Celebrating the Present

“The Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic. But now we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!’” (Numbers 11:4–6). When the Israelites faced difficulties as they journeyed through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, their hearts were quick to turn back to Egypt. Their experience shows us that, while nostalgia can be a good thing, there are two problems with it. First, nostalgia makes us gloss over the problems of the past. When the Israelites pined over how well they used to eat in Egypt, they ignored that they were slaves there—beaten when they didn’t meet their daily quotas and forced to throw their newborn male children into the Nile. Were they really better off? The second problem with nostalgia is that it makes us forget the blessings of the present. All the while that the Israelites were complaining, they were enjoying daily miracles. The Spirit of God was leading them in visible form, as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night (Exodus 13:21-22). The manna that they were complaining about was daily bread that miraculously appeared six days a week—concrete, tangible proof that God was providing for them. In the 40 years that they traveled by foot, their clothes never wore out and their feet didn’t swell (Deuteronomy 8:4).

Sometimes we find it easy to complain about the things that our church is not or that it doesn’t have—especially when we compare what we see today with the past. We need to take a moment to consider what we do have and to recognize God’s miraculous provision. Although we are a small church, we support 52 missionaries—here in Philadelphia and all over the world. At a time when it’s impossible to take the Bible into schools, we have a thriving school where over 150 children and their families experience the love of God daily. In the past year, four people came to salvation, fifteen were baptized, and two received the baptism in the Holy Spirit at our churches. Praise the Lord! Despite our challenges, God is truly with us! Let us strive to maintain thankful hearts before the Lord, never forgetting all the blessings that He pours out on us day by day!

This year, Highway Tabernacle celebrates 125 years of ministry to the city of Philadelphia. The theme for our celebration is, “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Present, and Anticipating the Future.”

Otis A. Fortenberry