How do you do it? Live for Jesus

And the journey continues… James. This New Testament book is Oh so practical in nature. It was written by James, the oldest brother of Jesus. After his conversion, he became a pillar of the Christian church in Jerusalem and was widely known. His opening lines direct this letter to the dispersed Jewish Christians who had been scattered abroad after the death of Stephen (Acts 7:54-60). James is referred to many times in the New Testament as Jesus appeared to him personally after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7), was known as a pillar in the church (Galatians 2:9), was visited by Paul on various occasions, was Paul’s first choice of whom to tell upon being released from prison, (Acts 12:17), was important in the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15:13, was the brother of Jude (Jude 1:1) and history records that he was martyred in A.D. 62.

His short letter of 5 Chapters is packed with practical knowledge and instruction on how to live out a life committed to Christ that is filled with faith and good works. James was a servant of Christ and desired that those following Jesus serve Him wholeheartedly. It is filled with wisdom on how to treat others, tame the tongue and submit to God. If you desire to learn to think biblically it is a great book to memorize. The truths will permeate your being and infuse godly thinking into your mind. As James would say, it leads to solid faith and good works that show our love for God as we serve Him. Here are a few of my most favorite verses that have transformed my thinking.

James 1:2-4 talks about attitude and the results of trusting all of life’s events to God.  “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1: 5-6 instructs us to go to the source of all wisdom when we need answers but to do it with faith!  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:17 confirms the immutability of God. He also assures us that God is good in all He gives. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

James 1:19-20 instructs us to control our anger.  Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”

James 2:1 begins his teaching on treating others with impartiality. “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” He concludes this chapter with words about faith and good works. “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?” (2:14)

James 3 delves into the harm and good that we can do with our tongues!  “And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell. (3:6)

James 4:7-8 is one of my favorite promises as it shows us clearly the way to draw near to God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”

In his last chapter James talks about the whining rich, the need for patience and the importance of prayer. James 5:15-16 encourages us in our prayer life! “And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Which of these nuggets of wisdom do you need today? Are you struggling with trials in your life and need the perspective of joy? Are you concerned that God is perhaps whimsical and will change His mind about your salvation? Are you being confronted with favoritism, gossip or want to know how to get closer to God? Are you struggling with prayer and asking yourself why pray? James is a book that can be read, meditated upon and digested slowly so that the truths contained therein will permeate your life and allow the Holy Spirit to change you from the inside out.

Be encouraged today by the practicality of James and how he makes faith in Christ applicable to our daily walk with Jesus.

Linda

The All Seeing God who Always Wins

And the journey continues….2 Kings, again. I love this book of history as God has so much to teach us within its chapters. Chapter 6 relates the story of what happened to Elisha when the king of Arman came after him. The king was at war with Israel and told his officers where they were going to camp. Elisha was forewarned by God and warned the king of Israel. The king of Aram was enraged and thought he had a traitor in the midst of his army. When the soldier told him it wasn’t them but the prophet Elisha who was relaying even the words spoken in his bedroom to Israel’s king, the king of Aram sent horses and chariots to come and kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant saw the army coming and ran to tell Elisha in fear. Here is Elisha’s response and what happened.

2 Kings 6:15-23. “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Elisha was aware of God’s protective presence that was unseen by the servant until God opened his eyes. So it is with us. God has given us His angels to protect us even though we are totally unaware. Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” God is always with us and will never leave us nor forsake us! Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” If you are in a difficult situation, pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to feel and see His protection. Always remember that God is with you 24/7!

The last part of this story shows God’s mercy and compassion. The soldiers were struck with blindness, lead to the foreign city, their eyes opened and then treated with kindness and mercy just as if they were captives. The end result was the king of Aram stopped raiding and attacking Israel and God’s people were protected. James reminds us of this truth in James 2:12-13 that mercy triumphs over judgement. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. This is how we are to treat one another, erring on the side of mercy and allowing God to be glorified through our merciful actions and attitudes.

There is one other incident from 2 Kings that I recall often as I feel it totally applies to our lives today. King Hezekiah was a good king and followed the Lord. He was attacked by Sennecherib the king of Assyria who was threatening to invade Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew their army was not strong enough to repel the attack. Sennecherib sent an envoy with a letter demanding their surrender and in it he mocked the God of Israel. Here is what Hezekiah did. 2 Kings 19:14-19

 Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”

God replied through the prophet Isaiah and foretold the coming destruction of Assyria. God also sent encouragement to Hezekiah and said the would be saved. 2 Kings 19:32-36 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city
    or shoot an arrow here.
He will not come before it with shield
    or build a siege ramp against it.
33 By the way that he came he will return;
    he will not enter this city,
declares the Lord.
34 I will defend this city and save it,
    for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”

35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.

Why this story resonates so much with me is because Hezekiah was at the ‘end of his rope’ and laid his problem before Almighty God. He knew by faith that God was greater and that no other god was more powerful. God spared the faithful Israelites and the Assyrians left in defeat without a shot being heard. When I feel I’m at the end of my rope, I remember this story and practice laying my burdens before Him. I claim His promise in 1 Peter 5:6-7  “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

Both of these stories show how amazing our God is and how He will fight for us if we look for His presence, and humble ourselves before Him. May the all seeing God who can victoriously fight any battle be with you today.

Linda

What Attitudes Do Others See in You?

And the journey continues… 2 Kings. This is a fascinating book with so many examples of God’s working in the lives of His people. The prophet Elijah ends his ministry in Chapter 2 when God takes him up into heaven without facing death. God made his departure spectacular as a fiery chariot appeared and took him to heaven in a whirlwind! 2 Kings 2:11. The only other person God took to heaven was Enoch in Genesis 5:24. 2 Kings highlights the ministry of Elisha the prophet and gives the history of the kings of both the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah. There are many miracles written of Elisha; he was a man of God that walked humbly with God and followed His direction.

In Chapter 4 we find a widow whose husband belonged to a company of prophets who worked in Elisha’s service. She asked for Elisha’s help as her sons were about to be taken as slaves to pay their debt. He asks, “How can I help?” He asks her what she has in the house. She tells him she has a bit of oil. So Elisha directs her to gather a lot of jars, shut herself in the house and begin filling them. When all were filled and there were no more jars, the oil ran out. Then Elisha instructed her to sell the oil, pay the debt and use the money that remained to live with her family. I love this story as it shows Elisha’s compassion in helping the woman see how her few resources became great with God’s power. In that same chapter, Elisha often visits a well to do family in Shunem. The wife offers to make him a room on the roof, with her husband’s permission, so that Elisha and his servant could stay there whenever they are in the region. Elisha asks the woman what can he do for her as a way of thanks. She says she needs nothing but his servant points out she does not have a son and her husband is old. So Elisha calls to her and tells her she will have a son this time next year. She was amazed and grateful. A few years later the son is injured and she calls Elisha to come even after he is dead. Elisha comes and restores the young man to life. Here again we see Elisha modeling gratitude towards one who selflessly served him. God honored her attitude of devotion and faith in the man of God with a son. What touches me most is that she did not ask for anything, and yet God saw her hearts desire and then showered her with blessings because of her selfless attitude of service. Believe it or not there are still 2 other stories in Chapter 4. Elisha ordered a large pot be brought as there was a famine and he was going to provide a meal. A servant went out to gather herbs and accidently put a poisonous plant in the stew. The cook screamed for Elisha to come and he ordered they put in some flour. That fixed the stew and they all ate it with no harmful effects. The last miracle recorded in this chapter is the feeding of a hundred men. Elisha had 20 barley loaves and ordered it be given to the people saying there would be leftovers. To the amazement of the people, everyone ate and there was some left over as the Lord had said. These last 2 miracles show God’s sovereignty over the physical elements of this world and his compassion and care for those who believe in Him.

All of these miracles happened to everyday people living their everyday lives. We saw an attitude of gratitude in their lives that miraculously brought unexpected blessing. Who do you need to help see the resources God has given to them? Who do you need to thank for blessing you through their actions? Who are you feeding in the name of Jesus?

Linda

P.S. Take time to read Chapter 4 of 2 Kings and let the words bless you.

A Walk of Faith

And the journey continues….Hebrews. The book of Hebrews was a letter intended for Jewish Christians who were very familiar with the Old Testament. The first century Jewish converts faced many challenges as they sought to establish themselves apart from Judaism and stand firmly with Christ as Messiah. The letter presents Christ as supreme and sufficient in all, and the revealer of God’s grace. It can be a difficult book to understand, and yet holds such beautiful promises that are clear and strengthening. It was at first thought this letter was written by Paul but the authorship is unknown. My favorite chapter is Chapter 11 which focuses on faith in Christ and its benefits.

Hebrews 11:1,6 focuses on faith. ” Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” I love the simplicity of these verses as they truly ‘hit the nail on the head’ in regard to what faith is and why it is totally necessary. The author’s first example of faith is Enoch. Here was a man of faith that pleased God so much that he was taken directly to heaven! The author then goes into more examples of faith for us to follow and tells us of Noah who built an ark to save his family when he was warned about things he had never seen. In the time of Noah it had never rained, as scripture tells us the mist came up from the ground. (Genesis 2:5-6) He had no concept of rain and floods, yet he built the ark as God commanded by faith thereby saving himself and all his family. Abraham was called to leave his home and go to a place he had never seen. He did and was greatly blessed with descendants and land beyond measure. Sarah who was Abraham’s childless wife conceived a child in her old age and believed God that it would come to pass. The author continues with examples from Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. Moses was born Jewish, saved from death by God’s hand through Pharaoh’s daughter from the Nile. He was raised to privilege then called reluctantly after running from events in Egypt. He was in the desert for 40 years before being called to lead the people out of Egypt by God’s command at the age of 80! He trusted God to provide and experienced the plagues and hurried escape after the Passover of the angel of death. God then led them through the Red Sea in victory. The author then points to the walls of Jericho falling when they faithfully followed God’s leading. Rahab’s rescue of the spies and others like Gideon, David and countless events that showed the faithfulness of God to His people. God commended the people for their faith just as He loves and desires our faithfulness. I find great strength and encouragement from reading about the faith of these ‘heroes’. I know they were mortal and weak individuals just like me who overcame, persevered and were victorious through God’s hand in their lives because of their faith. It encourages me to be faithful knowing He will always be faithful to me and rewards those who seek Him.

There are a couple of other portions in Hebrews that I want to mention. Hebrews 4:12-13 speaks of the power of God’s Word and extols the omniscience of our God. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 4:14-16 speaks of Christ as our high priest and gives such hope to every believer that God will be gracious towards us. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Hebrews 7:25 points to the sufficiency of Christ to save completely and how He continues to intercede for us even now in heaven. “Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” That is encouraging and so reassuring!!

Hebrews 10:10 speaks of the total sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross. “And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Praise God!

Hebrews 10:22-23 are some of my favorite verses as they encourage us to draw near to God and hold onto our faith in Him.  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”

Lastly, Hebrews 13:8 reminds me that Christ is immutable and a reliable foundation for my faith.  “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

May the truths of faith penetrate into your heart and soul today and may you know of His rewards of faith personally as you walk trusting Him.

Linda

Exodus, The Power of the Lamb

And the journey continues….Exodus. This lengthy book, #2 in the Old Testament, tells the story of the saving and calling of Moses, the rescue of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt , and their daring escape into the Sinai dessert as God leads the way! It is filled with amazing feats by God including the plagues, the parting of the Red Sea, the destruction of the Egyptian army, and the delivery of the 10 Commandments. The portion I find most meaningful is when God sent the 10th plague and killed all the first born children and animals in all the homes not marked with the blood of the lamb. This is incredibly significant as it pointed to the perfect lamb of God, Jesus, who came to save all from the death brought on by sin.

Exodus gives detailed directions for the preparation of the Passover lamb, the baking of unleavened bread, and the wearing of traveling clothes. God knew just what they would need as they were going the have to leave in a hurry when commanded to GO by Pharaoh. Exodus 12:6-8, 11-13 “Take special care of this chosen animal until the evening of the fourteenth day of this first month. Then the whole assembly of the community of Israel must slaughter their lamb or young goat at twilight. They are to take some of the blood and smear it on the sides and top of the doorframes of the houses where they eat the animal. That same night they must roast the meat over a fire and eat it along with bitter salad greens and bread made without yeast. 11 “These are your instructions for eating this meal: Be fully dressed, wear your sandals, and carry your walking stick in your hand. Eat the meal with urgency, for this is the Lord’s Passover. 12 On that night I will pass through the land of Egypt and strike down every firstborn son and firstborn male animal in the land of Egypt. I will execute judgment against all the gods of Egypt, for I am the Lord! 13 But the blood on your doorposts will serve as a sign, marking the houses where you are staying. When I see the blood, I will pass over you. This plague of death will not touch you when I strike the land of Egypt.

Here is what happened after this terrible event and what Pharaoh said, Exodus 12:31-33 31 Pharaoh sent for Moses and Aaron during the night. “Get out!” he ordered. “Leave my people—and take the rest of the Israelites with you! Go and worship the Lord as you have requested. 32 Take your flocks and herds, as you said, and be gone. Go, but bless me as you leave.” 33 All the Egyptians urged the people of Israel to get out of the land as quickly as possible, for they thought, “We will all die!”

What can we take away from this ancient story? God is omniscient and knows what will happen and when. He knows the rulers of each country and they will bow to His will; He cannot be thwarted. God’s plans are meticulous and totally complete. No Israelite family that followed His directions and were in house covered by the blood of the lamb were killed. Likewise, no person who trusts in Jesus, believes He died on the cross and rose from the dead will be lost. Romans 10:13 “For “Everyone who callon the name of the Lord will be saved.” God plans and provides for our good. He knew they would need to leave in haste and had them prepared. He has good plans for you and me and His provisions will always be enough. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Philippians 4:19 “And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Lastly, God cannot be thwarted by evil. Pharaoh repeatedly promised to let the Israelites go and then changed his mind. The 9 plagues God sent hardened Pharaoh’s heart against Him, and he set himself against God by refusing to let His people go. God punishment may seem harsh but also showed His mercy. He showed that those belonging to Him would be saved.

Remember John the Baptist’s exclamation in John 1:29 “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” May you see Jesus as your lamb of protection leading you to a life freed from the power and curse of sin. May you look to our great promise keeping God knowing He can and will provide for every detail you need. We have all we need in Jesus. Trust in Him!

Linda

Jesus Desires We Live with Focus

And the journey continues….1 Timothy. This first letter to Paul’s beloved convert Timothy is filled with directions and admonitions for guiding the growing the church in Ephesus. Timothy had traveled with Paul on his missionary journeys and on his fourth trip he instructed Timothy to remain in Ephesus and build up the church there. He wanted him to keep them pointed to Jesus and guide them so they would not be led astray by contemporary beliefs that were plaguing these new believers. Timothy was a wise young man with a lot of responsibilities ahead of him in his ministry. Paul gave guidance on choosing church leaders, prayer, confronting false doctrines, how to care for the widows and elders and warned about those that loved money too much. As I reread this letter, several passages jumped out at me as I saw Paul’s desires for all of us to live focused on Jesus. I pray these verses will be a blessing to you today.

1 Timothy 1:15-16 has basic doctrinal truth about Christ and how God changes and uses us for His glory. This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. 16 But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” Paul is very clear that Christ came to save sinners. As ‘good’ as Paul was in keeping the laws and considered himself a zealous religious Jew, he was confronted with his own sin by Christ on the Road to Damascus and knew he was definitely a sinner saved by Christ. ((Acts 9) He trusted God to use him as an example for unbelievers so that others could be saved. Isn’t that what every believer desires? They want to be a witness for Christ so that He is seen in their lives and others would desire to follow Him too. May it be so with each of us!

In 1 Timothy 2:1-6 Paul reminds us that God desires us to live peaceful, quiet godly lives for Him. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For, There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time. Here again Paul points out the kind of life God desires for us and that He wants everyone to be saved and to have knowledge of the truth! Jesus is the only way to achieve that reconciliation. We are to pray fervently for people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ. Who will you pray for today?

In 1 Timothy 6:6-10, Paul tells Timothy to pursue righteousness and not get caught up in the pursuit of money. These are timeless words for all generations as we seek to live for Christ in a material driven world. Yet true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows. Paul cautions all of us that it is the love of money, making it an idol, goal or making it the stuff of our dreams, that can lead to losing our spiritual focus. Taking your eyes off of Christ leads to confusion, disillusionment and ungodly actions. When we think about it, the love of money is often at the root of our confusion, disillusionment or selfish actions.

May these selected verses help you to see Christ more clearly and know for sure that He desires that all should come to Him, to repentance. He desires that we walk with him in humility keeping our eyes on Him and not on worldly gain. I am reminded of a favorite verse from Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
May we walk today focused on Him.

Linda

Choosing to Trust

And the journey continues…Habakkuk. I love this short book written by a prophet that lived in the time of Jeremiah and probably lived to see the Babylonians invade Jerusalem, and the people of God carried off into captivity. Habakkuk records a conversation he had with God. He was filled with questions and doubts about what he was seeing happen in the world around him. (I can relate to that today!) In the first chapter, Habakkuk asks God why is he not doing something about the evil in his country, Judah? God replies that he will as he is sending the Babylonians to punish their evil ways. Judah had fallen big time into worshipping idols and had forsaken the worship of the one true God. In chapter 2, Habakkuk asks, how can you holy God use a wicked nation like Babylon to punish His people? God answers, he will use them but they too will receive punishment for their sins and wicked ways. In the final third chapter, Habakkuk has resolved his worry and doubt and confesses he knows God is merciful and just. He claims God is sovereign over all that happens and has decided he will choose to trust, obey and rejoice in the Lord.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 are some of the most beautiful, profound and uplifting verses in the Bible. I love them and chose verse 18 as my verse for this year, as my word for the year is Joy.

Though the fig tree should not blossom,
    nor fruit be on the vines,
the produce of the olive fail
    and the fields yield no food,
the flock be cut off from the fold
    and there be no herd in the stalls,
18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
    I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
19 God, the Lord, is my strength;
    he makes my feet like the deer’s;
    he makes me tread on my high places.

You can feel Habakkuk’s resolve in verse 17-18 that no matter what is happening, no matter how bad things look, he will choose to rejoice in the Lord. He knows (19) that his strength is in the Lord. He trusts God to make him to soar above it all as he looks to Him for his strength and hope. I am reminded here that it is a choice we make to live looking to the Lord for our strength and joy. Moses made a similar choice in Deuteronomy 32:3-4 ‘I will proclaim the name of the Lord. Oh, praise the greatness of our God! He is the Rock, his works are perfect,  and all his ways are just.
A faithful God who does no wrong,  upright and just is he.”

May we make the same decision and resolve as Habakkuk to choose God and live joyful and abundant lives in Him. Choose to trust God; He has it covered!

Linda

Showing, Loving and Living Redeemed

And the journey continues… Colossians. This letter was written by Paul to the Colossian Christians whom he had never met. His convert, Epaphras, had traveled to Colossae and started a new church there. When he encountered difficulties in theology, he traveled to Rome to visit Paul in prison. Paul wrote to help ‘set their thinking straight’ so that they would know that Jesus is Lord and there is no other. He praises their faith and growth but instructs them on the supremacy of Christ our Lord who came, died and rose again to provide a way of salvation for all who believe.

I love Paul’s prayer that opens the letter. Colossians 1:3-14 We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven. You have had this expectation ever since you first heard the truth of the Good News.This same Good News that came to you is going out all over the world. It is bearing fruit everywhere by changing lives, just as it changed your lives from the day you first heard and understood the truth about God’s wonderful grace.You learned about the Good News from Epaphras, our beloved co-worker. He is Christ’s faithful servant, and he is helping us on your behalf. He has told us about the love for others that the Holy Spirit has given you.So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. 10 Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.11 We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, 12 always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light. 13 For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son, 14 who purchased our freedom and forgave our sins.

A couple of questions come to mind as I study this passage that I need to remember as I walk with Jesus daily. Is anyone hearing of my love for Jesus? The Colossian Christians were known for their faith and love. This is what Jesus wants for each of us. In John 13:33-34 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Another question- Do you believe in the transforming power of the Good News? The Good News that Jesus died for our sins on the cross and rose from the dead. Life in Him is abundant and filled with grace, love, mercy… and the fruits of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Galatian 5:22-23 “ But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” The Holy Spirit transforms our lives as we follow Jesus each day in faith.

Lastly, How do you pray for others? Do you pray for their growth in faith that they will know and love God more and serve Him with eagerness? Do you pray for their patience, endurance and joy? Paul prayed for these things as he wanted the Colossian Christians to thrive and grow in the Lord. He wanted them to live with a spirit of thanksgiving and joy in their lives. James 5:16 “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I pray that you will show your genuine Christian love for others, pray for your fellow believers, unsaved friends and relatives and live like you believe you are truly rescued from darkness and brought into the light of God’s love. You are redeemed and forgiven dear brother and sister!

Linda

Lessons from Jonah…

And the story continues… Jonah. Most children learn the story of Jonah being swallowed by a big fish and the Lord saving him after 3 days. Several years ago, my pastor did a series on Jonah. Each week he had us read the book in its entirety, it is only 4 short chapters. Each time I read it I gleaned new insights into God’s message, His character and our own rebellious nature.

Let me walk you through the story. God told Jonah to go to Nineveh and call the people to repentance. The Assyrians were enemies of Israel and Jonah did not want to go. Jonah 1:2-3“Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.” Several things come to mind here: God is omniscient and our sins are known to him. He also seeks to call us back to Him, as God desires our repentance.

So Jonah hops on a ship going in the opposite direction. When they are out to sea, a big storm comes up and threatens their lives. They draw straws and Jonah is exposed as the problem. (He had already told them he was running away from the Lord.) Jonah told them the solution was to throw him overboard. They tried to row out of the storm but it was hopeless, so they threw Jonah overboard and the seas calmed. God sent a big fish to swallow Jonah. Lesson here- running away from God is futile. God’s will cannot be thwarted. Job 42:2 ““I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Jonah spent 3 days in the belly of the fish and had an attitude adjustment. His prayer in Chapter 2 shows a change of heart and reverence for God. Jonah 2:8-10 stand out to me. “Those who cling to worthless idols
    turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
    will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
    I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.
” Jonah learned first hand that repentance leads to salvation and brings action from God.

Jonah then proceeded to Nineveh and preached to the city. The people repented and turned from their evil ways and acknowledged God. Jonah 3:6-10 “ When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:“ By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened. Jonah’s obedience in preaching repentance brought blessing. Repentance was an individual action by each person but needed to be collective to save the nation. In His mercy God’s saved them just as He does us when we repent in the name of Jesus. Likewise to ‘save’ our nation, we need to turn to God as a people acknowledging Him.

Jonah was upset that the Ninevites were saved. He grumbled and sat down in the desert desiring to die. When God sent a plant to shade him, he was pleased. When God sent a worm to eat the plant he was mad. Jonah mistakenly thought he had the right to decide who was condemned and who was saved. God in His unchanging character and mercy explained this truth to Jonah in Jonah 4:10-11 “But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—and also many animals?” God is God and He will have mercy on whomever He wants. He is the creator and it is not our place to be upset or angry as we are all created beings made by God’s hands and not ours. Romans 9:15 “For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” God is sovereign and in control of all things in heaven and earth. Colossians 1:16 says it this way: For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.”

What lessons can we take away from this ancient story? Have you ever questioned where God is sending you and why? Have you ever grumbled about God’s mercy and compassion when you did not feel the recipient was worthy? If your answer is yes to either, perhaps you are in need of an attitude adjustment like Jonah. We all, at times think this way, and need to repent of our arrogance and pride and remember who is God. We need to always remember, Salvation is from the Lord and Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” We too were underserving and yet He saved us by His mercy.

Linda

Beautiful Attitudes for Living

And the journey continues….Matthew. The gospel of Matthew is very complete beginning with Jesus’ lineage, the angel appearing to Joseph, the visit of the Wiseman and the escape to Egypt when they were being hunted by Herod and their return and settlement in Nazareth. We see the baptism of Jesus, the calling of the disciples, teaching of those who followed him, Jesus’ trials, death, resurrection and the giving of the great commission by resurrected Jesus before his ascension. Matthew gives a complete account of Jesus’ life and focuses on His kingship. He presents Jesus as Messiah, King, and he specifically wanted the Jews who were continuing to deny that the Lord Jesus was their Messiah to recognize him as their King.

It was difficult to narrow down the wonderful gospel to a favorite part but I do love the beatitudes which are part of Jesus’ sermon on the mount. I think why this portion holds so much significance is that I have visited the area where Jesus sat and taught. It is beautiful, tranquil and bucolic.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,

    for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Blessed means happy but in a spiritual sense bringing great joy and well being that is based in the kingdom of God. Jesus speaks first of those who are poor in spirit. That does not mean they were sad but that they sorrowed over their sins and repented, which will bring blessings. He also speaks of the meek. That does not mean we are to be a door mat and let people walk all over us, but that we are to be humble and open to God’s will and His ways. Those who really love Jesus and seek to be like him living a righteous life before God will be satisfied! Mercy triumphs and purity of heart allows one to see God more clearly in their life. Those who strive for peace and unity in the Spirit are known to be children of God. Those who suffer for Jesus and His kingdom will be repaid as God will reward them.

I am reminded when I read these verses of Jesus’ words in John 15:5 ““I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in youyou will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” To show these beautiful attitudes in our lives, we need to stay connected to Jesus. Without Him, we can accomplish nothing of eternal.

Linda