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This week, pastor Matt Cohen kicks off week two of our August sermon series on “God’s Family” by showing from the Scriptures that “God’s family gathers.” The text is Colossians 3:15-17. He answers the question: Why does God’s family gather?

Citylight Manayunk | August 8, 2021 from Citylight Church on Vimeo.

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Church Membership by Jonathan Leeman

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Dear downhearted,

What is making you want to flee or fight today? Maybe regime change, debilitating illness, home eviction, or dying family is no longer a looming threat but your reality as we close 2020.

Mephibosheth feared and endured similar troubles. For him, regime change included the death of his grandfather, King Saul, and father, Jonathan (2 Sam 1:17). At five, he was crippled for life in a fall (2 Sam 4:4). To avoid the new regime, he fled far from home (2 Sam 9:4). 

Yet before Mephibosheth’s birth, David had lovingly promised his friend Jonathan, Mephibosheth’s father, to do good to his offspring (1 Sam 20:42). When he became King of Israel, David sought to find one of Jonathan’s family to whom he “may show the kindness of God” (2 Sam 9:3). 

Ziba, Saul’s servant, told King David of crippled Mephibosheth (9:4). David had him brought from afar to his palace in Jerusalem. Mephibosheth knew he was “a dead dog” before his grandfather’s sworn enemy (9:8). 

David’s first words to him were “Mephibosheth! … Do not fear…” (9:6-7). Instead of execution, David declared that Mephibosheth would eat at his own table always, “like one of the king’s sons” (9:11).

Fearful one, like Mephibosheth, you also were dead in sin before the righteous King of kings (Eph 2:3). Yet a promise between God the Father and King Jesus “to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us” in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus is your certain hope of eternal deliverance from the most dreadful thing: separation from God (Eph 2:7, 2 Thess 1:9). 

If you are a Christian, consider the kindness of God in transferring you from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son (Col 1:13). In Christ, “you have not been give a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have been given the Spirit of adoption as sons by whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” amidst all the tribulations endured in this enemy territory (Rom 8:13).

Like you, Mephibosheth’s troubles didn’t end even after years of fellowshipping with the king. One of David’s sons usurped the throne, and Ziba, Mephibosheth’s servant, saw an opportunity to consolidate power by betraying his master (2 Sam 15-16:4). Nevertheless, Mephibosheth remained loyal to David in steadfast love by grieving as he awaited the return of his king. 

When David safely returned to Jerusalem, he questioned this son of a promise saying, “Why did you not come with me?” (19:25). With an unkempt beard, unwashed clothes, and ungroomed feet, Mephibosheth’s obvious mourning confirmed his response: Ziba had betrayed him (19:24). Nevertheless, he entrusted himself to David saying, “Do therefore what seems good to you” (19:27). 

David granted Mephibosheth and his betrayer each half of the possessions Ziba had craved in their entirety. In response, Mephibosheth attested to his deepest fear and truest love by responding, Oh, let [Ziba] take it all, since my lord the king has come safely home” (19:30).

Fear exposes what we love perhaps more pointedly than any other emotion (Groves & Smith, Untangling Emotions). Years of dwelling in the king’s presence had formed Mephibosheth’s heart to love the king who had shown him the kindness of God more than he feared losing power, provision, or pride. 

May your love for God abound more and more that you may increasingly not fear the loss of any earthly thing, even your very life (Phi 1:9). May you thus bear “the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” until the day of the safe return of our True King, Jesus (Phi 1:10).

With certain hope of his safe return,

A Member of Citylight

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Dear downhearted, 

As we approach the turn of a calendar, perhaps you feel the weight of a long year. Maybe these lengthy winter nights epitomize the emotional darkness of your days. 

“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near”, you may read hopelessly for the pall of exhaustion that envelopes the way to him. Yet these very words offer light on the path, for even in writing to you I have sung them.

God has graciously given songs, especially the book of Psalms, to his people as aids in communing with him. Certainly, many anthems are authored on great days of victory (e.g., Ps 92), yet many of the psalms were written for times of distress (e.g., Ps 130). 

After being betrayed, beaten, and crucified, Jesus Christ demonstrated the power of songs as expressions of prayerful trust in weakness (Matt 26:47-27:56). While bearing the unimaginable burden of the sins of all who would believe in him, Jesus uttered the words of a psalm he had likely sung in synagogue year after year (Matt 27:46). 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Ps 22:1). Christ intended the meaning of the entirety of this psalm from the cross in the same way that the first line of the hymn above alluded to the promises proclaimed in its remainder:

“Afflicted saint, to Christ draw near,

Your Savior’s gracious promise hear;

His faithful Word you can believe:

That as your days your strength shall be.”

Long before Christ cried out this psalm on the cross, God had promised to take away his judgements against his people, to strengthen them in weakness, and to sing victoriously over them (Zeph 3:14-17). When Christ was resurrected and glorified, he sent the Spirit to those who trust Christ’s finished work, which fulfilled his promise to be in the midst of his people, now the church.

Perhaps, like me, your weariness is sometimes heightened by singing the anthems of this world. Let us forsake exalting unattainable wealth, security, and romance in song. Rather, let us exalt the One who has finished the work we could never have completed. Even in our weariness, let Paul and Silas, who sang hymns in prison after being tortured, serve as our examples (Acts 16:25). 

If you are a Christian, your exultant praise of God follows after what he will loudly sing over you as a member of his church, his blood-bought bride, when Christ returns victoriously.

“So, sing with joy, afflicted one;

The battle’s fierce, but the victory’s won!

God shall supply all that you need;

Yes, as your days your strength shall be.”

(John Fawcett, 1782; Constance Dever, 2018)

 

Singing with you,

A Member of Citylight

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Dear downhearted,

I understand how you feel. I have dealt with loneliness much of my life. Even in the midst of friends and family, we can feel misunderstood, ignored, unknown, and even unloved.  Sometimes we look at others and wish we had the friends and family they have; behind the veil though, they deal with these same issues at times.

Did you know that Christ Himself dealt with loneliness? In Isaiah 53:3 we read, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”  Imagine that. The Lord of all the universe, full of infinite love and compassion for His people,  despised. He was rejected. He was held in low esteem – a nobody that people couldn’t care less about. And yet these things did not define Him. While people rejected Him, He knew who He was. 

Do you know who you are? If you are in Christ, you are a precious child of God, one whom the Lord of the heavens would do anything – anything – to have communion with.  You are known, understood, precious, and dearly loved by God (See John 3:16, Romans 8:37-39). Do you really believe that? I know there are times when I struggle to own this truth. I may acknowledge it, but I don’t really make my union with Christ my identity.

I encourage you at this time to look beyond the brokenness of this world and past the human relationships that at their best pale in comparison to communion with our Savior. I pray that you will find all your identity in Christ. No matter how good our relationships are in this world, they fail in light of the love of God. I pray that this fundamental Gospel truth – that you are dearly loved and fully known – would pass from mere assent to heartfelt conviction. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  You may have but a glimpse of the love of God for you; you will one day know this fully, just as your God knows you fully, even now. You are dearly loved and fully known.

Yours in Christ,

Citylight Member

P.S. I would encourage you to pick up a small book by John Owen called “Communion with God.”  Get the version by Puritan Paperbacks. Read it. Meditate on it. And know that while loneliness is at its core a human condition, intimacy and communion with our Lord is both now and forever our truth and the meaning of our lives.

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Dear downhearted, 

I have been thinking about you… how Christmas is normally your favorite time of the year and how much you love the hustle and bustle of the season. However, the uncertainty and stress of this year have contributed to you feeling tired, stressed, and worn out. So many areas of life seem hard right now: work, relationships, health, finances, political and racial division, and significant events being rescheduled or cancelled. You feel isolated and alone. You are exhausted and weary.

Weary One, you have been on my heart since our conversation last week, the fatigue and sadness in your voice… and now you can’t see your family this Christmas, everyone uninvited because of the pandemic. I am sorry, I know how much you were longing to be with your family. Please know that I am praying for you as I write you this letter.

Since we spoke I have been thinking about your family Christmas plans and the anomaly this year of being “uninvited” to events, the disappointment we feel when plans are cancelled and our expectations are crushed, especially when we are hungry for the familiar. I found myself reflecting. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to receive an invitation that we can wholeheartedly accept without even the lingering possibility of being uninvited, knowing this invitation would not be revoked?

The truth is that we have that invitation from Jesus. He says, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30). 

Weary One, I want to encourage you to reflect on how you might respond today to Jesus’ invitation, “Come to Me. He longs for you to come as you are, with your weariness and suffering, in your brokenness, shame, and sin. Accept His invitation for true rest, the salvation of your soul. Take a minute to remember who invites you: the One who gave sight to the blind and caused the deaf to hear and the lame to walk; the One who cleansed the leper, raised the dead to life, and brought the good news to the poor (Matthew 11:5-6).

He is able to save, but He does not stop there; He invites you to more. The very Son of God wants to have an intimate relationship with you. He doesn’t want you to just know about Him.  He invites you to come to Him, sit with Him, listen to Him, and abide in Him. He loves you.

He invites you to intentionally connect yourself to Him daily, so you might learn from His gentle and lowly heart and learn to embrace the gift of limits, His yoke.

May our Lord still your weary heart with His steadfast love.

Why should we hope in God over wealth

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Put your hope in God, not wealth because you will not use or be used by others, wealth will not satisfy, it is fleeting, and true hope is found in God alone.

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  • Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12
  • Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes Sydney Gradaneus

As we near the close of Genesis, Jacob blesses his family and we see his trust in God’s promised blessing and find hope for ourselves.

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Genesis 47:27-49:28

Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 2, Genesis 16-50, Gordon Wenham

Genesis: Tyndale Old Testament CommentariesDerek Kidner

As we begin to consider what motivates mission, we talk about the most fundamental reason: The glory of God.

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