).
Charlotte Elliott (1789 – 1871) became disabled and bedridden for the latter years of her life. She wrote these well-known words :
Just as I am, without one plea
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come ! I come !
Consider how many people’s lives have been touched by that song ! Consider how God has used it as a part of that moment in some people’s life when they crossed the line of faith and received Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Some people might have thought Charlotte Elliott’s life was wasted, but after her death, friends and family found in an old trunk more than 1000 letters that had come to her from all over the world, thanking her for the courage, inspiration, and comfort her single, simple song had brought them.
On this Valentine’s Day, what a thrill to know that God loves you, no matter what your condition is in life right now ! There are many ways to spend Valentine’s Day. As for me, I’m going to have lunch with my mother-in-law, then take my kids to a basketball game. I’ll be walking in God’s love, aware of the people around me who need God’s love, and looking forward to seeing you tomorrow to celebrate God’s love together.
A Look Ahead
There are a number of things coming up at Emmanuel to keep on your “radar.”
New candidate for church membership. The Elder Board is pleased to announce that Kay Pettijohn has completed the 101 course, “Discovering Christ and the Church,” and has met with the elders concerning becoming a new member at Emmanuel. We give praise to God for Kay’s life and for the way God adds gifted, loving people to our church family.
Ladies Monday Night Bible Study. Let’s be in prayer for the start of the spring session of the ladies Monday night Bible Study which starts this coming Monday. Let’s pray that women would be profoundly impacted by the teaching of God’s Word. About half of this Monday night group is from Emmanuel ; about half is from outside our church.
Easter. We will have some special opportunities this Easter to celebrate, invite, and grow. Our theme will be “Victory !” On Easter Sunday, there will be an early service of worship facilitated by some of our young people. Afterwards, we will enjoy breakfast together, baptisms, then our Easter worship celebration at 10:15. The Easter weekend will begin with a Seder Meal on Good Friday evening, April 3. (We have several people who have asked to be baptized Easter Sunday. If you would like to be baptized, please let Jeff or me know.)
Upcoming Sunday themes : As we move toward Easter, our sermon themes will be on “Christ’s Victory Command.” Five times in the Gospels and Acts, the Lord gave a particular command to those following Him. The command is translated in various ways – “Be of good cheer” ; “Take courage” ; “Take heart” – and then is followed by some reassuring promise of the Lord’s care. Someone has called this the Lord’s “victory command” and it will be our theme leading up to Easter. On February 22, Craig Diestelkamp, who is a licensed counselor at Live at Peace Ministries in St Louis, will kick off our thinking along these lines with a sermon from the life of Joseph. Joseph said to his brothers, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” If you’ve ever wondered about bad things happening to good people, you won’t want to miss Craig’s sermon on the 22nd. Craig has been my personal counselor as I’ve been doing my griefwork. God has given him a tremendous gift of insight and encouragement. It would be an awesome Sunday to invite a friend.
Pastor Search Team. Our Pastor Search Team will meet this coming week. Let’s be sure to pray for their work in leading us toward God’s choice of a new Senior Pastor at Emmanuel. The success of this process depends on prayer, and that’s something we can all be doing right now.
301 Adult Course / Sticky Groups. There are many ways to plug in at Emmanuel. If you’re not currently part of a Sticky Group (home group), please let myself or Brian and Anna Azevedo know of your interest in joining a group. We can provide you with information on a group for you. Also, we will be organizing our adult 301 course – “Discovering Your Ministry” – this spring on Sunday mornings. More details coming.
I hope to see you tomorrow !
Adult classes and activities for young people at 9:00.
Worship at 10:15. “Becoming a Contagious Christian,” Acts 8:26-39.